Having said that, I'm concerned that we focus a little too much on Space-X. As much as what Elon is doing is awesome, I'd feel better for the species if we had 3 or 4 competitors very close on his heels. I know that he has competitors, but as far as I know none of them seem to have the long term vision and dedication to reusable, scaleable architectures that he has.
I don't want to trade having all of our eggs in a basket labeled "NASA" with having all of our eggs in a basket labeled "Space-X"
But it's also great for the market. Nothing attracts imitation like runaway success, and profits. There are already companies gearing up to compete head to head with SpaceX (Blue Origin, XCOR, Virgin Galactic, etc.) And there are the traditional companies (Boeing, LockMart, etc.) who may be able to renovate their operations enough to build rockets efficiently. And as the market grows (which is inevitable given the lowering costs) there will be new competitors in orbital launch that are not even on the horizon today.
I do have a living hero, and he is Elon Musk.
Has anyone noticed the parallels with Schwarzenegger, and the differences?
When Arnold was a young athlete, someone asked him "so what do you want to do with your life?" He said: "I'd like to be a bodybuilding world champion. Then I'd like to become an actor. Then I'd like to do politics."
He nailed every single one of those goals. But please notice those are the ultimate goals of the individual ego (more precisely, of the male ego): physical power, fame, money, and political power. He's basically Conan in real life.
Now, Elon Musk also made a list of the most important issues to solve - the ones most important for the planet, for humanity as a whole, not for the little individual ego. We need a clean environment, we need energy, and we need to put some of our eggs in another basket.
And then he went on knocking them off the list one by one. First PayPal, to achieve financial independence. Then Tesla Motors (good for the environment), Solar City (energy), and SpaceX (Mars colonization). And he's willing to risk his own life to achieve those goals.
I've no doubt, Elon Musk is up there among the greatest. If he makes it to Mars, one day kids will learn his name from the history books.
Do we label every paint manufacturer a drug dealer because they have a product that can be misused?
-_-. You could have come up with a less politically charged example than that (perhaps any arbitrary blunt, heavy, or sharp object?).
Found it: http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/onepercent/2012/05/spacex-... (although his assessment of rockets being classified as weapons seems more neutral than I remembered it)
"rocket technology is ... considered an advanced weapons technology so you can't really [outsource] - so in our case manufacturing is necessary."
Name me one.
Yes, it's his ego driving him. No, I did not imply he's a saint. Yes, his goals are more broad.
Careful with judgements like this, since they are often projections of your own self. In other words, you saw in my statements things that irritate you, and responded to those projections.
And finally, joining and equating mumbo-jumbo with altruism is already very revealing in terms of your own attitude. ;)
And, with that, the armchair psychologist is signing off.
Cockroaches hide in dark places.
That want is driven by ego.
The risk of wishing for a competitor is that one will turn up that doesn't compete on innovation and efficiency, but competes on some other axis such as financial or political muscle. That might provide benefits in the short term, but long term it would be terrible if Space-X were pushed aside that way.
It is fun to imagine SpaceX as some megalith of the private aerospace industry, poised to usurp NASA and colonise the galaxy in the name of the free market (which is almost the narrative you'd get reading all the press), but this kind of thinking has led to some really unfortunate misconceptions in the past (such as that of Gene Cernan, who did later apologise to Elon once he learned more about the company). The reality is that in some ways we're still basically a mid-level startup (as startuppy as a defence contractor can be, in any case), and without the successes of COTS 1 (December 2010) and COTS 2 (May 2012), most people here would never have heard of SpaceX.
We're definitely not in competition with or on track to replace NASA (they're our biggest customer!), and we're not even the most prominent name in government space launch at present (media/popularity aside). ULA, in fact, is the current "evil empire" of the public launch market (United Launch Alliance; Lockheed/Boeing joint venture founded in 2006). Aside from ULA, there are a bunch of small companies with similar visions (e.g. Orbital), as well as some pretty fierce competition both in the US and abroad gearing up to seriously attack commercial launch / space exploration (e.g. China). Keep in mind that this isn't necessarily solely related to pressure from SpaceX, but also the natural result of a recovery in the global launch market as a whole since the crash in the 90's.
Don't get me wrong: SpaceX is 100% on track to kick everyone else's ass and get us to Mars next decade. However, it's pretty far from a given, and there is still a ton of resistance against new entrants (entrenched deals and interests, competing lobbyists, FUD/propaganda floating around Washington, etc.).
Right now is way too early for you to start worrying about what could potentially happen in a hypothetical SpaceX-dominated launch / space travel market (especially if it's for the sake of being contrarian). Let's at least approach that point in time before seriously discussing it's potential merits and drawbacks.
Edit / Full Disclosure: I work here, but I don't speak on behalf of SpaceX or anything of the sort.
Blue Origin is doing things, but I'm not sure it's not just a vanity project for Bezos. XCOR is working on some subsystems that are probably transplantable across different vendors. Bigelow seems to be working on payloads. Scaled Composites is trying something quite different from SpaceX and it remains to be seen which way is better (if there's even such a single answer to that).
There are even smaller places like Armadillo, but it may be not meant to compete. I'm reading a lot in here, but I think Carmack sees it as an incubator for new space talent.
I may be reading a lot in here, but are you saying that incubators are mostly just talent farms?
1. An enclosed apparatus providing a controlled environment for the care of premature babies.
2. An apparatus used to hatch eggs or grow microorganisms under controlled conditions.
HN is like a real time ticker for FB stock and stories while Elon should be valued at 100 times zuck.
We should focus MORE on spaceX and Tesla and zero on FB.
That is an unusual point of view. A common behavior for people exposed to a 'success' is to focus intensely on it and try to learn from it so that they can duplicate it. It is also common for people who feel threatened in some way by a success to try to diminish it or explain it away as a fluke. From the perspective of someone who feels more access to space is critical to the future of the US economy, if not the worlds economy, I dig into everything I can about Space-X to see how they changed the formula.
They are certainly not the first company to attempt developing an orbital launch capability. For those to young to remember Ronald Regan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) it was going to require literally hundreds, if not thousands, of satellite launches. That potential market drew a lot of smart people in to try to figure out how to build a commercial launch capability.
My personal favorite of that time, the DC-X , was considered a leading contender. (From what I've seen of Blue Origin, and that Wikipedia reference, it looks like B-O has picked up that line of research). But none of these efforts came anywhere close to being as successful as Space-X. So I really really want to know how they avoided the traps these other companies landed in.
The air-launch system has a lot of flexibility and convenience. It's also a proven concept. (Scaled Composites actually built an aircraft launch system for small orbital payloads years in advance of Space Ship One. It's hard to find with all of the Virgin and Stratolaunch links, though.)
(OSC is also the "other" commercial cargo provider for the space station, though they haven't started with demo flights yet; they're using their own booster for this, though the first-stage engines are refurbs from the old Soviet lunar program. Literally --- another American aerospace company bought thirty-odd engines that had been built for the Soviet N1 booster out of a warehouse in Kazakhstan...)
It really feels like a startup here; everything moves incredibly quickly, major advances in launch technology are being engineered and tested all the time at a fairly breakneck pace, and the whole show is run by some pretty brilliant minds (a good mix of younger engineers and veterans from NASA and the private auto and aerospace industries). Regardless of how closely reality ends up aligning with Elon's goals, the progress made here is pretty far from fantastic.
But I've always thought part of Musk's brilliance is that he has a way fo aiming for the stars and landing on the moon. The moon is still pretty cool, but it isn't the stars.
As far as financial issues, SpaceX is pretty hugely successful with commercial launch as it is (even more so with the new NASA deal announced this morning); but, worst case financial scenario (as the inside joke goes), "Hey Congress, we're about to send a manned spacecraft to Mars, and some country's flag is going in with them...".
As far as technical issues, I can't really subscribe to the idea that the team hasn't accounted for or will inevitably fail to account for some massive unknown/unforeseen/insurmountable blocker on the road to Mars. It's certainly possible, but there really isn't any fundamentally unique problem (that I can see) in a manned mission to Mars which hasn't already been solved in some form in the past.
I am still very skeptical that there is a non-government way to keep someone alive for a round trip. That's a very tough problem to fix with limited finances and time.
They've launched orbital rockets and demonstrated they can do so far more cost effectively than anyone else in history. They've done the same for delivering pressurized cargo to ISS. And their work on manned spaceflight, heavy lift launchers, and reusable launch vehicles is enormously credible given their current track record and history of unabashed transparency.
I would. The first flight would be risky; if I felt comfortable that the company's mission will continue, that my kids have grown up, then I'd be on the first mission."
I love that the risk of death only frightens him from a view point of responsibilities. As the father of his children, and apparently the father of humanities future in space.
"It would be cool to be born on Earth, and die on Mars." (of old age, I assume)
Which view point does death frighten you for?
Glad someone has this motivation.
Mars could be a place to start again, to get things right without all the historical cruft. And the culture, the kind of person who would take that kind of risk has to be interesting. We have examples of this turning out well from the past.
Back on Earth, this would have a uniting effect by completely changing the playing field. I expect Fox News would call for something to be done about those anarcho-socialist martians and the superiority of pure Earthicans. Paranoid military planners will be concerned about scenarios where Mars attacks earth, especially with the outflow of all those entrepreneurial, intelligent, individualistic, explorer psyches. Sounds dreary right? But at last we would be thinking at a global level!
I think it is probable that China start to colonize Mars before US has the ability to. Next, they start to claim area after area, while also dominating the earth economy. It will not stabilize the geo-political landscape - it will complicate it.
If China establishes colonies, good for them. When England colonized America, it began the downfall of Spains empire (more or less), but no one is crying that Spain didn't become the global power it 'should' have become.
Did it ever occur to you that:
1. No Chinese would ever think such self-hating thoughts.
2. Such thoughts did not originate from your own reasoning, but were learned through various channels?
It's not like it matters, as Martian colonization is less likely than human extermination via a robot takeover, but still...
2. How is wishing that all of humanity makes progress rather than just your own country self-hateful? Isn't that the ideal?
3. I know a lot of Chinese people who went to the U.S. for undergrad and really care about both countries, which is a counterexample to your #1.
And this works at first because most of the first 100 people are scientists, engineers and others of that sort. But after some time there are strong political moves made on Earth from countries that don't want to be left out of Mars. Rich oil shiekhs make large contributions to martian mining efforts as long as certain Muslims can relocate to Mars. Then things turn south pretty quickly.
Edit: I am no native english speaker but seems to me Musk personifies the expression "pushing the envelope"
He makes you want to step up whatever is it that you're working on.
And beyond that, he acts on it on a very large scale!
I'm a Musk fanboy myself, but there's always someone with a different opinion.
I am encouraged by the recent progresses. The upcoming rover landing is a big test. If they can master robotic rocket landings and material transport on the surface we are making progress.
My wife has set a rule that no children we have are allowed to leave the planet before they are 18.
I get the space tourism aspect. People want to try new things, and especially things no one has ever done before. But that aside, I don't really get why we, as a species, should be expending such enormous effort trying to send a few live human specimens off the planet at this point-- not while we can develop totally awesome robotics technology that leverages the resources of outer space to usher in the post-scarcity era right here, in the totally best place in the universe for a human being to live.
I know we don't have to choose one or the other, but I wish someone with Elon's charisma was out there pulling for the "Space sucks, send robots" angle.
If your end goal is to mine resources in space, then yes, using humans seems like a waste of time and money.
However, if your goals are more along the lines of colonizing other planets, or setting up research stations on other planets, than dealing with issues around transporting humans through space is more important.
 Russia has begun training astronauts for the 500-day project by experimenting with placing them in isolation
Whoa. Talk about a cold equation. I can't make up my mind whether I'm impressed or creeped out that he's willing to go public with statements like that. He's definitely laying bare his thought process, right down to factoring in public reaction.
It's not like the people doing this wouldn't know exactly what they were doing and how dangerous it was.
Basically, he's coming across as somewhat unapologetically nerdy - he's giving a pragmatic answer, prefering to be blunt rather than sugar-coating it. But it's a sort of short-term pragmaticism, because it can hurt what he's trying to do in the long run. I sort of like it, but at the same time it's so unusual for a man in his position that I can't help but feel surprised, and possibly put-off. It's more of a comment on how PR-optimized CEO behavior has conditioned my expectations and how Musk challenges them, I guess.
As with an generation there are those who are not complacent, those who will take the risks needed to move us forward. Now they just have the ability to communicate the desire to a large number of people quickly.
Many test pilots probably have flown with far less assurance than he will have should he go. Man breaking the sound barrier was an inevitability and I bet there were more than enough ready to try, the same will be when it comes to going to other planets. Mr Musk is just putting it out there now
Saying that "yes, that thing you think is dangerous probably is, but we're going into this willing to take the risk" will be accepted by most people because it's what they intuitively believe anyway .
For an example of this, just look at NASCAR.
As long as his company causes less deaths securing a future, as the army needs to protect the present, nobody should complain.
IMO Richard Branson and Bill Gates are of equal caliber.
Both places require pressure suits, but the Moon is a hard vacuum, which means you can do the usual vacuum industry tricks, while Mars has just enough atomosphere to rule out vacuum applications, but not enough atmosphere to breathe. Maybe in five thousand years we will have terraformed a breathable atmosphere, but in the near future it will be a neat place to plant a flag, like the top of Everest, but certainly not a place you'd like to live.
One of the toughest things I've found is to recruit top-notch manufacturing talent. That's where I've had to go overseas. For a few decades, it just wasn't where the smartest kids in the class in America went. We had far too many smart people in the U.S. go into finance and law!"
Interesting. I thought only U.S. citizens were allowed to work for SpaceX, but Elon actually had to go overseas to recruit top-notch manufacturing talent.
With the introduction of multiple bills recently to retain foreign talent such as the STEM Jobs Act, Startup Act 2.0, STARS Act, The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, it's good to see some progress made to solve this problem.
1 Where will that electricity come from? - I think solar will be the largest source [he owns a solar company, SolarCity].
With someone like Elon Musk it's believable that "he owns a solar company" is not a disclosure of bias, it's putting his money where his mouth is.
2 He doesn't come off as ideological at all (eg government vs corporate technology) except where relevant to his goal. He's trying to make electric cars & go to mars. Those are the areas where he's thrying to have an impact, here he has strong opinions. Otherwise, he lives in the world as it is. He doesn't get baited into comments on the political, financial or regulatory structure beyond where it applies to the stuff he's doing