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Mars One, which offered 1-way trips to Mars, declared bankrupt (cbc.ca)
283 points by vaughnegut 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 279 comments

One indication that no one is even remotely ready to think seriously about colonizing Mars (including Space X): There are vast tracts of uninhabited land on earth, notably in the American West. Colonizing those would be vastly easier than colonizing Mars, and yet no one is even talking about that. A self-sustaining colony in the middle of the Nevada desert that was able to get by with no outside help for a few years would be about 1% as hard as colonizing Mars, and yet no one has done it, and no one AFAIK is planning to do it. This to me is the smoking gun that no one is really taking Mars colonization seriously. Everyone is caught up in the sexiness and glamour and no one wants to get down in the dirt and solve the really hard problems of how humans are actually going to survive when they are totally isolated from civilization for years.

Yes, I know about the HI-SEAS project. That was not isolated nor self-sustaining, and it only lasted 8 months.


That's actually not even the sort of thing I'm talking about. Forget simulating Mars. I want to see someone just colonize an uninhabited part of Earth without relying on help from the outside without any other constraints. Until we can do that, Mars is hopeless.

You're not considering the actual, non-hype reasons for colonization of Mars. It's about scientific discovery first and foremost, and the vast majority of "beings" there will be robots in early colonization. Look at what we've sent already: robots for scientific discovery. This pattern will continue for at least a couple decades, the first humans sent there will be technically minded to do maintenance on robots, build up a small base/solar arrays/propellant production. Putting fake bases in the West isn't going to do anything towards understanding Mars, its former ecosystems, and its current potential for harboring life.

If you and everyone else has bought into the hype machine, well that sucks, but real scientists are still focused on robotics on Mars.

The article is about Mars One, which was about sending humans to Mars.

I'm not opposed to the scientific exploration of Mars. I'm just saying that we are nowhere near ready to seriously consider colonizing Mars.

You're confusing "can't" with "don't want to". Nobody wants to colonize some desert patch, but many people want to colonize Mars for many different reasons. Self-sustaining will take time, but it's not unsolvable even with the current technology. It's just very expensive at the moment.

"Very expensive" asymptotically approaches "unsolvable" for large values of "very".

I do get that colonizing Nevada is nowhere near as glamorous and sexy as colonizing Mars. But if we can't do it in Nevada (and it is far from clear that we actually can) then Mars is just hopeless. You could do that experiment for a tiny fraction of the money being invested in launch vehicle development. If the results were negative, you could save an awful lot of money.

> There are vast tracts of uninhabited land on earth, notably in the American West. Colonizing those would be vastly easier than colonizing Mars, and yet no one is even talking about that.

I think the principal problem here is that those places aren't on Mars.

Why is that a problem?

Musk wants to "save humanity".

He believes that the biggest risk to humanity is that we're currently all on one planet. This means global warming, nuclear war, pandemics, zombies, etc, could basically wipe out humanity.

If he can get humans living on Mars, that means that destroying life on a planet no longer destroys humanity, and that is a very significant levelling up to human survival. Getting people to Mars, to learn how to settle permanently there is a first step. Getting re-usable rockets is a first step even before that. Most things related to SpaceX that Musk does are essentially steps on the path to making this happen.

He may or may not be on the right track, and even if it's a good idea he might be doing it the wrong way, but everything is consistently focused around making this happen. For this, further developing the mid-west, terraforming Arizona, or colonising the bottom of the sea are all insufficient to achieve the goal.

Yeah, I know he thinks that, but he's pretty clearly wrong. Global warming could wipe out civilization but it won't wipe out humanity even in an absolute worst-case scenario. The worst pandemic in recorded history, the black plague, only killed a third of the human population. Even if a pandemic wiped out 99% of us that still leaves tens of millions of people to repopulate the planet. I think we can safely rule out zombies.

Nuclear war might wipe us out, but that is looking less likely than in the past. And if it does happen I think it's arguable that the universe might be better off without us.

As you have admitted in your post, that there is a none zero chance of humans becoming extinct. Don't you think it would be worth it to have some non-zero portion of the population and global budget working on ensuring our survival? Also, there are many commercial benefits that can be realized, not just idealistic ones. Mars has alot of deturium which could prove useful in fusion, it's lower delta V makes it a prime logistical hub for mining the astroid belt, etc etc. Read a plan for mars, and i think it will change your perspective.

> Don't you think it would be worth it to have some non-zero portion of the population and global budget working on ensuring our survival?

Yes, of course. I even think it's worth while putting some of that effort into looking into colonizing Mars (though I think there is a lot more low-lying fruit that is being neglected in terms of improving our overall odds of survival). All I'm saying is that we're nowhere near ready to talk about actually doing it yet.

> a lot more low-lying fruit that is being neglected in terms of improving our overall odds of survival.

Can you elaborate? You talking politically?

I'm not sure what you mean by that. The most immediate threat to the survival of civilization is climate change, and we are doing less than we could to stop it at the moment in no small measure because of politics. There's also a significant threat from medium-sized asteroids that could be addressed fairly cheaply (a few billion dollars) and isn't. Nuclear war is an entirely political threat. World-wide famine is a possibility, but that is much more likely to kill us by leading to a nuclear war than it is to kill us directly.

Beyond that, I just don't see any credible existential threats.

I still think we should be moving cities off of prime arable land and moving to deserts.

Are you suggesting that our extinction lies beyond the realm of possibility? It may not be imminent -- which is debatable -- but it's our fate. Extinction seems like an unreal problem for us. We're not tuned into the right time scales for this sort of problem. We mostly struggle through the day. But it's a sign of maturity for our species to be thinking far into the future and contemplating our ultimate survival, not just on this planet but in our solar system, even if at the moment it seems like an arrogant and idle pursuit.

> Are you suggesting that our extinction lies beyond the realm of possibility?

Of course not. In fact, our eventual extinction is inevitable. But it seems to me exceedingly unlikely to happen any time soon.

How many events like the one that killed the dinosaurs (mass extinction events) have there been in the history of earth? Five!

GRB or Asteroid are also ELE that the GP did not mention.

How useful is a mars colony/parallel civ against an incoming GRB though? My vague understanding is that they're potentially quite 'tightly collimated' in astronomical terms, but that would still potentially cover a good volume of the solar system if one came our way.

That is, if we assume a GRB intersects Earth, what is the probability that it won't also hit Mars?

Very Big Asteroids are definitely one event it would serve us well for though.

It is much easier and cheaper to detect and deflect big asteroids than to colonize Mars. See e.g. https://b612foundation.org/

Oooh I would love to learn more about the grb stats

Wikipedia is usually a good place to start.


Your scenarios aren't remotely close to "absolute worst-case". A large enough asteroid can sterilize the planet with fire/lava.

Yes, that's true, but asteroids of that size are easily detected. We know where all of them are, and none of them are on a collision course with earth. If we ever find that size asteroid on a collision course, we will have decades, probably centuries, of warning, and it will be fairly straightforward to deflect it. The real danger comes from medium-sized asteroids that we don't see until it's too late to do anything about it. Those can destroy civilization in a worst-case scenario, but will not cause homo sapiens to go extinct.

if you can't survive in the middle of the desert, you're not going to survive on Mars. Even if climate change radically alters the planet, it'll still be more inhabitable than Mars

A good point, too often forgotten - even the most fantastic predictions by the biggest alarmists don't have the Earth becoming nearly as hostile to life as Mars is now.

Not nearly as hostile as constant fatal radiation, covered in radio active dust with temperatures disallowing our vital liquids to maintain their state of matter. Not to mention the severe lack of naturally occurring basic elements required for life as we know it i.e. from Earth i.e. like us.

No, Earth won't be _as_ hostile as Mars.

We do survive in the middle of the desert though right? We've proved that, whether its tribes in the Sahara or Las Vegas "terraforming" desert, we know we can do that. I don't think that's an unsolved step on the way anymore.

Yes, but going to Mars is like setting up a colony in the Sahara next to a pile of radioactive waste. Terraforming las vegas is way easier because they have water, Mars doesn't.

Other disasters are possible that could conceivably make Earth's deserts less habitable than Mars's.

Biological warfare, a large asteroid strike, etc.

If your plan is to go to Mars, and you end up in Tacna, AZ, you're going to be real disappointed.

If your plan is to go to Mars and you can't even survive Tacna, AZ, you're going to be dead. I suppose some people prefer that to disappointment, though.

If you want to study Mars, actually being there opens up new avenues of study. If you're going to study Mars from Earth, it doesn't make sense to do it from the Nevada desert.

That's true. But if you want to colonize Mars then it makes a hell of a lot of sense to practice first in some place like the Nevada desert.

What do you mean by this objection? There are several projects practicing surviving in isolated conditions for precisely that purpose.[1]

Simply surviving on Earth, however isolated, is hardly helpful though. You need to simulate things like the lack of an atmosphere to teach you anything useful.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_analog_habitat

> There are several projects practicing surviving in isolated conditions for precisely that purpose.

Yes, and not a single one of them has ever sustained a mission for more than a few months (AFAIK). If we're going to colonize Mars we need to be able to sustain these kinds of efforts for years.

We're trying to run a marathon before we've even learned how to crawl.

Every tract of land on Earth is claimed by a government. That's the appeal of space exploration, get out from under the thumb of intreched elites.

I'm sympathetic to the idea of that, but you aren't going to get out from under anyone's thumb by setting up a colony in a place that's completely hostile to all known forms of life without billions of dollars worth of infrastructure. If anything, you're even more under the thumb of anyone with money and power. Any disruption to fragile life-support systems equals certain death in minutes. Any disruption to the supply shipments from Earth equals death within months to years probably. Getting enough of a supply chain going on Mars to not be dependent on shipments from Earth will take centuries and trillions of dollars in the most optimistic scenario.

Not until the Martian tea party anyway.

I'm pretty sure we've managed to colonize a tract of uninhabited land at least a couple of times throughout history.

Maybe we could better spend our time working on the things we haven't figured out.

> I'm pretty sure we've managed to colonize a tract of uninhabited land at least a couple of times throughout history.

Without a connection to existing civilization, and without a source of easily accessible water provided by nature? No, we have never done that.

What about the ISS? The water they consume is recycled and is clearly not provided by nature.

The ISS is very closely connected to civilization. It has real-time comms, and in an emergency a spacecraft can reach it in about six hours, or return an astronaut back to earth in less time than that. The longest it has ever gone between resupply missions is four months. The shortest time between resupply missions to Mars is two years.

> The shortest time between resupply missions to Mars is two years.

You aren't going to be sending only one ship at a time. You will be staggering shipments, with 3-4 ships in transit at a time. You could make the time between resupplies as short as you want.

You don't understand the orbital mechanics of getting to Mars. Getting to Mars only takes eight months, but you have to launch when Earth and Mars are in a particular configuration relative to each other, and that configuration only happens every two (Earth) years. You can launch as many ships as you like during those windows, but you can't stagger them.

I do understand the orbital mechanics of getting to Mars. It's the same as the orbital mechanics of getting to anywhere.

I assume you're talking about the Hohmann transfer [0], which is the most efficient path a ship could take. We're not optimizing for efficiency here, we're optimizing for delivery. You should also realize that while there is a specific moment of peak efficiency in launch times, you have a window on the order of months before a Hohmann transfer becomes less efficient than other methods. Once every 2 years sounds less drastic when it's 6 months out of those 2 years.

All that being said, the Hohmann transfer is a lot sketchier in practice than one would think. Neither Mars nor Earth has a perfectly circular orbit. It's often easier just to take the old-fashioned route.

Take a look at this chart [1] for an idea of the spread of trip length vs launch time.

[0] http://www.planetary.org/multimedia/space-images/charts/hohm...

[1] https://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/spotlight/images/porkchop_lg.gif

> I do understand the orbital mechanics of getting to Mars. It's the same as the orbital mechanics of getting to anywhere.

Then you don't understand the economics. Or maybe it's something else you don't understand, but you are clearly missing something. The orbital mechanics of getting to any target in the solar system are unique to that target. Designing orbital trajectories is a profession unto itself.

Yes, it is theoretically possible to have staggered deliveries so that spacecraft arrive at Mars on a schedule other than every two years. But think about it: how would this help? The schedule on which the supply craft arrive doesn't matter. What matters is the latency between when a need manifests itself and when it can be fulfilled. Fundamental physics lets you get to Mars in a matter of days if you could accelerate and decelerate the entire time at 1-G. But you can't, not because orbital mechanics forbids it, but because technology and economics and the rocket equation forbids it.

The one thing you're going to need to optimize for more than anything else is kilogram delivered per dollar spent. That means being as efficient as you possibly can because launch costs are ridiculously high even with reusable boosters. That means using Hohmann orbits, and that means eight month transfer times with launch windows every two years. Yes, those windows are fairly broad, but that doesn't matter. You're still going to have to wait for periods of time measured in months and years for your Amazon order to be fulfilled on Mars.

Orbital mechanics is orbital mechanics. The math doesn't change just because it's Mars and not some random object in the Kuiper belt.

> But think about it: how would this help? The schedule on which the supply craft arrive doesn't matter. What matters is the latency between when a need manifests itself and when it can be fulfilled.

Think about this: You're no longer disagreeing with my premise, and are now moving goalposts. My premise remains true, so your accusation that I don't understand the orbital mechanics involved here is unfounded and unwarranted. A little deconstructive to meaningful conversation, which you seem keen on having with people.

> Fundamental physics lets you get to Mars in a matter of days if you could accelerate and decelerate the entire time at 1-G

It's also a bit deconstructive to talk about extremities. Keeping the discussion within rational limits helps us tackle this realistically and collaboratively.

Now this discussion has shifted to latency vs regularity and yeah, it will take some planning ahead to smooth things out, and everything must come in triplicate in case the replacement breaks while you'r installing it. But that's entirely feasible and the only barrier is money. So what we need to focus on with regards to the great Nevada desert is things like terraforming. Sustainability is no problem if you have a water source and a climate something can grow in.

> The math doesn't change just because it's Mars and not some random object in the Kuiper belt.

That depends on what you consider "the math." In principle, it's all F=ma. In practice it's a good deal more complicated than that. There's a reason people make careers out of designing orbital trajectories.

> the only barrier is money

Well, yeah, the only barrier was only ever money. But that's a pretty big barrier right now.

> what we need to focus on with regards to the great Nevada desert is things like terraforming

Yes, terraforming is one way to solve the problem of sustainability. But I don't think we're any closer to being able to have a serious discussion of terraforming than we are about having a self-sustaining settlement without terraforming first.

Only if you want them to take no more than 18 months to arrive..

You can most definitely stagger supply ships and launch them at any time, it's just that some will take a bit longer than others to arrive and their various transit times can be taken into account to have them arrive in a staggered fashion.

Well, sure, but how does that help? It's no different than having them arrive all at once and just waiting to open them. Whether they sit around on Mars or sit around in space doesn't matter.

> Well, sure, but how does that help?

It enables a continuous supply, without having to try to plan everything to happen all at once during a short launch window/timeframe

> You can launch as many ships as you like during those windows, but you can't stagger them.

Well, you don't have to only launch "during those windows". I'm no logistic genius, but it seems like it would be easier/more cost effective to loft resources towards Mars at intervals that don't depend on a relatively short event that occurs every ~18 months. Try collecting all of the things you need to go camping 30 minutes beforehand, vs over the period of a week/month before you go. Yea, not very effective.. ?

Your comment I replied to above seems to be overly aggressive (that doesn't belong here):

> You don't understand the orbital mechanics of getting to Mars.

I'm quite sure there are lots of things you (or I) don't understand. Try being more constructive next time.

Resupply isn’t quite the right word. If I break the X, i have to fix it myself or wait 2 years.

> Without a connection to existing civilization, and without a source of easily accessible water provided by nature? No, we have never done that.

Civilization had to start somewhere. At some point humans started a civilization without any connection to an existing civilization. In all likelihood, several times in different places on Earth. And on Mars that would not be "without a connection to an existing civilization" They would absolutely be bringing equipment and supplies from Earth and have a communication link.

Easily accessible water is a different story, but that's just a technological problem.

Civilization has only ever started in highly fertile ecosystems. It has never started in a place that basic plant life can't even survive.

Well I guess we're lucky there have been quite a few advances in helping plant and other forms of life survive in the past 200,000 years so. It's not like we're dropping a bunch of naked humans on the surface of Mars and expecting them to live off the land.

Mars is a gigantic frigid rock. You can't eat it, you can't breathe it, and you can't touch it.

If you go to mars, you're going to be living in a bubble and it hardly even matters whether you're on Mars at that point (aside from being close enough to study it.) You could just as well colonize the bottom of the ocean or Antarctica, and there's plenty of value in doing those things because the rewards from the efforts could easily be transported back to normal society. And if you get sick or injured, you can still survive rather than casting your valuable experience into the void.

If the advances you speak of can't help you survive in Earth's mildly hostile uninhabited environments, then you can't expect them to work on Mars.

We are colonizing Antarctica. There are permanent settlements there. The bottom of the ocean has a different set of challenges than Mars due to the pressure, but sure we could do that too. We have 7.5 billion people here, you know, we don't all have to work on the same thing.

Restrict the history of colonization to:

1. Those that postdate farming. Because we obviously can't cream off the local wildlife in Mars as there is none.

2. Those that can survive the loss of their motherland. If the goal is to survive the complete loss of Earth, the Martian colony needs to be completely self-sustaining and cannot have any reliance on the Earth-bound umbilical cord.

The list of lands uninhabited as of about 2000 BC essentially amounts to remote islands in the oceans. Polynesian colonization definitely relied on the sustained contact between these remote islands. A lot of the remote Arctic/Antarctic islands were settled largely to facilitate hunting of sea mammals (seals, whales) and wouldn't exist if that trade ceased. Hell, the Norse colony in Greenland collapsed after it was dropped from Viking trading routes... despite lasting for over 400 years before then.

The closest thing I can think to of an example that meets this criteria is the Pitcairn Islands. But while they did clearly last for a decade without outside contact, much less support, they became dependent on outside support within about 50 years. The carrying capacity of Pitcairn Islands is probably smaller than the minimum self-sustaining band size of human beings.

OK, but why?

It makes zero sense to go to Mars if we have enough uninhabited land available.

Well if your interest is Martian geologic history (or biology), Nevada won't quite cut it.

The word is "colonization", it's about the hundreds of years of development and growth to transform Mars into a place that supports humans.

Why? It's a way to reduce risk of extinction. Put our eggs in more than one basket.

Colonizing Mars is a poor choice for that, much better to focus on the Asteroid then Kepler belt.

It’s got both up and downsides. For example, you actually get more solar energy in the Astroid belt becase you can always face the sun and don’t need to worry about Mars’s dust storms. But, if we can colonize the Kepler belt the rest of the galaxy is open ‘for free’.

You're forgetting radiation and gravity.

Staying on the other side of a X km wide object is a great radiation shield from the sun. But, distance also helps. If your in a space suit on the surface of Mars you have very little radiation protection. Using buried structures and going out at night seems to be the best option. But, overall it’s likely fairly close between the two.

Gravity might be a larger issue on Mars than outer space as it’s harder to keep something spinning at 1g in a weak atmosphere. It really depends on how well humans adapt to 38% earths gravity. That might be fine over a lifetime, or low enough to be a significant issue.

How is mars better as a radiation shield? It has no magnetic protection like earth’s van allen belts. Until that exists, Mars will be a desolate place.

Exactly, literally every place that is now inhabited was once an uninhabited tract of land that humans colonized. Humans are very good at living in almost every environment on Earth.

None of those places humans inhabited lacked water and natural food sources, not to mention air.

I don't think anyone wants to colonize Mars because they're looking for land. They want to colonize Mars because it's super-cool to live on another planet.

If it's feasible or makes sense is of course an entirely different question.

Because usually in the past, the big leap was not done by playing it safe, but by ignoring all the naysayers, disbelievers and those without imagination and doggedly doing the impossible only to discover that when push came to shove, solutions were found to previously impossible problems and when enterprising people put their heads together and do not consider failure an option, miracles can and do happen.

Playing it safe can net small incremental improvements, but it won't capture people's imagination and it won't energize the human spirit to reach to the very bottom of our abilities. Playing it safe won't unite a large group of fundamentally egoistic beings for a common cause.

I believe the biggest evolutionary leap that propelled humans to the top of the food chain is the enterprising human spirit, the pioneering drive, the irresistible urge to stick our fingers into the wallsockets of the universe. Sometimes we get shocked, and sometimes it hurts badly, but we strive becase we do not give up. We reach for the stars, and when we find ourselves in dire need because the cold, merciless and deadly vastness of space threatens our survival, we are pushed to find solutions that were deemed unthinkable otherwise. Perhaps the first shot only gets us to the moon, but we'd never reach it just plinking arrows. Early explorers set out into the unknown oceans knowing that they will likely not return. Many faced extreme hardship and regrettably died. But some survived and they wrote history as we know it. They were all ill-prepared, because they didn't even know what to prepare for. But it is their sacrifice that allowed us to discover new continents, to circumnavigate the world and connect pockets of humanity into an ever denser network of modern society.

There was a time when scientists were convinced that humans will not be able to breathe if travelling faster than 40 mph. There was a time when human flight was thought impossible. It took a bunch of people jumping off cliffs and plunging to their death to figure out the details. Those jumps were necessary. Not just for lessons learned ("this is not the way to do it" is a valuable lesson!) but each of those jumps pushed the envelope a bit further. Each pioneer got a bit closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. The light in some tunnels ends up beign a train, but some tunnels end up leading to the bright spark of revolution.

As much as logic dictates otherwise, we need dreamers who are irrational and fearless enough to go into the unkown. Without these dreamers, nobody will push the envelope. Most of them will be considered foolish, stupid and reckless in their time, but our history is built on the shoulders of those who succeeded against all odds.

> the irresistible urge to stick our fingers into the wallsockets of the universe

That is a lovely turn of phrase!

Yeah, I've been making that argument since Musk and Bezos first announced their intentions (though I usually used terraforming Arizona as an example as that state has become one of the largest polluters per capita in the US).

But the argument that guys like Bezos and Musk are clinging to is that Mars presents an opportunity to continue the human race in an event of cataclysmic proportions (like another massive asteroid strike, the Yellowstone caldera erupting at a scale we hadn't anticipated, or global warming making Earth generally uninhabitable).

Being farther away from the Sun, Mars gets much much colder than Earth, but it never gets as warm (max temps are something like 60 - 70 degrees Fahrenheit). So it's substantially different than a place like the Nevada desert.

I don't argue that we shouldn't be trying to terraform Earth first and reduce our reliance on positive feedback loop functions like air conditioning, quite the contrary. And I do believe all the rocket launches involved getting people to Mars would likely accelerate warming here on Earth. But Earth and Mars are vastly different places that are very far apart, and I think that's the argument for colonizing Mars.

Also, you should look into Earthships.

> Mars presents an opportunity to continue the human race in an event of cataclysmic proportions (like another massive asteroid strike, the Yellowstone caldera erupting at a scale we hadn't anticipated, or global warming making Earth generally uninhabitable).

Even in a worst-case scenario we're better off here. We have a pretty good idea where all the dinosaur-killer-sized asteroids are and none of them are on a collision course with earth. There is the possibility of a medium-size rock causing some very serious damage to infrastructure, but it's not going to make us go extinct. Likewise for volcanic activity. Even a dinosaur-killer-sized rock is survivable (for the species, not for civilization) by moving underground for a while until the dust settles.

Global warming is an existential threat to civilization, but not to homo sapiens as a species. We may have to go back to being hunter-gatherers in northern latitudes, but again, it's not going to make us go extinct.

Homo sapiens are just damned tough to exterminate.

> trying to terraform Earth

Interesting phrase ... isn't Earth "terraformed" already, by definition?

Do you believe this would be worth it? Do you think our society does not have sufficiently advances technology to start a self sustaining colony in the desert? I think it would be absolutely trivial, and i'm pretty sure someone has already planned this out and decided against spending the money.

> Do you believe this would be worth it?


> Do you think our society does not have sufficiently advances technology to start a self sustaining colony in the desert?

I think the jury is very much out on that question.

> I think it would be absolutely trivial

I think you underestimate how much humans depend on their connections to civilization.

Even surviving in benign environments (i.e. ones where water is available for free) for long periods of time is non-trivial.

Biosphere 2 was meant as a self-sustaining ecosystem capable of supporting human life. It wasn't entirely successful, but was along the lines of what you described.


Biosphere was an interesting experiment, but very different from what I had in mind. It relied on a huge up-front engineering effort, orders of magnitude more than what would be realistic on Mars. What I had in mind was a colonization effort in the desert starting with what you could realistically carry on a spacecraft, i.e. a few shipping containers (even that is being pretty generous) and then no outside contact for two years (at a minimum).

The less-obvious difference between Mars and "anywhere on Earth" is that no amount of environmental (even tectonic) damage done on Earth is going to affect Mars. I'm not arguing that Mars is orders of magnitude harder than Nevada, but it covers the risk of "we fucked Earth".

But the risk of "we fucked Earth" to the point where it's harder to colonize than Mars is effectively nonexistent. You could set off every nuclear device at once and it would still be easier to live here than on Mars. Even a dinosaur-killing asteroid would still leave the planet easier to live on than Mars. (Many species did survive last time, even without technology.)

No matter how badly we fuck up Earth with pollution/climate change/nuclear war/etc. it is still going to be a far more habitable place than Mars.

Yes, but you see, only one of those possibilities allows me to live out a fantasy of being a cool space colonist like Matt Damon. The other one requires me to be a usual suspect who has to deal with the material outcomes of living in society. So, all things considered -- it's definitely way cooler to believe that Mars is the answer. And as someone who knows absolutely nothing about pollution, the environment, or Mars, but read every Isaac Asimov novel -- I think this isn't being given due consideration.

You know what they say! If you can't make absolutely minimal changes to the political outcomes of your planet, you're absolutely ready to dart off into space onto planets with no breathable atmosphere or water that could have unknown effects on the human body and mind.

Ummmm... how do you think that things were hundreds or thousands of years ago?

It's not clear what you're trying to say. All human colonization to date has been dependent upon fertile lands or extensive outside support. If we want to colonize Mars, we should prove we can survive without these things, and since nobody has done that on Earth, why should anybody they think it can be done on another planet?

In the Nevada desert? Pretty much the same as they are today: uninhabited.

I think you are missing the bigger premise with colonization of another planet. I agree your challenge would be worth of consideration but the premise is that if earth due to some reason becomes uninhabitable having a colony on another planet gives human population ability to continue on. This is regardless of whether we have colonized every inch of this planet right?

I think the original point was that you can practice and fine tune various techniques critical for Mars right here on Earth first. Makes sense to me. Let’s still reach Mars but let’s also make the best use of our resources here so we can minimise the failures over their. Not eliminate, but significantly reduce.

Earth is unlikely to ever become less inhabitable than Mars, even under the most pessimistic scenarios.

I know that for everyone here, it was obvious from the start that Mars One was never going to fly. What really gets my goat is the utter gullibility of the media. Here are a few of the articles from The Guardian:

22 Apr 2013: Life on Mars to become a reality in 2023, Dutch firm claims

19 Jan 2014: Why we want to spend the rest of our lives on Mars

9 Feb 2015: Mars One mission: a one-way trip to the red planet in 2024

17 Feb 2015: Mars One shortlist: the top 10 hopefuls

19 Feb 2015: Why I want to be a passenger on Mars One

30 May 2015: Can Mars One colonise the red planet?

It was always complete bullshit, anyone with a smidge of technical or scientific background said so repeatedly, so why they did write about it so many times? Yes, I know the proximate reasons – Mars One had a good PR agency, The Guardian wants clicks, etc. But The Guardian is meant to be a good, trustworthy news source, and here they were giving credibility to what I can only describe as a scam artist, or at best, a completely deluded entrepreneur.

It should never have gotten as far as it did, and I blame the media for this.

In fairness to the Guardian they were skeptical:

"how can you not be suspicious of a bloke who has no rockets or spacesuits but says he’s off to Mars soon"

and it's quite an interesting story.

Well, that's no surprise. Their plan was essentially to hold a televised execution while lacking the budget to build the scaffold.

Here's a technical assessment of the viability of their plan: https://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2014/01/18/ask-etha...

I think calling it a televised execution is quite an oversimplification. Mars One was deeply flawed, but the basic concept of a one way colonization mission to Mars isn't insane. A one-way mission is legitimately simpler from a technical perspective, and there are obviously plenty of people who would be happy to go. If it were done well, with a high probability of survival and prosperity (and really, only in that case), I would be fascinated to watch.

Not to mention, even if the initial mission were one-way, it's entirely possible that return trips could be possible within the lifetimes of the initial colonists. And besides, everyone dies; I can see why someone might choose a life of adventure (and pain, toil, monotony, etc.) on Mars over a life of relative comfort on Earth, even if I wouldn't make the same choice.

> would be fascinated to watch

I'd expect it to get boring quick, just like watching rocket launches. New exciting images can only happen every so often. You probably want some drama or tension for better ratings. That's a pretty big mismatch of incentives combined with tricky power dynamic. I'd stay away from that unless that reality show is just a small side venture. And no way it could ever significantly finance a mars base in the first place.

About as fascinating to watch as media produced on the ISS. So after the initial hype, not mainstream.

Yeah, I agree. Like almost everyone else I assume, I'd watch the launch and initial landing. And I'd be interested in major milestones (but I probably watch more rocket launches than the average person too). But yeah, day to day I expect you're dead on that it'd be about as exciting as watching the live ISS footage: ie, not very.

Edit: Was my sibling that made the comparison to ISS, not the parent. Either way, apt.

> a one way colonization mission to Mars isn't insane

Actually, it pretty much is. There are vast tracts of uninhabited land on earth, notably in the American West. Colonizing those would be vastly easier than colonizing Mars, and yet we don't do it because even that is borderline insane (at the very least, economically irrational). No rational person should take Mars colonization seriously until, at the very minimum, someone puts a colony in the middle of the Nevada desert that manages to sustain itself for a few years with no outside help. No one is doing that because it's both unsexy and stupid. But being sexy doesn't make colonizing Mars any less stupid.

Why does it have to be without outside help?

Because that's what you'd have to deal with on Mars.

(OK, you can have a low-bandwidth, high-latency internet connection and one small shipping container every two years.)

Bone loss, changes in bone structure, muscle atrophy, and changes in the inner ear are just some of the suspected negative effect of spending extended periods of time in weaker gravity.

They'd have to spend hours each day working out to counter those effects. Their day would primarily consist of sleep and working out, with a few hours of time for everything else. That doesn't make for a good televised program.

On top of that, a minimum-energy launch window appears every two years and two months (or 780 days), making it way more realistic to send people on two year long missions.

The working out etc part is only necessary if they ever plan to go back to Earth.

I don't really see the logic of "it'll be so much less costly and complicated if we make it a one way mission"


If we are able to successfully lower the $ per kg cost for cargo to LEO, and from LEO to mars transfer orbit, it will be a moot point. We're going to need something like the most wildly optimistic scenarios for full re-use of the SpaceX BFR, and huge numbers of BFRs or BFR-equivalents flying many missions to make a Mars colony a reality. Doesn't matter whether one-way or not.

Presuming that we have done so, and the spacecraft are fully reusable and the $ to orbit cost is low, what technical problem or economic problem would prevent a few launches from Mars on a return trajectory to Earth? For whoever was part of the initial colony that decided they wanted to return.

> Why?

i'm not a rocket engineer, but at least some reasons are pretty obvious.

1. you need less than half of the fuel. Yes, you will need less fuel to take off of mars, but its still a massive amount of fuel you need to safely transport to mars, as its an exponential curve of fuel consumed per kg of fuel transported

2. you don't have takeoff infrastructure on mars. your space vehicle would have to be able to safely lift off without any external help.

You may not have to take your return fuel from Earth to Mars. Robert Zubrin's Mars Direct plan is to first send a return vehicle to Mars together with some hydrogen and a plant that generates methane and oxygen out of CO2 and hydrogen. Let it work for two years, then send another one, while also sending the manned mission. If all goes right, the first return vehicle is ready for take off when the manned mission arrives, so they can evacuate right away if necessary. If something is wrong with the first return vehicle, they can spend their planned two years on Mars and by then the second return vehicle will be ready to take them home. Otherwise the second return vehicle waits for the next manned mission.

very rough calculations:


interestingly, while it takes something like 9800m/s delta V to get from earth sea level, at the equator, to LEO, it's more like 3800m/s delta-V required from surface to achieve low orbit of mars.

I think most mars return missions presume the ability to produce fuel locally through something like the sabatier process, and not haul it from earth -> LEO -> mars transfer orbit -> mars surface.

Cool image! That looks like the subway map of the solar system.

Is that your own? If so, what software did you use to paint it?

Not my own, it actually came from a forum for Kerbal space program players who've installed a mod that changes things to a 1:1 scale model of the real solar system.

Imagine people having some sort of debilitating disease wanting their last moments to be on a trip like this.

Except Mars One wasn't interested in not fully healthy people.

What on Mars are you talking about?

I find it amazing that, even though Mars One looked so sketchy since the beginning, still 200,000 people applied for their program. That means that still many people dream about exploring space. If a solid project was launched, probably hundreds of millions of people would apply to travel and settle down on another planet. It makes me very hopeful.

Until a few years ago, medias were always very negative and described space exploration as a waste of money. But, it is getting a bit better. This may be thanks to Space X, the new race to the Moon (China), the landings on a comet (Europe) and an asteroid (Japan), the Indian mission on Mars, and so on.

Now, the project of replacing the ISS (end scheduled in 2020) with a permanent base on the Moon sounds more plausible (Moon Village).

There's a big difference though between wanting to go and actually being capable and qualified.

The first several waves will need to be the absolute best of us to have a chance of establishing a permanent settlement.

One only needs to look at the death records for New England in the early period to realize that's not the case. An 90% mortality within a year is no stop for colonization if there is enough political will for it.

Ya I'd definitely go. I have military experience, flight experience, and I am educated, but definitely not in the top percentages that astronauts are in. Even if there was a 90% chance of death the first few years, I'd 100% go. I'd get on a rocket to Mars now, knowing there's not support structure at the destination, and I'm sure I'd cry and be freaked out, but I would definitely get on that rocket. I hope one day I can.

I wonder if someone wanting to go despite a 90% death rate should be disqualified on psychological grounds?

Sort of like the old joke that "I'd never want to join a club that would have me as a member".

There are missions well above 90% death rate which are very valid. Kamikaze attacks on wars. Chernobyl water release. And so on. You wouldn't apply the same psychological tests on those volunteers as you would on a ISS mission. You'd just thank them as they go.

I think it was more about economic will. It was seen as an amazing commercial opportunity that attracted investors who funded the trip.

Agreed. It is definitely not profitable going to Mars. The only people who'd want to go, would be the most extreme ideologues.

A toxic environment, surrounded by a toxic environment.

It seems bizarre that after spending thousands of years dreaming of the stars; the best place we can go is the bottom of another gravity well! And one that is massively less hospitable and pleasing than planet earth.

Maybe we should focus on building in orbit, and extracting resources from asteroids and moons. It could be profitable. And probably more fun to be messing about in low gravity than living in a tent on a wasteland.

Definitely not comparable at all. We're talking about another world, one which is completely hostile to life. You need the best people to start the foundations.

America was called the new world for a reason. And only slightly less hostile to 16th century Europeans as Mars would have been.

It must been have tough for Europeans in America in the beginning, without air to breath or water to drink or food to eat.

You are 2/3 for New England, the water was undrinkable and they couldn't get food: https://www.history.com/news/did-jamestowns-settlers-drink-t...

> By the time Lord De La Warr showed up with supplies in June 1610, the settlers, reduced in number from several hundred to 60, were trying to flee.

> the water was undrinkable and they couldn't get food

It was just for a single group of people and only during a specific moment:

“the settlers, who first arrived on the island in May 1607, feasted on deer, turtles and sturgeon during their first year in the New World” “confined to their fort, the colonists could no longer hunt, fish or seek fresh water”

Siege conditions happened everywhere, not only in the New World.

That's mostly inaccurate and only true after they had been taught by the Indians how to hunt in the new world. The first year the pilgrims were in America was spent ransacking Indian villages destroyed by the plague for food. It wasn't until a friendly Indian called who renamed himself "the wrath of god" showed them hunting that they stopped starving. Again the death records for the early colony are fascinating reading.

Must have been really tough for the Spanish conquistadors being greeted as gods by the people of the New World :)

That just showed how bad the alternative of staying in Europe at the time was, and how a class system, abject poverty, and the constant risk of death from war, injury, disease, and miscarriage (of justice, and the genuine kind) reduced the value of human life.

All cynicism aside, today’s developed democracies offer vastly improved lives. You may feel bored and adventurous, but I am unsure if those feelings can naively account for the motivation of the settlers.

There is also something to be said for the difference the actual experience would bring. It’s one thing to be alone on a vast green continent, ready to be molded in the shape of your dreams by your bare hands (ignoring here, as always, the existing, native, population).

Something tells me these settlers would have fared less well in a tiny aluminum sphere that requires you to solve differential equations to grow some salad.

I mean, they brought most of that with them. The only thing they evaded was religious persecution.

200,000 applying isn't that big a deal since it's not that hard to apply. It doesn't really require any commitment.

you had to pay like $50 to apply

And it required a fair amount of time too, IIRC. You had to make a video introducing yourself, and answer a lot of questions.

200.000 started the registration, but only 2800 remainend at the end of the process. Problably because they where not willing to pay the fee of $73 Dollar.

> the ISS (end scheduled in 2020)

It actually looks to be closer to 2030: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Space_Station#En...

Thank you for the correction.

2030 would give us more time to prepare an ambitious next step.

My friend "applied," knowing full well it was a scam. He said that he regretted nothing, as it allowed him to fantasize about the journey more concretely. So perhaps it served the same function as pornography.

I think it is more similar to lottery than pornography in that it enable people to fantasize about the future.

Shirley Jackson's Lottery.

>My friend "applied," knowing full well it was a scam.

Knew it was a scam and did it anyway?

These are the people that need to have conversations with economists.

You don’t rationalize on hopium.

Instead of offering dumb 1-way trips to Mars why not create round trips to the Moon and back? You can see Earth from the surface of the moon, see the lunar lander, drive a lunar rover, bounce around for a bit then hop in your module and head back home and live the rest of your life with a new perspective. More interesting than Mars, and doesn't take months to get there.

That seems like a much harder sell -- telling people they are going to be the first people to colonize another planet is exciting. Sending them on a sightseeing cruise around the moon (without even stopping) seems less interesting since even if the trip is "free" (paid by others), it's going to be risky.

Mars One wasn't seriously aiming to colonize Mars. It was a glorified suicide mission. That isn't appealing to most people, especially compared to a trip round the moon you'd actually have a good chance of surviving.

Mars One didn't need to appeal to "most people", just enough people to fill their open seats. And they needed enough people to support their broadcast/merchandising rights based funding model, but I'm sure there'd be a lot of public interest in following a group of future mars colonists through training and the journey to Mars -- and I'm many potential viewers would be drawn in by the risks of the mission.

They claim to have had over 200K applications though I'm sure many of those people would have backed out if they were actually selected and thought through the ramifications of a one-way trip to another planet.

I think I'd be more likely to apply for a Mars One mission than a trip around the moon. After the moon trip you're back home again without much to show for the trip but the pictures... it seems a little like taking a bus tour where you're not allowed out of the bus and it takes 3 days to get there... and you didn't even have a unique experience since hundreds or even thousands of people did the same trip. But since space travel is still in its infancy, there's still a significant chance that you won't survive the trip.

The Mars trip had a much higher chance of failure (and no chance of return), but at least then you're part of a small group of people who are actually colonizing another planet. I think it's unfair to call it a "glorified suicide mission", since the goal was to survive, even if there was no way to come back again.

...but at least then you're part of a small group of people who are actually colonizing another planet.

I believe the key is economics: by the time the price of fuel is low enough to put Mars at the reach of private tourists, imagine how far mining, industry and even tourism would be in the Moon.

And... a rocket factory in the Moon would offer a different perspective for Mars travel.

After the moon trip you're back home again without much to show for the trip but the pictures...

Literally every astronaut who's been in to space says it profoundly changed them as a person.

I have no doubt that it did - they are part of a very elite group of people doing something that literally no one else has ever done before and few could hope to do.

But when space travel is more commercialized and commonplace and anyone that can come up with $100K can buy a ticket for a trip around the moon and your instagram feed is full of people's snapshots from their moon trip, will it still have that mystique?

My grandmother was very proud of her first (and only) trip to Hawaii back in the late 1940's, she literally saved pennies over years to afford it, and said it felt like going to another world and she was a celebrity when she returned home to her small town. And even decades later she tells the stories from that trip (her only significant travel). But I've been to Hawaii about a dozen times, and while I enjoy it, it's not a profound experience that I'd save up for years and few people even care to hear about my trip when I come home, they just want to know if I brought them Macadamia nuts (the same ones I can buy at Costco!)

If you read the autobiographies of astronauts they talk about being in space as the thing that changed them and how they see the world, not the prestige of being an astronaut or act of going on a rocket.

Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14) said "From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty." I imagine that change in perspective is what going in to space would give you.

Don't discount the ability of the human mind to normalize experiences.

Plenty of people pay $$$$ to climb everest, even though they'll never be as famous as Hillary and Norgay.

To me your argument sounds like "Nobody space-tourists to the moon any more, it's too crowded" ?

I mean, if they send so many space tourists to the moon that going there isn't noteworthy any more, their sales would have to be really, really high.

I believe the comment you are responding to is referring to this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overview_effect

> and you didn't even have a unique experience since hundreds or even thousands of people did the same trip

You just described 99% of all vacations taken by humans on the planet. People still go on vacations, and even go on the same trip multiple times.

I had the money and it was relatively safe, I would jump at the opportunity.

I got my son a telescope last year and we have been watching the moon whenever we get a chance. It is another world.

Yes, of course, if it was safe and affordable lots of people would do it -- but you're not going to get safe and affordable space travel from an early spacefaring startup.

Not as simple as you would think. Mars has atmosphere for capture braking, for parachute landings. The moon requires lots of powered deltav to get onto the surface from low earth orbit, more so than mars iirc.

That's almost exactly backwards. For any decent-sized payload there's too much atmosphere to ignore (so you need heat shielding) yet not enough to exploit (so you need heavy rockets), parachutes rip off of big payloads... the skycrane was the least ridiculous device JPL could come up with for their rover.

The Moon is much easier, it's just a rock and some delta-V.

Lol, ignore atmosphere. EVERY mars lander has used massive aerobraking with a combination of shields and chutes. 99+% of thier speed was shed passively, without rockets. That Final touchdown is a drop in the deltav bucket. Check any deltav map.

Earth-moon surface = 2.66km/s

Earth-mars surface, with aerobraking = 1.06km/s +0.1 to .5 for final hover/touchdown depending on payload.

The Martian atmosphere is extremely thin — per wikipedia, "the atmospheric pressure on the Martian surface averages … about 0.6% of Earth's mean sea level pressure."

It is not really sufficient for capture braking / parachute landings with any efficiency or safety.

Also, mars takes more delta v than the moon.

Moon is less fuel and risk.

Are you suggesting that going to Mars is easier than going to the moon?

In terms of delta-V, Deimos is about as far as the surface of the moon. In terms of travel time, it's a hundred times farther away. For humans that is a crippling difference, but for rovers not so much.

Mars is not Deimos of course. My point is merely that from a delta-V perspective, the solar system suddenly looks very different.

Downvoted by people who know nothing about space physics. Deimos is indeed just about the same distance as the moon in terms of energy required. With one exception. When approaching a multi-body system there are gravity-boost options for slowing a spacecraft. Not an option when aproaching the moon.

Yeah, I'm a bit surprised to get downvoted for posting an interesting and unexpected truth. I'd love to hear what kind of reasoning the downvoters have for this.

I'm personally quite fascinated by Deimos. It's far away and yet relatively easy to reach. Some people believe there might be quite a bit of water on Deimos. Put together, that might make it an interesting option for a base, for refuelling, if nothing else. Especially once Mars gets a colony and we start mining asteroids, I wouldn't be surprised if Deimos turns out to be a nice central point between the three.

Or not. I'm not a rocket scientist, but I find this a fascinating subject.

It is a tuesday. HN is full of millenials who think they know everything. Id bet most of the haters in this thread had to google "deltaV". The smart people show up on the weekends. Im only here because im visiting family and work doesnt have my cell number.

Going to? If you are sending a robot, yes mars can be in some ways easier (less deltaV). Getting back is a totally different equation. Musks tesla, with a heat shield and parachute, could have made it to the surface of mars. Putting it on the moon would require more energy, a bigger rocket.

Hmmm... Mars' atmosphere is <1% Earth's. So far, everything landing there has needed either retro rockets or (if light enough) elaborate airbags. I don't think a parachute is enough to keep the Tesla intact after "landing".

The atmosphere is not thick enough for a soft landing of heavy rovers, but it helps a lot with slowing spacecraft down into an orbit around the planet.

A spacecraft attempting that would have to scream past the surface at extremely high velocity and low altitude and get really lucky not to intersect with terrain (mars is not a perfect sphere). It would also require many orbital passes to lower apoapsis to merely circular orbit (i.e., a lot of time). It is probably not practical.

You're right, it takes a long time and is probably unsuited for a manned mission, but it has been done before and can be useful for getting supplies to a Mars base. https://mars.nasa.gov/mro/mission/timeline/mtaerobraking/

> It lasted about six months [to circularize to a ~450 km orbit].

There's still a lot of orbital energy left at 450km orbit around mars that you need to get rid of some how, and a parachute probably isn't going to do it.

That is how it is done. Mars landers dont do orbital insertions. They crash strait into the atmosphere. 1% is more than enough. The retro rockets for landing only cover a few hundred m/s, all vertical. The atmoshpere is what bleeds off the several thousand m/s of horizonal velocity neede for capture.

Some probes used no rockets. Parachutes and airbags can land a small probe on mars. That isnt an option on the moon.

It worked for me in Kerbal Space Program! Don't ask how. Please don't ask.

I always found soft landing on Duna via aerobraking somewhat challenging :-D.

This looked like a con job from the start. I can only hope some creditors get their money back, and that those responsible get punished accordingly.

Yep, and as often happens when a scam involves science or tech, many journalists helped out by promoting their ridiculous claims without due challenge or skepticism.

The writing has been on the wall for a while now.

Even Gerard 't Hooft, famous physics nobel prize winner and one of the ambassadors of Mars One said the schedule and budget were off by a factor of 10. [1]

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/feb/23/mars-one-pla...

It's not a legitimate airline unless it's been bankrupt at least twice. ;-)

But this is a noairline not an airline.

Much too ambitious, especially with massive organizations (such as NASA) being unable to with much larger budgets and experience. Called it as a non-starter from the get-go. Good thing too, probably would have blown up on the pad and never left earth.

I think they could have got quite a bit of funding from crowd sourcing with lower ambitions, such as having a crowd-sourced satellite to go to Mars to conduct research. They could pay some external company to do a lot of the engineering and just act as a middle-man.

Like the cube sats, offer to take other people's research/commercial projects all the way to Mars and you have yourself a semi-viable investment project. For the backers, allow them time on the satellite, name stuff, something on the satellite that stores something personal to them (perhaps digitally and transmitting it back to earth with a massive time delay) - I think people would be interested.

Yet someone got paid and declared mission accomplished. Hilarious unless you were an investor. Maybe the engineers that worked at the company wrote really productive code in a really productive language. And the company offered amenities and benefits that were unlike anything else.

What engineers? AFAICR the team was six marketers... because it was a marketing stunt/scam.

It's like Fyre Festival, but in spaaaaace.

Based on the AMAs the founder gave on Reddit, it looked like a scam to be honest.

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/uta10/iama_founder_of...

[2] https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1tw2fy/i_am_bas_lansd...

Bas Lansdorp was one of the supervisors for my BSc graduation group project at TU Delft. I had some interesting interactions with him and a few others affiliated with Mars One back then, before Mars One was on the table.

I think the whole Mars One story will make it into a Hollywood script, because there's been more drama than most good movies I've watched in recent times.

There are thoughts about the project that I'd rather not share publicly, especially since I also know one of the main authors of the MIT study that became the focus of a lot of the critique about the feasibility/viability of the entire project.

Safe to say, Mars exploration is hyper-complex because of complexity in a whole host of dimensions, not just technical/scientific. Mars One exemplifies that.

I'm involved in Mars analog simulations missions through the Austrian Space Forum [1], so I've got a pretty good reading of the complexity that goes into planning & operational excellence.

If I had to sum up the whole Mars One journey in one word, it would be: underestimation.

[1] https://oewf.org

The idea is so absurd I really hope it's a comedy.

A lot of people who were looking forward to dying in space are going to be disappointed.

But to be honest, it sounds much more exciting to die in space than to die in a hospital.

If your goal is to die while having fun -- there are much cheaper alternatives available right here on Earth.

I didn't write fun, I wrote excitement. Taking drugs is fun, adventures are exciting.

Yeah but dying on earth is too mainstream and everyone does it. A lot more people will hear about someone dying on Mars for the first time ever.

Starvation isn't exciting.

But this isn't mere starvation, it's starvation in spaaaaace!

Personally, I'm waiting for the "put rocket boosters on Mars and fling it into Venus, re-enacting the impact that created the Moon and altering Venus's orbit to be approximately opposite of Earth's (but still safely far away), thus creating Earth-2" mission.

I look forward to the Netflix documentary.

Mars One: The Greatest One-Way Trip to Mars that Never Happened

So many comments here are really depressing and lack a sense of adventure and romance. Yes, Mars One did not have a sound plan, but it inspired a certain kind of person who wants a grand adventure with impact. Mars to Stay is a legitimate idea and makes a lot of sense for colonization: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_to_Stay

The Mars One idea of turning the colonists life into a reality TV show would be the first reality TV show I'd ever want to watch and would make a fantastic documentary.

So, while Mars One was severely flawed, I think the Mars to Stay philosophy makes a lot of sense if we want to colonize Mars.


> So many comments here are really depressing and lack a sense of adventure and romance.

(Since you are not replying to any specific such posts, I assume you are referring to those who point out that this was expected because Mars One was clearly not viable.)

Adventure and romance are good, and can be communicated through fiction, sky castle thinktanks, forums for interested people, etc. Pretending to actually do it is not necessary.

Lying to people and siphoning money out of crowdfunding can not be excused by "at least they made it sound fun". That's what all fraudsters do - they sell a dream and remove your money.

As I pointed out in my comment, Mars One didn't have a sound plan. Like most others following the effort, I thought it was a scam meant to enrich Bas Lansdorp. That they are a scam isn't news: everyone knew this. I'd guess that most of the donors even knew this.

That said, I think the idea of a one-way Mars colonization mission has a lot of merit, as long as there is some chance of survival. "Mars to Stay" as a one-way trip is something that has many proponents, most famously Buzz Aldrin. The one good thing about Mars One is that they got people talking about this proposition and doing a deeper analysis of how it could be achieved.

> So many comments here are really depressing and lack a sense of adventure and romance.

I have plenty of both, but I just don't find these kinds of crass marketing scams enticing.

I don’t know much about this subject so excuse a naive question: why Mars and why not the asteroid belts where I have read that there are raw materials and large amounts of ice? Is it because of negative health effects living in zero gravity and/or problems creating artificial gravity with rotation?

Great podcast about this, although I'm halfway spoiling it by telling you it's about Mars One.


I, for one, am shocked that these guys couldn’t crowdfund their way to Mars. After all, it only cost NASA (frantically punching numbers into a 4-function desk calculator) $315bn to get to the Moon in current dollars. I mean, that’s only 77x total funds raised on Kickstarter to date. Perhaps they should have added the Kupier Belt as a stretch goal?

While I agree with your point on this, just to play devil's advocate I have to point out that a lot has changed since the 1960's. We have designed more efficient rockets, we have much better computer guidance systems, we have much lighter-weight synthetic materials that could save on fuel, etc. Conceivably if we were to go to the Moon today, it would be substantially cheaper.

That said, I did feel like this project was overly ambitious. Even with my previous points, rockets are expensive, and space R&D is pricey.

Conceivably if we were to go to the Moon today, it would be substantially cheaper.

This seems contrary to experience. In constant dollars, a jetliner today is 5-10X the price of a jetliner of the 1960s. Mass transit rail miles are >10X. The solutions may be better, but they don't seem to be cheaper.

Launch costs do seem to have fallen quite a bit in very recent history though. So maybe?

Jet technology is much more complex to meet environmental, safety and efficiency goals. Fuel was much cheaper in the 1960's, I wonder what the cost of a jet is in terms of it's operating life?

Rail and other ground works have got much more expensive as labour costs (in the developed world) have risen. I expect that rail costs in China are not 10x? I would be interested to know !

In term of moonshots I think that safety and risk would mean that a modern mission would be much more expensive than Apollo.

Is that 5-10x the upfront cost? What's the cost comparison in operating costs over the lifespan of the plane?

It's not that I don't believe 5-10x, it's that I'm pretty sure the net savings are on the backend, which is where a huge amount of airplane engineering has gone--better fuel efficiency, faster servicing, etc. I'm not an expert in this area, so I'm genuinely curious.

A better comparison is how much it has cost SpaceX to get to where they are (and still at least 3 years left to go for their Mars mission) - $2.5B in equity funding + $10s of billions in revenue over the last 10 years.

question..how does spacex make revenue? or I might just google...

People pay them to put things into space

Should be their moto.


in: "SpaceX: We put things in space so you won't have to"

They are in the commercial space launch business. They deliver satellites and other payloads to orbit and the ISS.

A lot of their initial revenue came from Air Force and other military contracts to launch satellites to space. GPS satellites, spy satellites etc. E.g here's an article from 2016 about them launching a GPS satellite for ~$90M: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-space-spacex-launch-ula-i... More recently they also launch private satellites. Iirc, Facebook has plans to launch their next satellites on a SpaceX rocket (an earlier attempt failed).

Don’t they sell space launch services?

The fundamental Tsiolkovsky rocket equation and delta v required to get to Mars hasn't changed since the 60s. Some technology has improved, but the major difficulty is just lifting enough fuel out of Earth's gravity well to get anywhere.

That difficulty changes substabtially if you have rapidly reusable rockets.

The fuel itself is cheap, it's throwing away a rocket per launch that makes it infeasible.

The fuel is minimal part of the cost - putting 100ton of it into LEO even at $10K/kg is just $1B. And with BFR it will be even much cheaper than that.

$1B is a lot of money and LEO is a long way from mars.

LEO is about half way to Mars

Looks like more than halfway. Assuming you can arrange aerobraking on Mars, soft-landing on Mars is slightly nearer than soft-landing on the moon!

Getting back is a different kettle of fish though.


If you're counting just the Apollo program, your numbers seem high -- the entire program cost "only" $25B in 1973 dollars, or $106B in 2016 dollars.


Or maybe up to $200B in today's dollars: "In 2009, NASA looked back at the cost of the Apollo program in its entirety, and arrived at a figure of $170 billion in 2005 dollars (or around $200 billion in today’s money)"


But each Saturn V launch cost a few billion dollars in today's dollars, so you could deduct ~40B if you only care about making a few launches.

Though still well out of reach of a privately funding company that has no real return on investment (it's not like an asteroid mining mission that could bring back a trillion dollars of minerals).

True — I simply added up NASA’s budget in constant dollars through the moon landings for maximum effect, but the Apollo program in isolation would have been less. (Still took an estimated 400,000 personnel to pull it off, though!)

To my untutored eye, your $200bn+ doesn’t sound out of the range of likelihood, plus or minus — you’re basically looking at an ISS with a number of novel capabilities, plenty of redundancies, and assurance that the crew won’t end up dead from hard radiation along or after the trip, so assume at least $150bn in engineering+build and another $10-15bn to get 500 tons or so of spaceship into orbit. Add in Martian lander and rover costs, new personal equipment, any novel work on propulsion, power, radiation, and life support ... what were these guys thinking, anyway?

It was a cool idea and I'm glad they tried it. It's easy to mock people going out and trying out something new. It was an interesting concept, even though I'd never want to be part of it. It got a lot of people excited, and hopefully, something else came of it as well besides excitement and the ire of some people on the internet.

It was obviously stupid and possibly a scam, and there's limit to how much "at least they tried, risk taking implies some failure" back-slapping one should indulge in.

The new gilded age needs its bucket shops.

Making wild claims _on the back_ of a cool idea and raising a bunch of money is not trying out something new. It was a scam from the start to the finish. Or if not a scam, atleast a very misguided wishful thinking not at all grounded in reality (of Earthly or Martian variety)

I agree that the bankruptcy of Mars One comes as a surprise to no one, but a trip to Mars can be had for a lot less money than they Apollo program cost.


For example is a proposal that would send men to Mars for about 55 billion dollars over ten years. That even includes a return trip.

What would concern me is if they did managed to get people to Mars, then went bankrupt, leaving no new supplies being sent across.

Nobody wanted 1-way trips to Mars? Shocking.

Survey says a third of us would do it: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2179922-a-third-of-us-w...

I fucking would. It's the ultimate adventure and I have nothing here on earth.

you have a hn account with decent latency ;)

Apparently a good number did! Which baffles me... why would you want that? Sounds like a very odd death trap with no resources, economy, services, entrertainnent, ability to travel, etc etc.

I'd do it in a heartbeat, if I'd thought it had a chance in hell of succeeding. Everyone's going to die, why not do it while having the adventure of the millennium?

Sounds great. Give me your life savings and I'll put you on top of 10 tons of TNT [edit: less interesting, cheaper, less watch-list flagging choice] in a zorb ball with 500 pounds of hot dogs and 40 gallons of powerade. It's as likely to succeed as this was.

Like I said: if I thought it had a chance in hell.

I'll happily give you my life savings for 10 tons of semtex.

Little does he know its 100 bucks and a hotdog.

To me, it would be very odd if no one wants that since human vary. Someone out there must be crazy enough to just abandon their life on earth to have a chance to set the first stone of civilization in mars (or on the other extreme, no longer wants to live on earth).

While I did not apply, I can see the appeal. In one word: Adventure

Mars just seems a miserable place. Cold, dusty and pretty boring. I think the novelty would wear off pretty quickly.

It was 30 degrees below zero in Chicago a couple weeks ago, and the experience was a lot like what life on Mars would be like. Spending nearly 100% of your time inside your habitat, and going outside is a big deal that requires a lot of preparation.

A week was enough of that for me. I'd still like to visit Mars, but I can't imagine I'd enjoy living in those conditions for the rest of my life.

Finland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden - they are pretty happy countries. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6IsFPRoslY

Well, sure. I live in Chicago which has winters as cold as those places. It's a relatively balmy 25 deg F in Helsinki right now. Not a big deal.

But the polar vortex we just went through was other-worldly cold. It was warmer on Mars much of the time that week. Stores and schools were shut down. The man in that video would have experienced frostbite if not death from exposure.

When I was student, I wear no hat up to -25°C (-13°F) (but I still have minor problem with right ear for 20 years after).

Still sounds like quite an adventure.

Large parts of adventures are basically boredom in poor conditions.

What do you want do on Mars other than staying alive? There is not much there.

Make it more inhabitable for others, and maybe do a little research when not too busy just trying to stay alive? People volunteer to spend months stranded in a small research base in Antarctica, and they aren't even colonizing.

Also it needs women.


Edit: It also needs humor.

These people were the mark for this scam, paying thousands to "apply".

Who paid thousands? IIRC, I think they varried the price based on country, and in the US it was about $50 to apply.

I'd do it, if there were a high probability of it actually happening and a >50% chance of not dying.

Yeah-- show me that you actually have the ability to (literally) get off the ground, and a solid plan once we get there that doesn't involve me dying of starvation or asphyxiating, and I'd at the very least seriously consider applying.

Mars One didn't have that credibility, though. (I've seen very little to indicate that they were anything but a complete scam.)

Why do people have children? To my mind it's a similar tradeoff: giving up a lot of your freedom, wealth, time, ability to travel... for the sake of a better future not for you but for the generation after you.

Why would you want a one-way trip out of a uterus onto this planet called Earth? It's ultimately a death trap. Oh, has resources, economy, services, entertainment and travel: for a privileged minority.

Earth is a death-trap since no one lives forever, some people just like the chance of doing something more substantial than working a 9-5 job every day and then dying on the same planet they were born on.

Not tens of thousands of years ago it didn't. It just had resources.

I wanted one for someone else. Several people, actually.

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