SpaceX founder/Tony Stark movie inspiration Elon Musk made some heads turn this week, as heads are wont to do when they hear someone plans to ship 80,000 people to Mars. In a talk at the Royal Aeronautical Society, Musk offered early ideas on how to start a colony on the Red Planet. Then, yesterday, he doubled down with a tweet.
Millions of people needed for Mars colony, so 80k+ would just be the number moving to Mars per year news.yahoo.com/huge-mars-colo…
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 27, 2012
So, to recap: Musk wants his private spaceflight business to send 80,000 people to Mars every year. They're not going to do that themselves, probably, but the company would certainly be leading the charge.
How are they going to do that?
Well, as Talking Points Memo writes, one of SpaceX's big pushes is for reusable rockets. We've had something like that in the form of NASA's classic space shuttles, but the refurbishing, Musk has said, is too much to truly make repeat space-travel cost-effective. In the RAS talk, he says that technology is still some time away--maybe five to six years before we can fully reuse a craft.
Whatever that reusable craft for colonists is, it's not going to be a current SpaceX model, like the Falcon 9 rocket. They're going to need a bigger boat: shipping off a considerable amount of people and cargo isn't feasible with the spacecrafts we have now. (Even with SpaceX's 22-story Falcon Heavy rocket, capable of carrying 117,000 pounds.) The new spacecraft, whatever it looks like, would probably run on methane, which Musk determined was the cheapest option.
But Musk, in the talk, adds a caveat to all of this: that five or six years for a reusable rocket has a "hopefully" tagged on to it. Some of these plans rely on improvements in technology, and he admits those improvements aren't simple to predict. It helps to remember, too, that this is still a sketchy idea: we need to have an infrastructure on Mars for those colonists, and it's not clear how long the gap is between "having the technology" to "sending people to Mars with the technology." Musk said last year that we were between 10 and 20 years away (worst-case scenario) from putting people on Mars, and that SpaceX would just handle transport, not the actual colonies.
I like it. It one thing to dream big ideas, but it is so much better to begin planning. This article topic was about sending 80k of people and to design a rocket to do it. I hope they remember to figure out how feed these people to land that giant space craft softly, else are we just talking about a few people landing on Mars and a whole lot of Soylent Green Crackers?
LoL, oh you thought I meant making humans into crackers!
By the way, wasn’t it just a short time ago, that NASA landed Curiosity on Mars and for a great many articles and media frenzy everywhere it was like display to be the most impossible landing of sorts!
Oh yea, sure, let’s send 80K people there with a never been built rocket and most improbable landing of a small car, let along monolithic rocket with 80000 people landing on Mars. No wait, we will land those 8000 people in a shuttle bus rocket. Yea, yea, sure it’s safe, yea, lol.
Finally, who will we send there, but of course 80000 highly educated productive people, with zero common sense and no cares, if they actually do survive. I really like see how they find a bunch of people for this mission; how bizarre?!
"Finally, who will we send there, but of course 80000 highly educated productive people, with zero common sense and no cares, if they actually do survive. I really like see how they find a bunch of people for this mission; how bizarre?!"
Mars, the new great frontier. Who will we send there? Anyone who wants to go. The American West was colonized by anyone and everybody. It was "the land of opportunity". People went there knowing the risks, and knowing they might not make it, but they went anyway, and thought it might offer a better life. People might do the same for Mars.
Optimistically, I like to see us Earthlings go and settle on Mars, but my above comments just point to the pie-in-sky proposal of this article. What I really like to see is a proposal, that is more likely to be achieved, sir and with survivors would be nice too.
I was just about to say the same thing, Cookiees. There are a lot of similarities between colonizing Mars and colonizing the Americas. Many of the people who crossed the ocean knew that there was a pretty good chance that they would die before they even arrived to their new home. And once they got there, they could starve to death, be killed by natives, wild animals or an exotic (to them) disease. As the number of colonists grew and technology got better, the safety of the trip and the continent increased. Now, you're almost guaranteed to survive a trip from Europe to the US, and you're very likely to live to be an old person once you get here.
Mars doesn't have exotic diseases or natives. Travel and arrival will probably be strictly regulated. It has its own dangers, but it's no more dangerous than early immigration to the 'new world' (which will soon have to be renamed the old new world since Mars will REALLY be the new world.) In 200 years, Mars could be just another place to live... Nothing really special.
By the way, it was not really that long ago that there was a media frenzy saying heavier-than-air sustained flight was impossible. 75 years later we were successfully landing things on Mars.
My dream is to open a bar on Mars called Mars Bar. My first drink, a marsgarita.
When 80K of people travels in a confined space, yes disease will come along in the rocket and onto Mars too. Humans are not a isolated life form. Inside lives billions, maybe trillions of other bacteria’s, virus, and parasites. Waste management, a clean recycle environment is an absolute must for this space ship and space home on Mars.
And have you really thought about the health of all these people in a low gravity space craft for such a long journey, not to mention the phycology problems that might come up and perhaps cause a mutiny and or damage to the ship?
Will this space ship bring wild life with it and vegetation? These too, bring bacteria, virus and parasites. Or do you think the people will all eat manufactured hot pockets for food? To bring all this wild life along, it too has to be fed and kept alive.
This is just the human aspect of putting 80k people in a box, you still haven't made the space ship or landed it successfully and have a space city alreayd to house this 80k of people ready to go on the surface.
This article is science fiction fantasy.
Though, if the planet Earth was to be doomed and 7 billion people were do die soon and we pulled all our resources, yeah sure, this might be done with that in mind. It may be possible.
Elon Musk is my hero! I guess what Mars colonists are going to need is an army of smart robots. And this is what I'm working on.
When solving problems this large and complex, it is sometimes beneficial to start with where you wish to end. What do we need to build a city? What will that city requrie to be functional? We know it needs to contain its own atmosphere, provide space for health maintenance, food production, socializing, and privacy. It must also have the means by which it will grow, so thats machinery and parts, tools, fuel...
The more people it has, to a limit, the faster it will grow. But is growing fast important? Afterall, no point in having space that nobody is using, so the city only needs to grow as fast as immigrants arrive. What if we only want to send people to/from Mars during their closest approach to each other, that is a period that lasts for about 3 months per year so that leaves 9 months to build and prepare for newcomers.
For convenience sake, lets just say 500 newcomers per year. We'll get to this later.
So we need to build space for 500 people in 9 months, that's an average of nearly 3 new housing units per day plus additional space for socializing, more food capacity, and more healthcare facilities.
That tells us a lot on what we need from our buildings. We need them to be modular, easily assembled, and preferrably be sourced from Martian stocks of minerals. Because of these requirements its less likely that units will be self contained.
So we know that our initial crew has to be stocked with a large inflatable dome, simple modular buildings that are all the same basic design but different sizes, energy, and food. Once there, they could have separate inflatables meant specifically to grow food.
Coming back to the transports, I propose a fleet of VASIMR powered interplanetary ships that ferry passengers, 100 to a ship, from Earth to Mars and back again. Why? VASIMR isn't rated for atmospheric flight, and building a ship that doesn't have to survive atmospheric entry is much easier and cheaper. These VASIMR powered ships will dock in space waiting on SKYLONs to bring passengers to them. They will all depart within hours of each other on their 4 week trip to Mars. Once in orbit of the red planet, each ship will launch landing pods. The Mars atomsphere is tenuous--but good enough to allow parachute landings to be successful. This is how new residents will arrive. Each landing pod would ideally be equipped with a small vehicle that can carry 4-8 people to the city. The pod would not be able to take off again, and only contain enough fuel to keep its descent on target.
Once all the pods have been launched, the VASIMR ships return home to Earth.
Mars will be equipped with a vertical landing rocket like what Space X is developing, but that will have to be a "heavy lift" that can carry several dozen people, and/or equipment and supplies in one trip as it will only have a few days to make any transfers from Mars to Orbit.
LOL ... I think it is difficult to compare colonization of North America with Mars. The folks that went to NA were poor and starving. They had little to lose and probably also had no idea how difficult it would be. What they did have going for them is a land that could sustain them on many levels. Mars has none of that. In fact, Mars probably has nothing to offer anyone except a second base ... a sub-standard emergency home for humanity. It's just the kind of place one might want to visit for a few days but no longer. It might make a good penal colony which may be what Musk is thinking.
Well, that's why you bring the stuff you need with you. Potatoes and other plants you can bring, along with a greenhouse, and you're pretty much good to go. These astronauts aren't going to eat freeze-dried food for the rest of their lives. You should check out The Mars Underground documentary. Robert Zubrin states excellent reasons to go. Soon, with the technology we gain in the future, we'll be able to stay. It isn't too far off, actually.
"Look for the solution, not at the problems."
Yes there are still plenty of logistics to figure out. Transportation, housing, and supplies being key.
Yes we will need a large number of colonist to sucsefully build infrastructor, however no where does it make the rediculous claim that we would attempt to send 80,000 people in one shuttle. Thats just not practicle.
For a coloney to be succesfully established you need to first bring in a smull number of key personel to begin construction of base camp one. Once an outpost is established, and a STEADY supply chain is formed with the mother coloney, then the outpost can be supplied with more personel and the true colonization begins with steady flights to and from earth carrying aprox 80,000 colonists a year with all the supplies the we can afford.
It is not Boom were craming 80,000 into one ship and sending them out tomorrow.
Also it is very likely we will bring airborne contaminants and diseases from Earth, however as we come from Earth the only ones that need fear our diseases are the native martins:)
"Look for the solutions, not the problems."
I can see transporting, using Solar Sails, 80k robots per month to Mars (and the Moon and other planets and their moons too) but not people.
No food or water required for robots, just power (that can be collected via solar cells). And less worries about radiation too.
These robots of various sizes, from micro to massive, can be used to explore, research, mine, build products, and structures.
Robots can communicate with each other and send information and images back to Earth via the Spacenet (i.e. an expanded Internet).
The robots can be lowered to the surface and raw materials can be lifted back to orbit with Space Elevators!
Orbiting Space Elevator stations can be facilities using the raw materials from the surface to build massive intergalactic multi-generation colony transports.
My gkids will see your gkids at the end of the Universe (if there is one?)!
I have to disagree that this is like the European colonization of America. Here are my main reasons:
1- The cost per person of coming to America in the early 1600s was equivalent to roughly $50,000 today. Going to Mars is going to cost you orders of magnitude more per person.
2- Before the first European attmepts at colonizing America, the Europeans had been sailing back and forth and exploring it for almost 100 years since Columbus. And before that, the Norse first put settlements in continental North America in the 900's. It took 700 years from the first attempts at settlement to when those settlements actually took.
3- If you were cut off from home in a far-away settlement in the Americas, you could still find water to drink, food to eat/hunt, resources to use. That won't be the case on Mars. They won't be able to hunt anything, growing things will be hard and relatively unproductive, etc. Everything they need MUST be sent to them, with no mistakes.
4- People came to America because they could get land and resources. Land and resources that they could use, own, farm, make productive. None of that is true on Mars. Even if we change the international Space Treaties, which prohibit any person or country owning anything in outer space, there's not going to be a big land grab. You can't turn the martian countryside into a productive piece of land. There's no return on investment or risk.
5- What are 80,000 people a year going to DO up there? How exactly are they going to be productive? How about just 8,000 people period? What are they going to spend their time doing? Since you can't go outside of the base/habitat, what kinds of productive things can even be done with their time? Sit around and get entertained all day?
6- The logistics of fully supplying and supporting even 10,000 individuals on another planet for even a few years are so insane (technologically and economically) that you'd impoverish the people of earth to try and do so. The same was not the case with the colonization of America.
I have often said I would go to Mars today - but after reading a neat little book, The Martian, a journal of a left behind explorer's struggle to stay alive, I think I will wait at least until they have a Walmart there. I have lived in China for 6 years and it is a little like living in an alien culture; not being able to read all the signs, different cultural habits, a majorly difficult language. But I can survive because I have McDs and Walmart.
I do hope we venture out into our solar system and the adventure becomes easy and standard. Making a colony on Mars is a wonderful future step for humanity.
I appreciate your suggestions.
I so appreciate you positive attitude and encouragement to another blogger.
Perhaps one main ship that is permanently in space and repeats return trips from earth to mars - and smaller vessels act as taxis delivering the passengers. On another note, be cool if we could smack a comet into Mars or trigger a volcano.
You bring up some interesting problems, but again you need to look at the solutions, not the problems.
Now before you say thats an overly simplistic view and that you need to solve the problems, thats just it, look for the solutions.
The first problem is that you looking at this from the current technological view, when even leading scientest at the top of there fieled say that it is not possible with current tech and we need certain advancements whithen the next 20 or 30 years first.
1 Cost, yes by todays standards can't be done, but what happens when our level of technology doubles 10 times in the next 18 years
2 Now you make my point for me. It is absolutly essential to establish an outpost before we can even begin thinking about colonization.
3 Resources are a major game changer. However it is a simple matter of transporting seeds, and underground martian resovoirs are not the only way industrious colonisers can extra water. A resource that is proving to be in increddible abindance withen our universe. Also it would be absoulty essential to set up a resupply convey of space ships that make frequence trips between the two planets.
4 The investment worth the risk? First of all space tourism, everyone and their sisters uncle will want to go to the martian resorts. Not to mention that as an outpost that is much closer to the astroid belt, it could be invaluable in retreaveing all the resources humanty could ever need. Not to mention that the fabrication process of a vast aray of items could be easier and faster in the reduced gravity. Greenhouse gasses you say? What atmosphere would we be warming? Unless you think carbon emissions can travel the vast voids of space.
5 Productivity. Yes what are all those space minners and tourists going to do with their time? Also we are talking 20 or 30 years in the futrure when the Majority of human jobs will be replaced by Robots. What then are all these people going to do with their time when they are no longer required for manual labour?
6 Impovershing the earth. Well again it is generally accepted that it is unafordable with current technology. Also, just which part of earth are you impovershing? The 99% who pay for everything, or the 1% who recieve the benifits of the rest of humanity. And if you think that many eroupeon countries didn't risk bankruptcy and "impovershment" on this incredably risky and tenuos venture, then you've got another thing coming.
Sorry rant over, and I mean no offense, however anyone can come up with supposedly unsurmountable obsticles. It takes a true innovatore to come up with earth shattering solutions.
We are Flintstones Kids ... 8 Billion Doomed ... and growing. Eventually (hopefully soon) Scientists will start using biology in interstellar, robotic and microprocessor technology in conjunction with more classical, mechanical nano-technology. @Robot ... sure the cold hard electronic and mechanical existence can gives us the prospect of eternal life. However, in order to make true progress ... at least in the short-term. I think we need to use more of what we don't fully understand. Microbiology. Computer processing that uses biology that is where our future lies. Sure micro-processing and advanced robotic engineering will take us far. But, harnessing biology and genetics will help us make a "quantum leap" in technology. And THAT my friends is why I eat tainted pork, viva la Swine Flu!
Colonizing Mars is nothing like the colonization of the Americas. American immigrants didn't risk their lives for the novelty of living in a new place. They came to the new world for two primary reasons.
1. Old World oppression. (religious, political, class)
2. Economic opportunity. (cheap natural resources, exploding economy)
How do these apply to Mars?
1. Earth oppression? There are plenty of free countries here.
2. Economic opportunity? What have we found on Mars that would worth the cost of hauling it back?
All of the danger is there, but none of the incentive.
Discussing science is certainly interesting, but we are not going to Mars because of science.
We are going to Mars because we want to.
At any cost, it will happen.
Want as in profit and they yes it will happen!
We just need to make it a profitable adventure.
European colonization occured because of gold. There was gold to steal in central America and it made Spain rich, others came for it as well, and were forced to find other sources of wealth (fur, tobacco, lumber, etc).
To get to Mars, there must be something on Mars worth taking and having (here or there). As of right now, mere acreage is not worth it.
Also, to colonize Mars, you would have to export industry in a box - a means to go from raw material to finished goods - on site. Resupply is just not feasible (it only supplimented the earliest of colonies).
Mining asteroids for space habitats (O'Neill's or some other design) makes MUCH more sense in the short term, since all Mars offers is native rather than relative gravity (at the cost of a system that is far less controlable).
Robotics systems that can function independently at their task, replicate themselves as needed (exponentially) from resources gathered, complete globals tasks, and they recycle themselves leaving behind biohabitat is a LONG way off.
Remote robotic mining and a shorting of the industrial manufaturing processes (native materials - raw stock - components - assembled goods) are far more achievable.
The weakest part of space travel and habitation is the biologic, so while pushing for the biological is romantic, it isn't feasible. You can't just "tough it out" in the hostility of space like you could the old west.
No, the robotic must go first and prepare the way to add the biologic later (and sending tens of thousands into space is pointless - if the resources exist, thousands will turn to tens of thousands soon enough).
"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
What happened to our exploratory spirit? OF COURSE this will not be easy, there are many challenges that stand in the way, but that's the idea. To be honest, I'm disappointed in a lot of the comments here. It seems too many are content with doing things the easy way. Sad.
By the time we start colonizing it, if such could ever be the case, it will be a junk yard. I'm writing a book now, "Junkyard Mars". Watch for it.
Musk claims "the project would be designed to make the settlement increasingly self-sufficient over time." So, how would it be sustained before it's self-sufficient? The critical dependencies on Earth resources couldn't be sustained, not for a minute. It would have to be self-sustainable from the start.
The problem isn't a rocket to transport. The rocket science isn't the problem - it's living on Mars. Mars is kinda uninhabitable. You couldn't recruit 80,000 people to live on Mars, certainly not if they're paying half a million each. Most people who have that kind of money enjoy the luxuries of Earth way to much to say good buy to them, and people with that kind of money gravitate to a lifestyle (impatient, being waited upon, power, status, fancy cars, fancy furnishings, fancy food, luxury vacations, fancy attitude) that does NOT lend itself to either training to be a Martian, travelling to Mars, and certainly not living on Mars, which will consist of digging up Martian soil to make bricks and other very labor intensive activities that will fill their days. My god, that Elon must be smoking some pretty good weed to have the visions he’s having! And the more ordinary people have spouses, families, pets, creature comforts, addictions. Only a true misfit would qualify to go to Mars, a sociopath, and they'd likely commit suicide after a while on Mars. He may need to recruit from death row. At the least, only after some kind of "suspended animation" is perfected would the trip itself be feasible, since it would take 9 months. Who wants to sacrifice 9 months of their life just for travel time, and that's just one way? Most rumors now indicate that the trip would be one way. There's no established way for people to land safely on Mars, and there's no technology now that would allow for a return trip. Elon Musk is today's PT Barnum.
Is it only the rich, or the more democratic 1 in 100,000 worldwide that Elon suggests that would comprise the 80,000 colonists? These are 2 different things. The 1 in 100,000 needs to be further narrowed down by basic qualification like age, education, physical fitness, risk of disease, and genetic factors. In other words, the suggestion that everyone who wants can get to Mars is ridiculous.
The biggest hindrance is that everyone is scared to try. 80000 is a lot of people. But to get there we need some people to go first. Send them up with plenty of supplies and with stuff to process new supplies once they get there. Send robotic re-suppliers on a regular basis if needed. Sure it's going to cost an arm and a leg. Take away all the money from the pointless "find ET" projects and use it here.
I hope I can those 80k people to sign a life insurance policy and make me the beneficiary.
No apologies necessary, no offense taken. I enjoy a good lively debate of ideas. You weren't ranting, in my mind, just expressing yourself passionately. =)
I for one, am a problem-solver by nature. That is what I do in life, in my work, in my hobbies. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I'm the first one to look at something and say, "there ought to be a practical way of doing that better if we just think about it long enough." On the other side of the coin, I'm definitely a pragmatist.
Most good theoretical ideas are hatched long before they are feasible in the real world. They simply must wait for an appropriate time. Predicting directionality of trends is the easy part. Predicting the timing is by far harder. I'm not saying that this idea is a bad idea, but I am basically saying that the timing is way off and that comparisons to European colonization of North America are tenuous at best. Even the Europeans took 700 years of attempts and technology enhancement to make their first settlement that stuck.
One must learn to walk before they can run. Just as one couldn't expect Davinci to put together a computer, we need to solve a whole host of intermediary problems first before we can expect to do what is proposed here. Looking too far ahead often blinds us to solving all the little problems already around us, which one day will accumulate to a solution to the long-term problem we are discussing here.
Anyways, here are a few of my thoughts, matching up on each of the numbered points:
1. How exactly did you come up with the assumption that our technology will double 10 times in the next 18 years? That would be over a thousand times in 18 years. That is many times more (orders of magnitude more) than the fastest rate of applied technology increase we've ever experienced. You are being way too optimistic here, I believe. Good for dreaming, not so good for actually doing.
2. My point here was that it took time. I'm sure the first Norse expedition to make a settlement in the 900s knew it would be tough, and that maybe it would take many attempts. But I doubt any of them thought it would take 25-30 more GENERATIONS before one of those settlements would actually make it. As such, it will take time with us. Just look at the predictions from 50 years ago and you see how far away many of them still are from being practical today. We'll get there eventually, but don't be surprised if it takes another 3-5 generations to do so.
3. It's not just a matter of transporting seeds. You need space for them, lots of space. Even in high-tech conditions, you will need nutrients and it's it's going to take at least 1 acre to feed 10 people. If you have a population of say 500 colonists, you're going to need at least 50 acres of extremely high-tech grow houses. That's A LOT of space, at least 40 football fields of enclosed, extremely high-tech space.
4. Yes, everyone will WANT to go, doesn't mean anyone could afford it. I didn't say anything about greenhouse gasses. I did state that international law would have to be changed. And considering how much power governments would have to give up to make those changes... I'm not sure how easy that is going to be.
5. I highly doubt that any serious technologist thinks that most human jobs will be replaced by robots in 20 to 30 years, or even in 100 years. People will always need to have value. People have been predicting for a long time that we'd have robots replace all our jobs in a few decades. But guess what? While we have more robots, we all still have jobs. And we always will, I believe.
6. I don't agree with your assessment of 99% and 1%. While it differs from place to place, I believe that in the US about 2/3 of people pay less into the government than they receive in total benefit, while the other 1/3 pay more than they receive in benefit. And I believe 100% pay too much to the government.
It is too easy to come up with shattering solutions that are unfeasible (technically or politically or economically) or that require forcing someone else to pay for them. I believe that history has shown that the true innovators are those who can come up with real and feasible solutions to current or near-future problems. The rest are called dreamers, at best, if they are remembered at all.