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Musk: “We need to seize the opportunity and do it as quickly as possible.”

Raptor engine
Raptor-1 on the left, Raptor-2 on the right

The headline quote above encapsulates the main philosophical point of Elon Musk’s presentation tonight in Boca Chica, Texas. Musk’s presentation was focused mostly at outlining the status of SpaceX’s Starship/Superheavy reusable heavy-lift rocket, but he started his talk stating his philosophical reasons for doing what he is doing.

It is his strong belief that in order to guarantee the survival of all life on Earth, we must colonize as many planets as possible. Musk’s quote above indicated his sense that this effort must be done now. As he had noted,

The window of opportunity [to build human settlements on other worlds] may be open for a long time, and I hope it is, but it may also be open for a short time. And this is the first point in the four and half billion history of Earth that it is possible.

He added, “To be frank, civilization is feeling a little fragile these days,” which makes achieving his goal quickly even more urgent.

After making this point, Musk then proceeded to outline what they’ve accomplished so far in building Starship/Superheavy, and what they hope to do in the coming years. Much of what Musk said was largely known, such as the size and power of Starship and its design. He did underline these important details:

  • Starship/Superheavy should be ready for its first orbital launch in March, at the earliest, with that flight definitely doable before the end of the year.
  • Musk has no insight on the FAA’s regulatory process, but he hopes the approval to launch from Boca Chica will also occur by March.
  • If the Biden administration blocks him, he will then shift Starship/Superheavy testing to Florida, where he already has regulatory permission to launch.
  • His long term preference is to do operational Starship flights from Florida, and reserve Boca Chica for research and development.
  • While he reiterated his expectation that each Starship launch could eventually cost as little as $2 million, his expectation is that in the early operational years the cost per flight will be about $10 million.
  • He noted that creating a completely reusable heavy-lift rocket that costs that little to launch will be an “utterly profound breakthrough,” with consequences that simply cannot be predicted.
  • He expects the first flights testing the “refilling” of Starship in orbit to occur sometime in the next two years. This obviously is based on getting that FAA approval.
  • He very proudly noted the big differences in the design and manufacture between the first Raptor engine, Raptor-1, and its upgrade, Raptor-2. The new design is smaller, simpler, cheaper to build, and more powerful.

This last bullet point was to me the most significant factoid that came from Musk’s presentation. The graphic above illustrates forcefully the difference between Raptor-1 and Raptor-2. The differences as described by Musk are obvious, many almost certainly related to streamlining the engine’s manufacture and production, an area that in November was not functioning as Musk wanted, thus forcing him to shake-up the Raptor management team. It appears that this shake-up has quickly resulted in a production engine that, according to Musk, will be produced at a rate of seven per week by March.

Musk’s main political goal for doing this presentation I think was laid out very carefully but forcefully. SpaceX is ready to fly Starship this year, and the only thing that will prevent those flights is the federal bureaucracy, under the control of the Biden administration. Without being inflammatory, Musk in his shrewd way was laying down the gauntlet. If Starship does not fly in ’22, he has now made it clear that the cause will not be because SpaceX wasn’t ready, but because the bureaucracy and elected officials in Washington stood in the way of progress.

Whether the Biden administration will hear this message is entirely unknown. And if the leaders in that administration don’t hear it and thus take no action to speed things up, expect the federal bureaucracy to slow things down as much as possible, because all the available evidence suggests strongly that it is hostile and envious of Musk and his success, and is eager to stop him.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

97 comments

  • “I’m so very sorry, but the world’s most capable launch vehicle will cost $10 million per launch.”

    SLS is how much, again?

  • wayne

    Akira The Don & Elon Musk (2018)
    Elon : A Space Odyssey ??
    https://youtu.be/luyR8Pe0nHg
    30:26

  • Edward

    Blair Ivey asked: “SLS is how much, again?

    Well, SLS hopes, in a decade, to get down to $800 million per launch, but the benefit is that it can only launch once per year. If Starship launches 100 times per year at $10 million per launch, then it will cost $1 billion per year. Therefore, there is a 20% cost savings by using SLS rather than Starship.

    (Please note that Congress uses this type of logic when budgeting military procurement, such as the B2 bomber. We built one per year at $1.5 billion per year rather than two per year at $2 billion per year. That was a half billion dollar savings each year.)

  • Jeff Wright

    I wish Elon the best. Both gov’ts and private companies lack his passion. He is our Hughes…no…we haven’t seen his like since de Medici

  • Blair Ivey: Download the free pdf of Capitalism in Space. I detail the exact cost of SLS, based on actual Congressional appropriations, through 2021. In 2017 I estimated the cost for SLS through 2021 would be about $25 billion. The further delays now raise that number to more than $30 billion.

    SpaceX is developing Starship/Superheavy for about $7 billion in private investment capital, with about $200 million more from NASA. And it will be able to launch almost twice as much, and will begin flying in half the time.

  • Questioner

    Musk nonsense: “I’m very sorry, but the most powerful launch vehicle in the world will cost $10 million per launch.”

    The last thing you want to believe what Elon Musk said is pricing and cost claims. Isn’t there anyone here with a business background who’s got their wits about them and hasn’t succumbed to the Musk craze , who will sit down and do the math? And with all the costs that are actually incurred for the development, for the creation of the infrastructure and for the operation of such a large rocket? The blog owner doesn’t seem able or willing to do this.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Questioner:

    Cost != Price

    This should already be obvious based on Falcon 9 operations. At 100 tons cargo per launch, SpaceX will have no issues rapidly recouping their investment and heading into strong profit territory, and at the same time offering their customers a price no other launch company will/can match for decades.
    That’s good math.

    Edward:

    Excellent takedown! Thank you for the chuckles.

  • Questioner

    “Elon Musk’s Starship Update Presentation Reaction & Analysis”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8ZVzv9kn2k

    Daniel Makrides: “Elon seemed to avoid answering quite a few parts of questions. Not sure if it was intentional or just his mind racing, as he seemed only half present throughout. He was a bit vague on hardware readiness for launch for example. Also surprised by lack of questions on heat shield and situation with tank farm.”

    Chace Crowell: “Mediocre presentation at best but thankful for Chris G, Tim, and the other enthusiasts that prodded Elon to spill some info. Glad to get to see Elon still so optimistic but just a little rehearsal would have made it seem more worthwhile for the crowd to show up to Brownsville for much more than a photo op.”

    Antiquated Flatulence: “I wondered if there was going to be any abort system, I’m glad that one guy asked.”

  • LocalFulff

    Fantastic presentation! Excellent answers to questions, one wish that a politician or government politicians to the same degree knew what she/he talks about and could give straight answers out of hand like this. If it had been a nobody talking about settling on Mars, I’d be skeptical. But Elon Musk has already delivered by a factor of magnitude cheaper launch costs. And he has the launcher standing ready behind his scene. Where is SLS, hahaha!

    @Questioner: Elon Musk answered the issue about launch abort excellently. And reveryone who knows anything about spaceflight already knew the answer. The Starship would use its main engines to separate from a failed heavy booster first stage, and then land as usually. Just like crewed Dragon does. The 1960s style “launch escape tower” of SLS is not just very expensive expendable piece of hardware, it is also a very risky and dangerous concept. If the launch escape tower does not separate as planned, even during an otherwise successful launch, then Orion will bee too heavy to reach orbit, and too heavy to land softly with its parachutes, even if they could deploy with the abort tower in the way. So then the crew is doomed to die in a hard crash. BECAUSE of the maldesigned launch escape system of SLS.

    Reminds me of that fire whichbroke out in a failed battery. Funny thing was, that is was the battery of a smoke detector!

    And it is just nice that Elon Musk doesn’t “rehears” his press conferences. This is not theater. This is for real.

  • wayne

    edward-
    yeah, the we’ll make it up on volume thing.’

    questioner-
    personally, i’m not into electric cars or solar panels, but I enjoy rockets and watching holes being dug.

    from the multiverse…
    [Parody Alert]

    “The Bernie Sanders Experience”
    >Bernie chats with Elon Musk
    https://youtu.be/WcsTULLjKYs
    3:44
    “Bernie invites Elon Musk on the pod to talk income inequality, greed, innovation, political revolution, tweets, taxes, and California VS. Vermont cannabis.”

  • Humphreyrobot

    The SLS is so safe that it will never fly.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Many insightful comments on the presentation here, but I’ll just add that Elon played to local interests quite well, and noted that his primary residence is now in the local village. His emphatic “I’ll be there!” about a local cultural festival really set the crowd off.

    The only possibly tone-deaf note I will mention: even though the subject was Starship, it’s ultimate purpose is to carry people ( his “sales pitch” mentioning possible death was hilarious), he failed to mention any of the human missions or the astronauts that flew them! Right until the end I kept expecting him to say “By the way please welcome the 14(?) astronauts who have actually flown to space in SpaceX rockets!” followed by them filing onto the stage! A real missed opportunity. Take that Bezos!

  • jburn

    “Elon Musk’s Starship Update Presentation Reaction & Analysis” ??

    I wouldn’t characterize the Youtube comment section as serious analysis of a launch system but it does allow for amusing chatter from the various flame-boys.

  • Phil Wilson

    Questioner said, “Musk nonsense: “I’m very sorry, but the most powerful launch vehicle in the world will cost $10 million per launch.”

    The last thing you want to believe what Elon Musk said is pricing and cost claims. Isn’t there anyone here with a business background who’s got their wits about them and hasn’t succumbed to the Musk craze , who will sit down and do the math? And with all the costs that are actually incurred for the development, for the creation of the infrastructure and for the operation of such a large rocket? The blog owner doesn’t seem able or willing to do this.”

    ***************************************

    What you totally missed is that he said that this was the SpaceX COST (not price!) goal and that this MARGINAL cost correctly did NOT include SpaceX development or infrastructure costs. He clearly emphasized the point that you miss-represented.
    I am an engineer with patents and an MBA.

  • Ray Van Dune: You might have noticed how vaguely Musk answered the one question about how much work they have done on the environmental systems for making the inside of Starship habitable. The key phrase in his answer was that this is not their immediate priority, and that push-comes-to-shove they will simply scale up the life support systems in Dragon.

    In other words, Musk and SpaceX have so far done little work in this area. I expect they will begin to focus on it when Starship begins flying. Right now, the focus is getting it in the air.

  • Phil Wilson: Point well taken. I did not make it clear that the numbers Musk quoted were estimates of cost, not the price of launch. And yes, a healthy skepticism of those numbers is certainly appropriate.

    At the same time, I do not think Musk’s estimate here to be nonsense or unreasonable, based on how much reuseability has reduced the price for launching on the Falcon 9. It certainly could be higher, but even if it equals the cost of a Falcon 9 launch at $30 million, that will still be one fifth the cost for payloads, since Starship will be capable of launching five to eight times the mass..

  • John

    “And it will be able to launch almost twice as much, and will begin flying in half the time.”

    Musk had some truly astonishing or absurd claims last night, way more lofty than twice as much as SLS. I believe he said it could fly three times a day and move millions of tons to build the self-sufficient city on Mars. Once a week would be a hell of an accomplishment.

    I think it’s obvious Starship has a very good chance to be far more economical and successful than any government run rocket. Statists don’t like that. It has the chance to get humanity into the solar system, or at least move some useful tonnage into orbit.

    But building cities on another planet? I don’t doubt he’ll try. The first settlements in the new world failed, his offer for a death ticket is valid.

    Americans are on the move again. Only (former) Americans can stop Americans, and they are. Too bad.

  • Peter Monta

    Ray Van Dune writes:

    ( his “sales pitch” mentioning possible death was hilarious)

    I assumed he was channeling the (apocryphal?) Shackleton newspaper ad for the expedition to the South Pole, so I was surprised Elon didn’t finish the list of hazards with “eternal fame”. Carrot and stick, after all.

    http://discerninghistory.com/2013/05/shackletons-ad-men-wanted-for-hazerdous-journey/

  • Questioner

    If Elon Mars is said to be so interested in Mars, why hasn’t he sent or at least supported or funded a single unmanned mission to Mars as of this writing? In fact, he doesn’t seem particularly interested in the real Mars. He’s only interested in keeping his hype up by pumping the ideological idea into people’s heads of wanting to colonize Mars to save humanity from extinction.

  • John Pickens

    As Elon noted in his presentation, the new launch tower with its robotic quick disconnect arm and the “Chopsticks” rocket lifter-catcher was designed and built in 13 months. The SLS launch tower has been under construction for over 15 YEARS, and it is so bad that it will only perform one launch, and then be replaced. Oh, and the SLS launch tower alone cost MORE than the entire development cost of the Falcon 9.

  • Questioner

    John Pickens:

    That is truly a disgrace considering NASA’s cost of the launch tower! Regarding the development costs of the Falcon 1 and 9, do we have an independent investigation into this? I don’t trust the information from SpaceX. Was the initially massive support from NASA and the Air Force included here? Many have already forgotten that.

  • Gary

    Questioner,

    Aside from purchasing services from SpaceX how did NASA and the military support the development of SpaceX.

    As for development costs, I found this.

    https://www.populartimelines.com/timeline/SpaceX

    “2011
    Congressional testimony by SpaceX in 2017 suggested that the NASA Space Act Agreement process of “setting only a high-level requirement for cargo transport to the space station [while] leaving the details to industry” had allowed SpaceX to design and develop the Falcon 9 rocket on its own at a substantially lower cost. According to NASA’s own independently verified numbers, SpaceX’s total development cost for the Falcon 9 rocket, including the Falcon 1 rocket, was estimated at US$390 million. In 2011 NASA estimated that it would have cost the agency about US$4 billion to develop a rocket like the Falcon 9 booster based upon NASA’s traditional contracting processes, about ten times more. In May 2020, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine remarked that thanks to NASA’s investments into SpaceX, the United States has 70% of the commercial launch market, a major improvement since 2012 when there were no commercial launches from the country.’

  • LocalFulff

    @Ray Van Dune
    ” I kept expecting him to say “By the way please welcome the 14(?) astronauts who have actually flown to space in SpaceX rockets!”

    14 are too few to make an impression. Puny organizations like NASA could present that.. He’ll wait a year until the next press conference when he has 100 astronauts to show off. While the Starship launches behind the scene.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Replying to Robert Zimmerman: yes I did notice Musk’s vagueness on the life-support systems, and it does concern me. I don’t agree with the whole idea of “crossing that bridge when we come to it”, when you’re already barreling along like a runaway freight! I feel the same way about his non-answers on the launch ships Phobos and Deimos! Could this be a fatal weakness, that he permits no focus on anything he’s not personally worried about at the moment? Or is it a stroke of genius?!!

    Speaking of genius – the cost / weight / performance of the Raptor 2 over version 1 is startling!! Are we to believe that was his intervention?!

  • Icepilot

    Questioner – You 1st call Musk’s pricing & cost claims nonsense & then call for someone else to prove it. Unlike you, at least Elon is doing his own work.
    To say that he isn’t really interested in Mars because “Elon Mars” (sic) hasn’t sent a rocket there rather bizarrely ignores the facts on the ground at Boca Chica, none of which existed even 4 years ago. It’s like bitching at the Wright brothers the day after their 1st flight because they couldn’t cross the Atlantic.
    “Was the initially massive support from NASA and the Air Force included here?” Again with an unsupported claim – where are your numbers? And the Air Force didn’t give him a dime.
    Reality is that SpaceX has already transformed the rocket business & cut costs dramatically in a way that neither ULA or NASA could have dreamed of 20 years ago, much less accomplished. And SuperHeavy/Starship will make the F9 look trivial in another 4 years (if the U.S. government will get the hell out of the way).

  • Ray Van Dune

    IIRC Boeing was paid significantly more by NASA to develop their Commercial Crew system than SpaceX was, and has delivered…. nothing. The whole US astronaut program depends on the cheaper solution – SpaceX.

  • Manolito

    To Questioner: “why hasn’t he sent or at least supported or funded a single unmanned mission to Mars as of this writing?”
    He already sent his own Tesla car to Mars.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Questioner:

    The book in your link explicitly calls the government “help” that SpaceX received during their ramp up “launch contracts”. That’s another way of saying, “Payment for services rendered.”

    However, they did receive the COTS funding to develop the Dragon capsule for ISS cargo runs, before receiving the payment contracts to actually deliver cargo. Later, they also received funding to develop the human rated Dragon 2 to provide human deliveries to ISS. It is worth pointing out that they were not alone in these endeavors (i.e. Boeing and Orbital Sciences), and that they did so with direct supervision and collaboration of NASA, in order to meet NASA’s extremely demanding specifications. Much more demanding than NASA applies to their own launch vehicles and spacecraft, in fact.

    This question: “If Elon Mars is said to be so interested in Mars, why hasn’t he sent or at least supported or funded a single unmanned mission to Mars as of this writing?”

    What past, current or planned (non-SpaceX) mission to Mars fits the goal of rapidly developing a self-sustaining human presence on Mars?
    You know the answer to that already.

    Although in fact they do support the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and are working directly with NASA to scout out good landing sites with resources readily available to support the presence of people. Mr. Z. has posted many times about this, as recently as 2022/01/28:
    https://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/glaciers-in-the-phlegra-mountains-on-mars/

    When Starship proves itself later this year, you can bet SpaceX will rapidly redirect significant development resources to the destination portion of the Mars plan. I would expect to see some sort of scouting missions sent out during the next Hohmann window in 2024. They’ll need better confidence than sky aerology speculation before sending habitat supplies and in situ fuel and oxygen factories aboard Starships. I suspect a number of landers with well instrumented Cybertrucks delivered to explore likely sites would do just fine.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Ray Van Dune & Robert Zimmerman re Musk’s vagueness on the life-support systems:

    Do you think SpaceX is waiting on their Lunar Starship variant development to get that technology from NASA? That would likely cut considerable time out of development for them, as opposed to figuring it all out from scratch. Why waste good know-how?

    It seems like something they would do; if I recall correctly, the heat shield for Dragon capsules is a direct derivation of the NASA Pica material.

  • Trent: Makes sense. To build the lunar lander variant of Starship they must develop the life-support systems. Since it will be for NASA, I suspect you are right, and they plan to work with NASA to develop it, using the $200 million from that contract.

    Based on SpaceX’s and Musk’s previous behavior, it also does not surprise me that this problem is not yet been tackled in depth. Musk and the company both consistently focus on the task at hand. This one is several stops down the road.

  • Questioner

    Manolito:

    This specific roadster, which Musk took away from one of the true founders of Tesla (Mr. Eberhard) , was not shot to Mars, just into orbit around the Sun.

  • Questioner

    The very personal attitudes of two “friends” of Mars:

    Elon Musk: Let us nuke the Mars.
    Robert Zubrin: I don’t worry about Martian life.

  • Richard M

    Re: Musk’s vagueness on the life-support systems and interior

    I’m skeptical of reading too much into Elon’s vague answer on that question. We know that SpaceX has hired engineers for this work; we know that SpaceX built some kind of mockup of HLS for NASA officials to look over; we’ve even seen photos of a working model of the HLS elevator crane structure in the cargo bay. Moreover, the HLS contract is sure to have milestones for interior systems and capabilities development. These things being the case, it is reasonable assume that significant engineering work – not necessarily to CDR level, but *something* – is being done at least on the HLS variant of Starship in regards to interior systems and life support.

    But Elon clearly has little buffer in his mental processors for anything not related to Raptor 2 or the orbital launch complex, so I suspect it just wasn’t something he wanted to talk about.

  • Richard M

    Questioner:

    “If Elon Mars is said to be so interested in Mars, why hasn’t he sent or at least supported or funded a single unmanned mission to Mars as of this writing?”

    What sort of unmanned mission do you think he should be sending? What could SpaceX (which has little in house expertise in scientific probes) do that would not duplicate what national space agency missions are already doing?

  • Phil Wilson

    SpaceX Life Support Systems for HLS

    Plan A: Use shared NASA ISS experience & data + a portion of SpaceX’s HLS contract $ for LSS development

    Plan B: Brute force solution using enhanced Crew Dragon LSS with LSS, toilets, etc. redundancy and extra supplies (oxygen, CO2 filters)
    Mass is not too much of an issue with Starship. Ridiculous example, land with 10T cargo vs 20T w/o LSS overkill.

  • J Fincannon

    Questioner:
    I agree Musk or someone should be sending unmanned probes to search for extant life on Mars and if they find it determine if it is harmful to Earth life via the biological challenge process and finally, see if it can be sterilized using known methods.

  • Questioner

    Richard M:

    The most obvious would be missions that serve to investigate the feasibility and preparation of his plans for colonizing Mars, e.g. directly at the planned landing and settlement sites. These could be missions that drill deep into the ground and look for groundwater. Musk could also realize manned space missions (with rotating spacecraft) in LEO, where the astronauts are exposed to the reduced Martian gravity of 0.38 g for a long period of time. There is no end to the things he must do in the run-up to his planned colonization of Mars.

  • Max

    Taken from Gary’s link;

    “By 2021, SpaceX had entered into agreements with Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure to provide on-ground computer and networking services for Starlink.”

    With so many companies and people being censored, I’m surprised he’s signing contracts with companies who are so strongly motivated in controlling the world.
    Yes, they provide the largest platform and the resources to reach the largest distribution of what Starlink has to offer. In the wrong hands, his space platform can be misused… Or censored, spied on, regulated or prevented from being used at all.
    He’s a smart guy, I hope he has a back up system.
    Like other platforms that were shut down, and found they had to build a separate infrastructure to rely on themselves if they want to stay in business.

  • Richard M

    Questioner,

    I agree Musk or someone should be sending unmanned probes to search for extant life on Mars and if they find it determine if it is harmful to Earth life via the biological challenge process and finally, see if it can be sterilized using known methods.

    The plan *is*, I understand it, to send uncrewed Starships to the site at least a full transfer window ahead, precisely to scout out the site and make use of what resources it finds in preparation for a crewed landing.

    Now, if you mean to send something before Starship is ready, that raises a lot of questions. What would SpaceX send, exactly? Using a Falcon Heavy would provide a decent amount of payload mass (16T fully expended, I think), but that still leaves you with what kind of vehicle gets sent, how it lands, what it uses to search for resources like you say. That’s all stuff that would have to be developed. At significant cost, and for which SpaceX has relatively little in-house talent.

    Could be, though, that existing or soon to exist capabilities in Mars orbit could answer a lot of these questions, especially once Mars Ice Mapper gets deployed.

    Either way, I do not think it reasonable to conclude that just because Elon has not sent anything to Mars means he’s trying to put one over on us.

  • Richard M

    Mea culpa: I accidentally copied J Fincannon’s comment instead of Questioner’s comment on my last reply.

  • Richard M

    Phil,

    Plan B: Brute force solution using enhanced Crew Dragon LSS with LSS, toilets, etc. redundancy and extra supplies (oxygen, CO2 filters) Mass is not too much of an issue with Starship. Ridiculous example, land with 10T cargo vs 20T w/o LSS overkill.

    I expect that for the first Artemis mission (which is only supposed to spend 6.5 days on the surface), some beefed up version of Dragon’s partially open life support system will suffice for NASA’s purposes. As is, Dragon’s life support can last a week in space, at last check; so a version adapted to Starship’s volume and stretched to (say) two weeks to provide some margin would do the trick. As you say, Lunar Starship is going to have tons of room and mass to provide extra supplies of everything for a crew of only 4 astronauts.

    In the longer run, though, they’re going to need to go to something more like a closed loop system – not just for those Mars missions, but because later Artemis missions will be longer. And NASA may want to keep one on the surface for lengthier stays, too.

    I know that Gateway is supposed to provide the “safe haven” for Artemis crews if things go pear shaped (which is, in truth, really the best justification I can come up with for it). But there’s scenarios one can think of where Starship (or the other HLS lander that gets selected) can’t get to Gateway, or worse, can’t even get off the surface. Having an extended life support capability on the surface provides more margin for safety. At the rate SpaceX hopes to be building and launching Starships by that point, might be they could provide a rescue/relief option within a reasonably short time frame.

    Apollo never had these kinds of margins or options, but they had to accept those risks to beat their deadline.

  • Edward

    Questioner,
    You asked: “The last thing you want to believe what Elon Musk said is pricing and cost claims. Isn’t there anyone here with a business background who’s got their wits about them and hasn’t succumbed to the Musk craze , who will sit down and do the math?

    You assume that Musk is lying. Indeed, you didn’t like the previous estimate from SpaceX, either  If you are just going to reject the answer, why do you ask the question? Who wants to do your math for you when you will reject it in the end?

    If SpaceX has a cost target, that is not unusual. Doing development, businesses like to target a cost of a product or service so that they can plan the marketing, which informs the needed availability. When I was on the board of directors of a (then) $4 million company, we were the low cost provider but also a low quality provider; not everyone was willing to go with our low quality but enough were willing to put up with it for the low price. Knowing your target customer base is important when planning your price/cost, quality, and availability points. You can get it cheap, you can get it fast, you can get it done well; Choose two (paraphrased from Red Adair). Over time, a company can improve all three, the price, the availability, and the quality, and SpaceX has been doing just that. Other companies must follow or risk going out of business.

    If Elon Mars is said to be so interested in Mars, why hasn’t he sent or at least supported or funded a single unmanned mission to Mars as of this writing?

    Why should he? So far, others are already doing what it takes for him to get the information that SpaceX needs now. Wouldn’t doing the redundant be a distraction from the goal? Why do you think that SpaceX won’t do their own exploration and reconnaissance when their own rockets are ready to do it?

    Richard M is correct. A test plan prioritizes what needs to be learned and when it is needed. SpaceX has received some exploration photos of specific places on Mars that look good for future exploration for their early needs, and many, including Robert, have speculated that these photos were requested specifically as potential landing zones for SpaceX’s early exploration missions. Future tests and exploration plans almost certainly depend upon what they learn at their first landing site.

    The most obvious would be missions that serve to investigate the feasibility and preparation of his plans for colonizing Mars, e.g. directly at the planned landing and settlement sites.

    That would be getting ahead of the needed knowledge. The first thing they need is the ability to return, such as the first crew, who will not be staying. That is why they are interested in sites that are out in the open, on flat land, with prospects for underground water/ice. Colonization exploration comes later.

    Was the initially massive support from NASA and the Air Force included here? Many have already forgotten that.

    The support was not as massive as you may think. The first milestone on the service contract was to find outside investment (which Kistler was unable to do). It is only fair for the Dragon cargo capsule’s development costs (which was only used by NASA) to be made up by NASA’s contract for the capsule’s use. It also seems only fair that those outside investors make a profit from the great risk that they took that NASA might renege on the commercial cargo program. I am continually surprised at how many people forget these basic principles of business.

    Ray Van Dune wrote: “I don’t agree with the whole idea of ‘crossing that bridge when we come to it’, when you’re already barreling along like a runaway freight!

    In business, there is a problem with getting ahead of yourself. In the late 1990s, Webvan spent a lot of money on delivery trucks and warehouses around the country before they started doing business in many areas. They spent too much before their revenue could cover the costs, so they went out of business. It is difficult to fund a complete, full-up company then start it but is much easier to fund a smaller version then grow into the rest of the market.

    SpaceX needs to avoid this same thing and only spend money on the priorities of right now, the bridge before them. Right now, they only have contracts for four people on Human Landing System to the lunar surface and a dozen for the Dear Moon lunar fly-around. Before they can do either of these, they have to perform their orbital refilling operations, so that is a priority right now. In order to start revenue service (to stay in business), they have to develop their payload version with the openable/closable fairing/hatch, so that may be another priority right now. The ocean platforms are obviously not a priority but seem to be aspirational. It does not take genius to focus on the important parts as they become important and delay the distractions until they become important, waiting until they come to those bridges before crossing them.

    SpaceX may not be ignoring the future bridges and may be setting ground work so that they are ready for them as they get there, but the priorities remain the objectives that are here now. We saw that with Musk’s Thanksgiving letter realigning priorities toward engine production. Large scale engine production is a bridge they cross sooner, not later.

  • Edward: FYI, it was not speculation on my part about those Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images being for Dragon and then for Starship. Not only were they labeled expressly as candidate landing images for both, I contacted the scientist who requested them who confirmed that SpaceX had paid him a consulting fee to do so. He also added that his contract prevented him from saying much else to me.

    That these images had been posted on the MRO website, clearly labeled as such, and had been there for one to two years before I started to troll that archive and became the first reporter to write about them, tells us a great deal about the state of modern journalism. Even now, it is my impression that I am still the only space journalist who reviews that archive as new pictures come down.

  • MDN

    WRT why Elon has not sent any missions to Mars as of yet you can thank NASA. Please observe Bob’s comment immediately preceding this one that notes that some of the image inquiries SpaceX made from MRO were in fact titled with “Dragon” in the name. That is because at that time SpaceX was planning to use the SuperDraco rockets on Dragon not just as the launch abort system, but also to serve as retro rockets for landing back on Earth instead of using parachutes.

    A key benefit stated for this design approach was that Dragon could then be utilized to support soft landing missions to Mars as well, explicitly for early exploration and planning purposes as we all agree are necessary.

    As NASA was a partner in funding and developing Dragon for ISS resupply and ultimately Crew Dragon however they vetoed this approach deeming it too risky. I suspect they were wrong, but in typical cover-your-@$$ bureaucratic style thinking NASA simply could not accept the data because it would require them to operate outside of their established base of knowledge (i.e. parachutes) and no one was willing to accept that risk.

    This is why SpaceX is running circles around them, because Musk understands that to achieve breakthroughs you need to take calculated risks. And with a rapid paced Ready, Fire, Aim development process you can force bad ideas to Fail Fast and minimize the cost and risk of pursuing high leverage innovation. And that through a series of prototypes you learn much you did not anticipate even if, and perhaps because, you failed,. And this willingness to fail and planning to evolve and adapt is how you succeed doing difficult things.

    The only way NASA knows to pursue such advances is to set ambitious targets and then miss their budget estimate by a factor of 20 and their schedule estimate by a factor of 2 or 3 (a la the JWST). This works too, although often it does not because you are dealing with Uhgknowns, and if you do foul up it is very public and very spectacular (and not in a good way a la Challenger, Columbia, and Hubble’s primary mirror for example).

  • Questioner

    Richard M:

    If I really plan to colonize Mars with millions of people – a plan that I do not think makes sense and is not feasible – then I have to do years of extensive research in advance to ensure the success of my plans. On the one hand for example, that would be proof that humans remain healthy in the long term with 0.38 g and, on the other hand, to determine the real conditions and resources on site on Mars. In my view, that would mean a significant financial outlay of a few billion dollars per year by SpaceX/Elon Musk. But that doesn’t happen.

  • john hare

    Questioner,

    “” In my view, that would mean a significant financial outlay of a few billion dollars per year by SpaceX/Elon Musk. But that doesn’t happen.””

    It doesn’t happen because it would bankrupt them among other reasons. Sending millions of people to Mars is certainly questionable financially and physically. Spending billions on Mars at this time is not feasible because there is no viable business plan to put before investors while there is a viable business plan to develop transportation. AFTER that affordable transportation enters service, it becomes much less expensive to do whatever investigations seem necessary. It is only after (or if) Starship becomes operational that it becomes seriously feasible to put a serious rotating lab in LEO to investigate 0.38 and 0.17 gee on humans. At current launch availability, the rotating lab would probably max out at rodent studies in an untended facility.

    $2 million a launch or even $10 million a launch for Starship is certainly questionable for anything like the near future. To reach that would mean that all technical, political, and customer problems are completely solved. Customers as a high flight rate is a necessity since even Starlink clearly won’t use the projected capacity. Politics as in the environmental hold ups now, and astronomer type complaints as well as the ability to place other launch sites. Technical as discussed all the time. The low costs are clearly several years down the road and are clearly aspirational.

    In my view, Starship is somewhere in elementary school. Early Mars transportation is junior high school or high school at best. Millions of people to Mars is an advanced degree program. While you have some legitimate questions about the validity of the Musk claims, you are also criticizing him for not studying calculus in the 3rd grade.

  • Questioner

    john hare:

    You have raised some interesting arguments. But keep in mind Elon Musk is currently the richest man in the world. He might not be able to finance the said program out of petty cash, but he could finance it by selling some of his Tesla shares. One can certainly have controversial opinions about Bezos, but the man pours a lot of his own money into his space activities. I haven’t heard of that in the case of Elon Musk.

  • John hare

    One does not become or remain wealthy by foolish Expenditures. There are at least three launch windows before the first manned Starship heads for Mars. Plenty of time to do a proper study of fractional gee effect on humans. A half assed investigation right now makes little sense in view of future abilities. And if starship fails, the early studies would be a waste anyway.

  • J Fincannon

    Questioner:

    “If I really plan to colonize Mars with millions of people – a plan that I do not think makes sense and is not feasible – then I have to do years of extensive research in advance to ensure the success of my plans. On the one hand for example, that would be proof that humans remain healthy in the long term with 0.38 g and, on the other hand, to determine the real conditions and resources on site on Mars.”

    Especially in regard to having children on Mars. We know nothing about this, yet it is inevitable that people will procreate with possible devastating consequences to children. If you can’t have children on Mars so much for a colony. It is also quite alarming of the easy dismissal of the risks of extant Mars life. A good job has been done by the community that there is no problem with that. Given the results of our most recent Pandemic, it would seem a reappraisal of this problem is needed. But no, we still do not search for extant life and likely will have to wait for the first NASA humans on the surface Mars mission to do this search. Weird.

  • Cotour

    J Fincannon: Maybe you know, NASA has to have asked and answered this question to a pretty accurate degree:

    Question: What is the time period a human being can exist in space and still survive returning to planet earth?

    And I would extend that question to existing both on the moon with 1/6th the gravity of the earth, and Mars having 1/3rd the gravity of the earth? And both environments have essentially zero magnetic field protection from radiation.

    And the issues would be both the effects of radiation and the lack or diminished level of gravity.

    How long can a human being exist off planet without incurring life threatening health issues?

    If these kinds of questions are not answerable how realistic are Elon Musks long term dreams?

    If I were to take a wild guess I might say 3 to 5 years?

  • Questioner

    J Fincannon and Cotour:

    I think what we’re dealing with here is mostly a Mars bubble created by fueling SF daydreams and childhood imaginations. Elon Musk was a major contributor (and is the owner of this blog). What I mean by the term “bubble” is that a great many people imagine that life on Mars could be cool, but when the time came, they would never take up the offer to go there when the reality of the miserable situation on Mars would be presented to them in detail and if they have to form their own opinions in order to be able to make a decision in this regard.

    Dear readers, consider this: as far as I know, there is no rush of people wanting to live in Antarctica. No, we can assume that the number of people who want to spend the rest of their lives in Antarctica is approaching zero. Compared to Mars, however, the conditions in Antarctica are heavenly! In fact, we have to be reasonable to assume that there are probably even fewer people willing to spend their lives on that virtually airless, dead rock called Mars. Except, of course, for a few lunatics and crazy people, who always exist.

  • Cotour

    Questioner:

    I tend to generally agree with you. And I say that love the thought and the making happen of these technological advances and plans to go into space.

    Maybe the concept of living on Mars can be sold to the Leftists among us and shipping them en masse to the red planet since the qualifications consist in your opinion of either being crazy and or being a lunatic. Or would Lunatics be relegated to only living on the moon?

    Why do you think that aliens look like this?

    https://img.freepik.com/free-photo/3d-illustration-gray-alien-dark-background-with-clipping-path_46363-523.jpg?size=626&ext=jpg

    Long term existence in little or no gravity and eating some kind of highly processed food out of a tube. How do you eat a taco or where do you get a good steak in space? ;)

    https://youtu.be/8kw9_O10Fh8

    IMO until there is manifested artificial gravity, the ability to produce significant protective magnetic fields and the invention of the replicator then humans are limited to relatively short visits to space.

  • Questioner

    Cotour:

    “Maybe the concept of living on Mars can be sold to the Leftists among us and shipping them en masse to the red planet ….”

    That would be the best use of Starship! Red planet for communists (reds)! Ha, ha…

    “Or would Lunatics be relegated to only living on the moon?” I like this pun! Ha, ha…

  • Edward

    We should not be surprised that Starship has the cost, cadence, and capacity that SpaceX aspires to provide, because in 1980 we had been led to expect from the Space Shuttle similar frequent lifting of heavy payloads for low cost. We should have expected that forty years later we would be able to do this better than the Space Shuttle. We should have expected to learn from and improve upon the Space Shuttle, but we should not have expected that we would regress to Project Apollo techniques and costs.

    What is important is not knowing everything but knowing the right questions to ask. It is not important whether or not a Starship launch will cost SpaceX $10 million (and later $2 million) but what a low cost will do to the price SpaceX charges and how that price affects what and how much is done in space.
    https://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/points-of-information/scientists-nasa-needs-to-catch-up-to-spacex-for-using-its-starship-for-future-manned-and-unmanned-missions/

    What is important is not whether SpaceX can meet their aspirational stretch goal of three launches per day at each launch pad but rather what we can accomplish and how fast we can accomplish it through daily launches from each pad instead of the monthly cadence of a decade ago. How long will it take to ramp up to daily launches? How many refillings are needed to go to the Moon and how many to go to Mars, and with that many refillings, how many launch pads do we need and at what latitude(s) (e.g. equatorial, 30 deg north and 30 deg south, 60 deg north and 60 deg south) to most efficiently accomplish those refillings? At what cadence can we go to the Moon? How many ships can go to Mars at each transit opportunity?

    Can water from the Moon be used as a way station to refill ships going to the rest of the solar system, reducing the number of ships needed to refill in order to get to the Moon (e.g. Earth Moon L1 point)? Can the Moon then be used to slingshot ships to the rest of the solar system? Once Starship is operational, how long will it take for other companies to begin supplying similarly priced launches and how rapid can be their launch cadences?

    Recall the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Half a century ago we had expected that by now we would have more in space than we got. Now that We the People are starting to be in charge of space access and utilization we are begining to get what we want, but when we had let government run it all then we only got the little amount that our government had wanted.

    Robert,
    Time and fading memory failed me. I’m sorry for getting that wrong. The silver lining is that it brought good points and historical context from MDN.

    Questioner,
    You wrote: “If I really plan to colonize Mars with millions of people – a plan that I do not think makes sense and is not feasible – then I have to do years of extensive research in advance to ensure the success of my plans. On the one hand for example, that would be proof that humans remain healthy in the long term with 0.38 g and, on the other hand, to determine the real conditions and resources on site on Mars. In my view, that would mean a significant financial outlay of a few billion dollars per year by SpaceX/Elon Musk. But that doesn’t happen.

    Just because you feel it does not make sense or is not feasible does not mean that it does not make sense or is not feasible to those who have ideas for what to do there. My father does not understand why we keep up the ISS, because all he hears about is how they were trying to brew some beer, but the news media don’t tell us about the other science and how it is used to benefit us here on Earth. This does not make ISS the expensive bad idea that he thinks it is, just expensive.

    You said that you would spend a few billion dollars per year, but what specific research would you spend it on? How would you put people into a 0.38G environment? SpaceX does not spend that much money on that research, because they do not have that much money for that kind of research. That is a bridge that they have not yet reached, and if they don’t make a Mars rocket in the first place then it is a bridge too far, and that research is useless to them. After they get people on Mars and back safe again then they can begin to worry about long term survival, health, crops, and other sustainability problems. Finding all the answers now is premature and expensive. If they spent their money that way, then they wouldn’t be building a Starship, they wouldn’t have built Falcon, and they would already have gone the way of Webvan. You, Questioner, have your priorities, but SpaceX has theirs, and theirs are fairly straight.

    Once SpaceX gets people to Mars, if it turns out that a colony is not yet feasible, then that is an important data point. It also presents SpaceX with a new challenge of how to make a Mars colony feasible.

    Or maybe they switch goals to the Moon or perhaps away from our planet-centric thinking to colonies in space, similar to those envisioned by Gerard K. O’Neill. Those have less gravity well to overcome.

  • bill

    When a manned mission goes to Mars it’s a one way trip. Has Musk or NASA or the Biosphere 2 people developed the technology to allow a colony to survive? If they have I’ve never heard of it.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Bill said, “When a manned mission goes to Mars it’s a one way trip.”

    Some will be, at first, to set up the initial infrastructure. But that would change quite rapidly.

    https://www.spacex.com/human-spaceflight/mars/

  • Trent Castanaveras

    It should also be pointed out that a Biosphere 2 style 100% closed system doesn’t really apply to Mars surface ops. Need more oxygen? Pull it from the air. More phosphorous? Dig it up. And so on.
    Only the journey between worlds will require complete regenerative tech, and for limited time frames.

  • J Fincannon

    Cotour:
    >J Fincannon: Maybe you know, NASA has to have asked and answered this question to a pretty accurate degree:

    No it hasn’t.

    >Question: What is the time period a human being can exist in space and still survive returning to planet earth?

    Outside the protective Earth magnetosphere, they are assuming the length of time is based on the radiation shielding, cancer risk, astronaut age/sex. Lack of gravity is assumed to be handled by exercise and drugs. For a Mars trip, they assume no artificial gravity. Once landed on Mars, it will take a while to become readjusted to gravity. They assume it is not a problems. Is this for sure? No. How do the biota in astronauts fair on the trip to Mars and back due to radiation induced mutations? Unknown. Ignored or assume negligible.

    >And I would extend that question to existing both on the moon with 1/6th the gravity of the earth, and Mars having 1/3rd the gravity of the earth? And both environments have essentially zero magnetic field protection from radiation.

    The duration of the lunar trip also is related mainly to radiation (lifetime radiation dosage). But lunar surface presence of the astronauts is more tied to other things (SLS launch rate, lighting at the poles).

    >And the issues would be both the effects of radiation and the lack or diminished level of gravity.

    Gravity is not a big issue for Moon. But then the trip time on the surface is ~30 days per year.

    >How long can a human being exist off planet without incurring life threatening health issues?

    Unknown. LEO testing shows ~ 1 year is doable but with problems. The big deal is outside the magnetosphere.

    >If these kinds of questions are not answerable how realistic are Elon Musks long term dreams?

    They are answerable with testing. Musk is assuming it is A-okay. I do not see how it is possible to have a city of reproducing humans without huge losses on low gravity. The Mars life question is not answerable yet. We have not gotten landers to do that.

    >If I were to take a wild guess I might say 3 to 5 years?

    If you have good radiation shielding (stop cancer and stop biota mutation) and they are adults, not breeding, and no Mars life exists I say indefinitely. With a fast trip time (nuclear), radiation effects can be reduced. Unconstrained reproduction will cause loss of life, perhaps in mother too. Mars indigenous life could be a big risk. Unknown impact. Perhaps would prohibit humans on the surface. We aren’t looking for it.

  • @John – “The first settlements in the new world failed, his offer for a death ticket is valid.”

    SpaceX will certainly keep attempting cargo landings on Mars prior to landing crew. And the Initial Crew will be in the dozens at most and not multiples of 100s. So, the Initial Crew will have plenty of provisions and redundant equipment. I’m less certain of death than you are and even than Elon makes it sound.

    Historic analogies are usually misleading. Just because the New World had its Roanoak Colony doesn’t mean that the same thing HAS to happen on Mars. The factors are so different: high-res imaging, no hostile natives, different weather, high-quality food in abundance, filtered water, etc. If history is an accurate guide then we would expect the initial crew on the ISS to have had a 50% mortality rate their first winter or something like that. Far better to reason from the relevant factors than simplistic historic analogies.

  • Questioner

    DougSpace:

    “Historical analogies are usually misleading.”

    Yes you are right. The settlers of the Americas encountered paradise in relation to the natural environment, while hell awaits the “settlers” of Mars.

  • Cotour

    J Fincannon:

    Thanks for the attention to my questions, interesting.

    I am not anti-space exploration, not at all. But these are basic questions that eventually must be asked and answered. And the only way that happens is through actually going and being there. Like many other things in life, you can only know the truth until you know the truth.

    It’s asking the correct questions as best as you can and not assuming that you already know the answers that is usually most relevant.

  • J Fincannon

    Cotour,

    >And the only way that happens is through actually going and being there.

    In a way. But I hope that before we send humans to Mars, we find out about extant Mars life and determine if it poses a problem. Astronauts or colonists are not expendable for this. Also, the impact of low gravity on the reproductive cycle (birth-growth) should not be “trial and error” with humans. It is horribly unethical. Deformed or dead children is not progress.

  • Cotour

    JF:

    “Deformed or dead children is not progress.”

    You must not be a Liberal Democrat.

  • Astronauts or colonists are not expendable for this.

    And who are you to make that judgement call for all 8 billion potential volunteers? I’d risk it happily. Dying from infection by a native microbe is way down the “ways to die on Mars” list.

    the impact of low gravity on the reproductive cycle (birth-growth) should not be “trial and error” with humans

    Agreed. However, that is an argument to be made when their is some risk of it happening – like say after the ship planned as a transport vehicle actually leaves the ground.

  • Edward

    “Whether you succeed or you fail, the most important thing is to have tried.” — Daniel, Death at a Funeral (2007)

    From Pioneer (page 120):

    The expression of human existence is in the grasping at something always beyond reach. Some people dream of money, wealth, fame and glory. Others write poetry to gods that they hardly understand. Some merely have families and dream of the future for children not yet born.

    And some plow their way into unknown vacuums, untouched by life, controlled by chaos, and ruled by certain death. For me, for Tom, for all those in space, it was necessary to stand on the edge, the brink, to express our humanity.

    Why is it that some people feel as though we should not try anything that they think doesn’t make sense or is not feasible? Isn’t it the same as letting government be in charge of space? We can’t do much in space, because someone doesn’t feel we should do it?

    I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. Now that We the People are starting to be in charge of space access and utilization we are beginning to get what we want, but when we had let government run it all then we only got the little amount that our government had wanted. Why should We the People be afraid to try new things and figure out how to get them done?

    Why is it that when it comes to Musk, trying is not allowed? Freedom to choose does not apply to him or his companies? Why is it personal against Musk? He wants his company to do something that someone feels may not work so he shouldn’t do it unless it is used to rid ourselves of communists? Isn’t that kind of control over people’s freedoms what communists do?

    Isn’t there anyone here who has expressed these feelings, who’s got their wits about them and hasn’t succumbed to Musk hatred, who will sit down and answer these questions?

    Questioner,
    You wrote: “The settlers of the Americas encountered paradise in relation to the natural environment, while hell awaits the “settlers” of Mars.

    The difference is that the Martian conditions are known years in advance of any settlement attempt, whereas the American pioneers assumed the conditions that they were going into. We have literally decades of observation data from orbit and decades of experience with landers and rovers, all of which taught us important lessons about year-round survival on the planet. Mars missions can be much better planned, and with the expected inexpensive travel, more provisions can be carried along on multiple unmanned ships.

    The current plan eases humanity into future Martian colonies by first assuring that an unmanned ship can return to Earth, then sending a preliminary team that returns to Earth, and eventually building the infrastructure necessary for a settlement and colonization. Additional lessons will be learned in all these steps. It continues to amaze me how people worry over problems that will be solved. If they are not solved, then colonization will have to wait until they are.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Well said, Edward.

    I’m going to do a working retirement on Mars. Those Questioning even the basic desire to do so can do what they want. I’ll wave to you from the Mangalavid.

  • J Fincannon

    markedup2
    >>Astronauts or colonists are not expendable for this.

    >And who are you to make that judgement call for all 8 billion potential volunteers? I’d risk it happily.

    Of course, we appreciate you donating you life needlessly. Its your choice. Likely would not be a winner for future funding or launch licenses. I recall the COVID vaccine test subjects bravely volunteering their lives. So, astronauts _should_ not be expendable or guinea pigs. Apollo showed us they were. But to accomplish a mission for the early NASA Mars trips, astronauts are not expendable. No question involved. They already have to accept lots of problems with permanent health effects of radiation and low gravity. If they are lost due to Mars microbes, then this will put a quarantine sign around Mars. So thanks for your offer. It is what we call a pyrrhic victory.

    >Dying from infection by a native microbe is way down the “ways to die on Mars” list.

    How do you know? Maybe it is the top of the list. The thing is, if you get sick, don’t expect to come back to Earth for health care.

    >>the impact of low gravity on the reproductive cycle (birth-growth) should not be “trial and error” with humans

    >Agreed. However, that is an argument to be made when their is some risk of it happening – like say after the ship planned as a transport vehicle actually leaves the ground.

    Uh, no. Rather than deal with it when it happens on Mars or en route, likely the best thing is to enforce birth control. But it seems freedom loving Mars colonists would rebel. So, this time we have innocent children volunteering their lives. Not a pretty public relations story.

  • J Fincannon

    Edward,
    >The difference is that the Martian conditions are known years in advance of any settlement attempt, whereas the American pioneers assumed the conditions that they were going into. We have literally decades of observation data from orbit and decades of experience with landers and rovers, all of which taught us important lessons about year-round survival on the planet. Mars missions can be much better planned, and with the expected inexpensive travel, more provisions can be carried along on multiple unmanned ships.

    Theoretically someday we will have enough information to see if a Mars colony is feasible. Now, it is simply an optimistic hope. Mars extant life is a major problem. Expense is the next big problem. What is the cost benefit ratio of a Mars colony? What is the urgency of having a Mars colony? Musk claims there are problems on Earth that shows it is necessary. I have not seen the analysis that shows spending massive resources on a Mars colony is less than spending resources on fixing the threats to Earth.

    >The current plan eases humanity into future Martian colonies by first assuring that an unmanned ship can return to Earth, then sending a preliminary team that returns to Earth, and eventually building the infrastructure necessary for a settlement and colonization. Additional lessons will be learned in all these steps. It continues to amaze me how people worry over problems that will be solved. If they are not solved, then colonization will have to wait until they are.

    If this is indeed his current plan, then he has some holes in it. First you send enough unmanned assets to Mars to determine that there is no harmful Mars life. How many? Who knows, but likely not one rover. Return a rocket to Earth? Well, you can’t until you sterilize the rocket. Of course, if you prove there is no Mars life you are golden. But this is not easy. Its not just landing on Mars and going back to Earth. Some problems CAN’T be solved. If you have harmful Mars life, doesn’t that kill the colony? If 1g is needed to conceive/gestate/birth/grow a child, then how are you going to grow a colony? Put the women in 1g merry-go-rounds for 9 months? And children for X years in one? It is game over, not something you can solve.

  • Edward

    There is a baseball movie called “Moneyball.” In it Billy Beane asks the question “if he hits good then why doesn’t he hit good?” It is a good question, but it wasn’t the right question. It got the audience thinking that his coaches and scouts were not looking at team building the right way. “What’s the problem we are trying to solve?” That was another very good question, closer but not quite the right question. Later in the movie, Beane learns the right way to look at team building and the right questions to ask while choosing new players for the upcoming season.

    There are people here who question the feasibility and sense of building colonies on Mars and, by extension, on the Moon. This isn’t the right question, for two reasons. First, planet-based colonies are energy intensive for any transport from the surface to other locations.

    Second, we engineers are greatly offended by people who lack the understanding that we solve problems of sensibility and feasibility. Just because it is impossible does not mean that we cannot do it.

    We build transcontinental railroads when the industry is still in its infancy, when there exists less than half the track in the whole United States as will be needed for that long railroad line; many techniques still had to be developed to make it work. We build Panama Canals when the entire nation of France fails; changing the thinking to out-of-the-box made that work. We break the sound barrier when the scientists say it is impossible. We to to the Moon in a decade when man has barely figured out how to get into space; John Kennedy explained how much had to be done in such a short time, but Americans could and did do it. Now we are landing and economically reusing booster stages when most said it was impractical. The right questions had to be asked and answered in order to do those impossibilities.

    As to the first reason, building colonies in space and building Antarctic-like exploration bases on the planets and moons seems much more practical in the long run, but — like the Moon-Mars debate (choose one, because government (NASA) cannot afford to do both) stopped being the right question once private commercial space companies got involved — we are still thinking with our historical biases in mind.

    Just as government chose to go back to the Moon, the safer and easier choice, a commercial company company chose to try for Mars, the riskier, more difficult choice. That company may still be thinking in terms of planetary colonies, but someone will eventually realize the value in space-based colonization. Once the right questions start being asked in the colonization of the solar system, we will discover that the answers are not what most of science fiction had envisioned for the past century.

    Gerard K. O’Neill asked and answered some questions. They may have included some of the right questions, or we may still have to find the right questions. But for now, even we here on BtB are still in search of the right questions, and we may not recognize them should we come across any of them.

    J Fincannon asked: “What is the urgency of having a Mars colony?

    If not now, when? If not us, who? Why not try it once we have the technology? Why not let those who want to try it try it? Only those who want to try it take the risks, both personal and financial, so it doesn’t adversely affect the rest of us.

    First you send enough unmanned assets to Mars to determine that there is no harmful Mars life. How many?

    Done and done. Viking solved that one.

    If 1g is needed to conceive/gestate/birth/grow a child, then how are you going to grow a colony?

    That’s a big IF. Lady parts work just fine in microgravity, so why not in low gravity? We won’t know unless we try, so why not try?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNMkmydj1IA (4 minutes, Vintage Space, “What Happens When You Get Your Period In Space?”)

  • Questioner

    Update on the incredible results Elon Musk is achieving, presented by one of his best friends!

    “Elon Musk ACTUALLY built this Loop Extension!”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrsRD3sBUbs

  • J Fincannon

    Edward:

    >Second, we engineers are greatly offended by people who lack the understanding that we solve problems of sensibility and feasibility. Just because it is impossible does not mean that we cannot do it.

    I, being an engineer, am not “greatly offended” when people “lack understanding that we solve problems of sensibility and feasibility”. Engineers have a lot thicker skins than that. What kind of engineer does something that is “impossible”? This is not an “engineer”. A mystic or UFO abductee or paranormal adept do impossible things. Doing impossible things means you go beyond accepted theory/science.

    >>J Fincannon asked: “What is the urgency of having a Mars colony?‘
    >If not now, when?

    When we have enough data from unmanned probes answering the Mars Life problem and the gravity problem. Create a flow chart. If no Mars life exists OR it is harmless to Earth life, then you are fine. But don’t just look in one spot and say your job is done. Take deep core samples in multiple locations. Bring a robotic device to sample/test and not rely on bringing it back to Earth or having Mars surface astronauts do the work. Do we have the tech small enough to do that? I don’t know. Tech gets smaller over time. But note we could not even dig a hole in the Mars soil! That is pathetic. But we could eventually. Given enough attention, maybe we can accomplish this in 20 years.

    As to gravity, that is harder. You will need to do reproductive studies on mammals in Mars gravity. It would be better to do it in Earth orbit. This is pretty costly and hard. Who will do it? May take 20 years. Even then, you need to move on to human test subjects. That’s a big artificial gravity facility. Maybe it needs to be on Mars. But regardless, the result may be it can’t be done or if it can be done, there is a high failure rate with humans. What is acceptable and what is a no go?

    Now, potentially we could someday engineer the human DNA to make people resistant to Mars life and able to reproduce in Mars gravity. That is likely 100 years out.

    >If not us, who?

    People/nations who have a lower ethical/moral/safety standard. China would likely be the main candidate. They do not mind taking risks with the lives of millions of people to accomplish their goal. When some nation does not value individual lives, then they can do a lot. Is that what the US should be?

    >Why not try it once we have the technology?

    Ambiguous. Open ended. We could “have the technology” in 100 years.

    >Why not let those who want to try it try it?

    Need to avoid backward planetary protection issues. Avoid realization that can’t have babies in Mars gravity.

    >Only those who want to try it take the risks, both personal and financial, so it doesn’t adversely affect the rest of us.

    If you want to come back and are infected by harmful Mars life, you may not be welcomed back since you could harm Earth. The launching nation is responsible for the activities of the Mars spacecraft. Once the Mars spacecraft builds a colony and people are suffering from large numbers of problems with reproduction, this means it is the launch nation’s fault. Perhaps the launch nation does not care how many deformed/dead children there are. Even engineers should care about this number though. So, adults can take the risk to go there, but then it becomes a problem of personal responsibility as to protecting children.

    >>“First you send enough unmanned assets to Mars to determine that there is no harmful Mars life. How many?”
    >Done and done. Viking solved that one.

    Ha! Are you aware of the inconclusive nature of Viking? Yes, the “consensus” chose “no life”. I think we have all questioned the consensus before (climate change, COVID). Dr. Levin’s labelled release experiment provided a contradictory result to the consensus. So, I think it is an open question. Read “Safe on Mars”. The experts even after Viking are not so sure there is no Mars life. In fact, they seem quite concerned.
    https://www.nap.edu/catalog/10360/safe-on-mars-precursor-measurements-necessary-to-support-human-operations

    I am trying to get up to speed on this issue. As an engineer, not a scientist, I have limited experience with it. Still, we can learn.

    >>“If 1g is needed to conceive/gestate/birth/grow a child, then how are you going to grow a colony?”
    >That’s a big IF. Lady parts work just fine in microgravity, so why not in low gravity? We won’t know unless we try, so why not try?

    A colony is guaranteed to have people having sex and getting pregnant. Given humans have evolved in 1 g, it is foolish to think a low g environment would even work for the entire process. If somehow, God willing, a baby is finally born, the entire organism is going to grow in a totally unknown way. Maybe a lot of Jabba the Hutts. In fact, it would have been funny if Jabba was a first generation Mars colony baby. A serious likely childhood mortality. Now you can say it is the colonists’ freedom of choice in doing this. I think having babies/children be uninformed test subjects is a little unethical.

  • Cotour

    JF:

    Once again you rationally address my questions about realistically living and existing in space or off planet for the long term. How long can a human being live in space and successfully return to planet earth? 3 years? 5 years?

    Why do you think aliens look like this?

    https://th.bing.com/th/id/OIP.RtUZJpcd7th8up1ISJdJQQHaD5?w=342&h=180&c=7&r=0&o=5&dpr=1.25&pid=1.7

    Radiation and low gravity, and no steaks.

    Why do you think there are cattle mutilations? A demand for steaks?

    (Are there aliens? The numbers would indicate, probably, somewhere)

  • Cotour

    How desperate will the Democrat party machine become before the 2022 midterm elections?

    “Biden Rejects Trump’s Executive Privilege, Orders Release of White House Logs to January 6 Committee”

    But the tip of the iceberg.

    The Democrat party machine must find or manufacture some reason to discredit anyone who Trump endorses and or they must have a reason to arrest or put under indictment anyone who poses a threat to their retaining or acquiring political power.

    By any means necessary. (Up to and including murder, either metaphorical or literal)

  • J Fincannon

    Cotour:
    >Once again you rationally address my questions about realistically living and existing in space or off planet for the long term. How long can a human being live in space and successfully return to planet earth? 3 years? 5 years?

    It all depends. How much radiation shielding? How much gravity? How much social interaction? How much work? How much elbow room? How easy is it to do simple things like shower or poop? Make it damn awful, Why do you think aliens look like this?

    I think it most likely there are only robots/simulacrums, no organic creatures from other planets. For various reasons.

  • Edward

    J Fincannon,
    You asked: “What kind of engineer does something that is ‘impossible’? This is not an ‘engineer’.

    I listed a few examples, above. Canal engineers, airplane engineers, and rocket engineers, to name three. Pay attention, son. If you haven’t risen to a challenge to do something impossible, or at least something that has never been done before, then what kind of engineer are you? The economically reusable Falcon 9 was supposed to be impossible, yet there it is.

    When Kennedy proposed going to the Moon, it was impossible. We didn’t have the materials or the skills to do it. He even points this out:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntb4eSAktnE#t=230 (watch 66 seconds)

    To do all this and do it right then we must be bold. Now we are to do the same with Mars, and again we must be bold.

    When we have enough data from unmanned probes answering the Mars Life problem and the gravity problem.

    Again, you don’t pay attention in class, which negates most of your arguments. No wonder the difficult is too much for you, something as easy as reading comprehension overwhelms you. Is it OK to bring back Perseverance’s Martian samples? Oh, by the way, do you know why humans don’t get Dutch elm disease? Be careful about the science fiction that you read or watch; the basic concept is fiction, and it does not always conform to known science. As you may not know, we on Earth occasionally find meteorites from Mars. If life is on Mars, then it has already arrived here, too.

    So, before anyone can come back with Mars-disease, we have to send someone there. He will be there for several months before a return window opens up, but even if he doesn’t stay long, the return trip takes a few months. If he doesn’t get sick in the meantime then there isn’t a problem, and your worries are for naught.

    We could ‘have the technology’ in 100 years.

    But it looks like we will have it in a decade or so. You are such a pessimist, for an engineer.

    Avoid realization that can’t have babies in Mars gravity.

    Who says that we can’t? Right now, it is merely your own speculation based solely upon a bias against Mars colonization. You’re even afraid for anyone to try, (talk about thin skin). Imagine a world (or space program) with you in charge. We would probably be too afraid to put the first rocket into space because of the fear of space bugs coming back and destroying life on Earth.

    it is foolish to think a low g environment would even work for the entire process.

    An assumption based upon absolutely no evidence or observation. Even a hypothesis requires that the guesswork to be educated.

  • Cotour

    FJ: Terrestrial examples of “Impossible” engineering accomplishments should not be considered in the same calculation as engineering accomplishments in space or on another planet.

    Throw no or little gravity and potentially deadly radiation into the long-term mix and that is a whole nother thing. Its unnatural.

    Not impossible but orders of magnitude different.

  • J Fincannon

    Edward

    >I listed a few examples, above. Canal engineers, airplane engineers, and rocket engineers, to name three. Pay attention, son. If you haven’t risen to a challenge to do something impossible, or at least something that has never been done before, then what kind of engineer are you? The economically reusable Falcon 9 was supposed to be impossible, yet there it is.

    I admit I missed your posting on this. I would say that it is “impossible engineering” only to some people. Never would I attempt to do the impossible by the real definition of the word. Might as well flap my arms when jumping off a building and saying “I can do the impossible” and expect a positive outcome. Reusable spacecraft was definitely NOT impossible when Falcon 9 originated. It was maybe 30-50 years before, not sure. There is a point when we learn how to do something but still don’t do it due to lack of will or funds or politics. Goddard and von Braun did not think they were doing the impossible with rockets. They were backed to the teeth with equations and math, my lad. 10-20 years before it could not be done.

    >Again, you don’t pay attention in class, which negates most of your arguments. No wonder the difficult is too much for you, something as easy as reading comprehension overwhelms you. Is it OK to bring back Perseverance’s Martian samples? Oh, by the way, do you know why humans don’t get Dutch elm disease? Be careful about the science fiction that you read or watch; the basic concept is fiction, and it does not always conform to known science. As you may not know, we on Earth occasionally find meteorites from Mars. If life is on Mars, then it has already arrived here, too.

    Why don’t you attend your missing class of Mars Life? The link I gave for “Safe on Mars”. It is OKAY to bring back the Mars samples to a Biosafety level-4 clean room. Wuhan had such a room. How did that work out?

    As to Mars meteorites, review “Safe on Mars”. It suggested that using that old saw you mention (Zubrin likes it too) about Earth being contaminated by Mars life already may have occurred using that method. They state that they are not sure whether one of the Earth Extinction Events was triggered by Mars life arriving since we do not know why they happened. So do not sit there so smugly.

    I would suggest you not use Star Trek as a basis for your knowledge of how Earth life can easily interact with non Earth life. Yes, everyone could visit any planet and not die hideous deaths from local prions, viruses or bacteria. Yes, everyone spoke English and looked human. Every planet had 1 g. Every could get everyone pregnant.

    Realize that Mars life is not something you have the least information about since it has not been found. It was looked for once with mixed results and they stopped.

    >So, before anyone can come back with Mars-disease, we have to send someone there. He will be there for several months before a return window opens up, but even if he doesn’t stay long, the return trip takes a few months. If he doesn’t get sick in the meantime then there isn’t a problem, and your worries are for naught.

    You seem oddly knowledgeable of Mars life. Again, you know nothing. Its nothing to be ashamed of. The rest of us don’t either. We need more data in situ. So, I ask how do you know the incubation period of the unknown Mars life? What is its characteristics? Does it kill on contact? Or is it a lingering cold? Even a spacecraft brought back to Earth from Mars can carry Mars life on the outside, so no person is needed. It will need to be sterilized.

    >>“We could ‘have the technology’ in 100 years.”
    >But it looks like we will have it in a decade or so. You are such a pessimist, for an engineer.

    Wrong. When I told you your question was ambiguous, it means that we could have technology to protect against Mars life, allow people to live/reproduce in Mars gravity and make Julian fries within 100 years. It could be sooner. But only if it is just building a city and ignoring human safety.

    >>“Avoid realization that can’t have babies in Mars gravity.”
    >Who says that we can’t? Right now, it is merely your own speculation based solely upon a bias against Mars colonization. You’re even afraid for anyone to try, (talk about thin skin). Imagine a world (or space program) with you in charge. We would probably be too afraid to put the first rocket into space because of the fear of space bugs coming back and destroying life on Earth.

    Thank God you are not in charge of any space program. We must avoid a blatant disregard for life by proper robotic probes. Don’t be afraid of the results. They may be in your favor.

    >>“it is foolish to think a low g environment would even work for the entire process.”
    >An assumption based upon absolutely no evidence or observation. Even a hypothesis requires that the guesswork to be educated.

    Really? You personally do not need evidence or observation. You just want to send the colonists to Mars and find out on their own. Ha! At least I point the logical approach to enabling your colonization desire. However, this requires you not fear the results. You do.

  • Edward

    J Fincannon,
    Reusable spacecraft was definitely NOT impossible when Falcon 9 originated.

    Once again, you are not paying attention. This is not what I said. An exercise for the student: can you go back, understand what I said, then respond to that and not to your own straw man argument?

    How did that work out?

    We learned that these “safe” rooms aren’t so safe, but you said that it is acceptable to bring back those samples despite the demonstrated lack of safety.

    They state that they are not sure whether one of the Earth Extinction Events was triggered by Mars life arriving since we do not know why they happened.

    Excellent choice of argument on your part, since it makes my point that, if there were life on Mars, Earth would already be contaminated.

    I would suggest you not use Star Trek as a basis for your knowledge of how Earth life can easily interact with non Earth life.

    If only reading comprehension were your strength then you would realize that this was my recommendation to you. *Sigh* Some days go better than others. For you, this is not one of those days.

    It was looked for once with mixed results and they stopped.

    Although, you don’t understand why. Instead, they now seek evidence that it existed long, long ago.

    You seem oddly knowledgeable of Mars life.

    Since I have been interested since Viking, it isn’t so odd at all. Your remaining questions show your lack of knowledge about life on Mars, but your reading comprehension skills makes that seem not at all odd.

    Wrong.

    Actually, I am correct. It is your own biases that make you believe otherwise. Are you really obtuse enough to think that Mars explorers, settlers, or colonists would actually ignore safety? Really?

    Don’t be afraid of the results. They may be in your favor.

    Because you haven’t already noticed, let me be the first to inform you that the results already are in my favor.

    You just want to send the colonists to Mars and find out on their own.

    Your lack of evidence or observation drives you to this conclusion? Maybe “obtuse” was the wrong word to describe you.

    You haven’t presented anything new and you have denied much of the science, engineering, and planning that many people have already undertaken to make going to — and living on — Mars possible. You are so biased that you refuse to consider that you could possibly be wrong, that it is acceptable to try new things. You are one of the many who think it is acceptable to control what others can do and especially what they cannot do.

    By the way, why is it only Mars but not the Moon where colonization is bad? Gravity is even lower there, but Bezos favors the Moon over Mars.

    I’m glad I’m not in charge of any space program, too. That isn’t where the fun is. That is where control freaks want to be. I want to be where I make the impossible happen, not where I direct someone else to make it happen. Fortunately, I have been blessed with a career where I have been tasked with the difficult and sometimes the impossible (I’m sorry that you weren’t so blessed). My leaders have been bold, not timid.

  • Questioner

    STARSHIP UPDATE 2022 – Presentation Breakdown

    “On February 10, 2022, Elon Musk reintroduced his fans to the StarShip and SuperHeavy system at his facility in Boca Chica.
    Whether or not it stays in Boca Chica has yet to be determined.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XIVjfRix_8

  • Questioner

    Starship Launch Tower in Florida Coming Soon | Cape Update – Narrated

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMUX67Ts-nk

  • Edward

    J Fincannon,
    You show yourself to be too timid to allow anyone to attempt Martian colonization so that they can solve the problems that you believe exist. It is like feeling the need to cross bridges before you get to them. Instead, the bold are willing to get to the point where they can find out whether there is a problem that requires solution.

    Oh, and don’t call me “my lad.” You haven’t earned it. Not until you do the impossible. The scientists for whom I built it told me that the math said my first space instrument could not be done within the weight budget that we had for the entire instrument, otherwise the signal noise from radiation would be too much for it to be worth making the instrument.. The radiation shielding needed for each detector would have to be tungsten and too thick. In the end, we had found a way to build the instrument with sufficient shielding within our weight budget, and the scientists got good data, worth the effort of making the instrument.

    Later, I worked on Gravity Probe-B. Other engineers had to find ways to do what could not be done, but I only had to do what was difficult but possible with the technology available. Son, when you grow up, stop being timid, end your apprenticeship, and build something impossible, only then will you have earned the right to be my peer. Until then, grasshopper, you are still just a Padawan, hoping to one day be the student who becomes the master.

    I certainly hope that eventually you become bold enough to make a great contribution to mankind, like Goddard, von Braun, The Big Four, Stevens, Rutan, and even Diamandis, whose bold proposal inspired private engineers to do what had previously taken the resources of entire nations. It is half a century since we last set foot on the Moon, and NASA is still half a decade way from being able to do it again. However, here we are, with one private company attempting to put man on Mars, which even entire nations are not bold enough to do.

    Here is a challenge for you, J Fincannon. Choose to do it, not because it is easy but because it is hard. Be bold. Tax your engineering abilities. Instead of distressing about it, become a member of the team that gets us to Mars. It will be a story to tell your grandchildren.

  • Cotour

    JF:

    Is there any difference between engineering and building a device / machine to go and do whatever is wanted in whatever environment, and human beings living and existing for the long term where those machines or devices are designed to go?

    Can a device or an environment be fashioned where you could go and say visit Chernobyl? But could you, would you want to live there for the long term, and could you survive to tell about it?

    Rational thinking and logic would indicate that there is a diametrically opposed difference between inanimate objects / devices and machines that are not biological, and DNA based biological actual life forms.

    It at least must be recognized that these “hard” things may be at the human biological outer limits at the minimum to solve at this moment in time. Does not mean that those devices and machines cannot be built in order to transport humans to go wherever they please, or that those issues will not be fully solved in the future, not at all. As a matter of fact it will probably happen within 5 or so years as thing appear right now.

    But getting there and existing for the long-term working, building, reproducing etc. settling down and living are two very different animals.

    Yes, do it just for the reward of doing it, with all of the short-term rewards and associated risks, even the real potential for death, but these are two different things apparently being classified as one. IMO of course, JF.

    (I still say, and I am no expert and not claiming to be, this is a guess that human beings are probably not able to exist in space or off this planet for more than 3 to 5 years without either dying outright or are no longer able to again return to the earth due to the several physiological changes that no or low gravity and too much radiation would produce. You just would not survive the trip and the gravity afterwards.

    This has to be the number one question that NASA and Musk must be working on to nail down the truth about and what some of the answerers to this conundrum might be.)

  • Cotour

    Now this is HARD. You want to be impressed with engineering? You watch this video.

    https://youtu.be/iGBPgtomdjA

    Space and Mars? A very different animal and a different kind of HARD.

  • J Fincannon

    Edward:

    You wish to make a “cross bridges” analogy? More like building a bridge to an area on which the other side is a bunch of crazed animals. Maybe you should not have built it until you probed the other side. If someone sincerely wished to go to Mars and colonize, it is incumbent upon them to do this in a safe, logical manner and not a bold, reckless, emotional manner.

    Don’t take offense by my saying, “my lad”. Somehow it made me get into the spirit of the discussion with you after asking me to “Pay attention, son.”. You have not earned the right to call me “son” (Or is this you, Dad? Are you pulling my leg again?)

    It sounds like you have done some good engineering. Out-smarting others who were not smart enough or clever enough as you is not the same as doing the impossible. Its impressive, but not impossible. I am glad you were able to offer some opportunity for the PhD scientists to learn humility. They feel they are so much smarter than everyone else that they have lost humility.

    I am not too inclined to pick nits regarding the use of the term “impossible” with engineering. It is offensive to me to hear it, but not because I wish for us not to try harder to do things. Good ol’ Tom Edison (or his workers) tested thousands (>6000) of filaments. It may have been impossible to find one that worked. People could have said it was impossible. But that is not quite the meaning of impossible. I have a little trouble with the term impossible engineering. A thousand years ago, regardless of your cleverness, genius and diligence, it is impossible to make a cell phone. All the resources of the Earth would not have made it possible. So, this is one way of it truly being impossible. At some point, there is a crossover from impossible to possible on the timeline. There, things that redirect resources such as war (e.g. WWII or cold war) can make the possible happen quicker. No doubt smart, diligent people are critical too.

    Yet, I warn you that the general public do not understand science or engineering very much. Thus, when you say “impossible” they might interpret the context to mean either things that are magical or far out on the timeline (like ancient aliens). Simply because ancient peoples could do things that seem like they should have been impossible, does not mean it requires aliens. It is clever people marshaling the resource of their society.

    So, if we drop the term “impossible” from the discussion, it is easier to clearly state that humans CAN go to Mars relatively soon… so you can rest easier about that. The bold approach may result in some unpleasant problems that may jeopardize the entire endeavor. But you feel people may find solutions. It’s possible. But a reasoned logical approach of adequate robotic missions and a lot of data gathering seems more realistic than the reckless approach with likely loss of life. My opinion is that more data is needed. I do not care about emotion or boldness. Sure, you can get a long line of people willing to volunteer for low survival situations. It just does not seem good for business.

    I am quite familiar with space technology and it is clear that generally it is desired to not be the first ones to use a technology. Space is costly and using a new widget because it is new and improved meets with a lot of customer resistance. It is unfortunate when something doesn’t work. Hughes HS-702 concentrator solar arrays are a good example of the risk. Testing space qualified hardware takes a lot of time and resources. You just don’t take a terrestrial bit of hardware and put it on Mars.

    I kind of gather from your expertise that you have focused on robotic space missions. The worst that go wrong with those is a loss of mission. Move to loss of crew or loss of planet, then you have to be more careful.

  • J Fincannon

    Cotour:

    Yes, clearly robots and humans have different limits. Robots are expendable. Humans are not. You bend over backwards to help them survive. They are sensitive and brittle.

    Some day we could engineer humans for Mars and Space. See https://www.amazon.com/Next-500-Years-Engineering-Worlds/dp/0262044404

    >this is a guess that human beings are probably not able to exist in space or off this planet for more than 3 to 5 years without either dying outright or are no longer able to again return to the earth due to the several physiological changes that no or low gravity and too much radiation would produce. You just would not survive the trip and the gravity afterwards.

    I suggest the radiation issue (human cells, human biota) could be handled on Mars, Moon and Space. There are ways. Electrostatic, electromagnetic, solid shielding (underground or around the spaceship).

    Gravity can be handled by drugs, exercise, rotation, electromagnetic fields https://www.ru.nl/hfml/research/levitation-explained/diamagnetic-levitation/.

    But gravity and radiation should be able to be handled to permit at least 10-20 years in space/planetary surface.

    Mars life is an unknown. People choose to ignore it to their peril. To avoid this problem I suggest humans orbiting but not landing on Mars surface. They can control rovers and probes with no lag time. This way we can eliminate that threat and make Mars ready for colonization. Or not.

    The problem is all the other stuff. Psychology? How to you avoid going stark raving mad and killing everyone? Where do you get the funding to stay more than a short time?

  • J Fincannon

    https://thespacereview.com/article/4333/1
    Recent article summarizing Musk colony. The article does not mention the impact of low gravity on children and people. It does not mention the possibility of deleterious Mars life. Tsk tsk. At least it mentions radiation and how to handle it.

    Commenters mention the low gravity and how it might negate the meaning of Mars being a “Earth backup”.

  • Questioner

    Fin Cannon:

    Why doesn’t Musk build a colony in Antarctica?

  • J Fincannon

    Questioner:

    That wouldn’t be the same. He is trying to build a backup civilization. If a asteroid hits Earth, Antarctica is toast too.

    Still, I would build an asteroid destroyer version 1.0 with all my Starships.

  • Questioner

    J Fincannon:

    Even if an asteroid of 10-20 km in size were to hit Earth (which happens every 100-200 million years or so), this planet remains incomparably more habitable than Mars. In addition, the effort to deviate asteroids from their orbit is much, much smaller than the effort to make Mars habitable for millions of people.

    In fact, Elon is now so desperate that in his last speech he referred to what will happen to the sun in 500 million years (!). Is not that crazy?

  • J Fincannon

    Questioner:

    Yes, I agree its alot easier to fix or protect Earth than try to build a civilization on Mars. But such is the liberty of billionaires. I think his stated rationale is a fig leaf hiding some secret desire to be King of Mars.

  • Edward

    J Fincannon,
    You wrote: “It is offensive to me to hear it

    By your own definition, you have a think skin.

    Son (I have earned this right, and you gave no argument why I have not), after all this time you still haven’t paid attention. My example of engineers saying that it was impossible for SpaceX to find an economical way to reuse the Falcon 9 booster is real. Many aerospace engineers did say that it could not be done. I guess you think that means they thought it was possible.

    Move to loss of crew or loss of planet, then you have to be more careful.

    Gee. Thank you for the advice, because that never occurred to me when I was making things that flew on manned Shuttle missions. You may want to send a note to SpaceX, too, because it may not have occurred to them, either. You seem to assume stupidity on the part of others.

    The article does not mention the impact of low gravity on children and people.

    Apparently, few people are concerned about that aspect of Martian bases, settlements, or colonies. Most people realize that it is not a problem and is a low priority topic.

    Mars life is an unknown.

    Except that you are the one who pointed out that if life exists on Mars then it has already traveled to Earth (you said it may have caused one of the “Earth Extinction Events“), which means that the remaining life on Earth has already adapted to Martian life or that the differences prevents interaction with each other. The beauty of civilians being able to do their own space missions is that concerned citizens are allowed and able to do their own experiments to test the Viking results. That no one is proposing such a mission suggests that your concerns are not justified. I continue to contend that the risk is low and the consequences low, and that we will know for sure during the first manned mission to Mars.

    You also assume that SpaceX has no intention of making similar tests for life on its own first unmanned mission to Mars. There are many tests and experiments that SpaceX could to on that first mission, and they have dozens of tons of payload capability in which to do them. So far there does not seem to be a publicly published list of their intended experiments, so we don’t know what they do and don’t intend to explore in their early landings.

    Since you are not up to the challenge of joining the team to get to Mars, I challenge you, J Fincannon, to use your engineering talents to propose an experiment for that first SpaceX mission to Mars, raise the funding, then lead the team that makes it happen (or find a leader). SpaceX is definitely going to Mars, so if the risk of Martian life is so great, then this should not be a difficult challenge.

  • J Fincannon

    Edward,

    Yes, I do have a thick skin. I did not burst in to tears. I just found it annoying. You want me to burst into a jolly song? But so much for trying to prevent the perpetuation of impossible activities in engineers. At least Scotty could do what he did in the sci-fi show and not do magical things. He was lucky.

    Naw, you do not have the right to call me Son because this is not like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. Are you >80 years old?

    Your example of engineers saying something is impossible to SpaceX is only stating they are not so smart. If they were more clever they would have known it is not impossible. I am an engineer and I did not say they could not do it. So, show your statistics. Is this the same thing as the human caused climate change 100% of scientists say it is so? I prefer real data.

    Who has taken “Loss of Planet” into account since I came up with that term and since you ignore Mars life risk it is moot? Loss of crew, yes of course. But robotic missions usually do not care. I am so glad your subsystem was designed with that in mind for Shuttle.

    >Apparently, few people are concerned about that aspect of Martian bases, settlements, or colonies. Most people realize that it is not a problem and is a low priority topic.

    Most people choose to be blind to it and run into the future like a child running with scissors.

    Mars life forms that MIGHT have caused an extinction event could have killed all species exposed to it. Other species not exposed are what we see today. Maybe no antibodies or survival of the fittest, just survival of the luckiest.

    >The beauty of civilians being able to do their own space missions is that concerned citizens are allowed and able to do their own experiments to test the Viking results. That no one is proposing such a mission suggests that your concerns are not justified. I continue to contend that the risk is low and the consequences low, and that we will know for sure during the first manned mission to Mars.

    Well, it is good you are not a regulator. But too bad that most people think as you do. This is a problem in too many areas of our lives (i.e. climate change/carbon footprints).

    SpaceX might to experiments. But since Musk’s first dream before SpaceX was landing a garden on Mars, it is not clear he is in the loop on the risks. Again, I don’t give a damn about forward planetary protection.

    As to asking me to do this great task you challenge, its not how these things are done. One has a large bureaucracy to deal with, lots of teams, lots of document/requirements and lots of PhDs to argue with. I can only do so much. How many people have my opinion? Not many. Some tell me they gave up due to the group think going on. I am not a fund raiser. My work is not in management but analysis. I can write papers, I can review documents. I don’t get my fingers dirty like you have.

    For SpaceX to go to Mars and bring anything back they need to practice backward planetary protection. If the U.S. chooses to ignore this, then so much for that. Let the roulette wheel turn.

  • Edward

    J Fincannon,
    You wrote: “Yes, I do have a thick skin. I did not burst in to tears. I just found it annoying. You want me to burst into a jolly song?

    Were these what you had expected of me when you accused my of being thin skinned? Is this really how you think? You had dished it out, but you can’t take it?

    He was lucky.

    No. He was written, which is why I advised you be careful with your use of science fiction in defining your thinking. The Star Wars analogy does not work for you, either. The rest of us engineers have to do it ourselves without benefit of an author determining the outcome. No deus ex machina for us!

    I did not say they could not do it

    Pay closer attention. I did not say that you thought it couldn’t be done. I said that cognizant engineers had said so.

    As to asking me to do this great task you challenge, its not how these things are done. … I can write papers, I can review documents.

    This is exactly how they are done. The challenge is to work the system to get the science that you want done. The system is changing so that the bureaucracy is not as much in the way as it was before. If the knowledgeable principal investigators (PI) do not believe the way that you do, then that says a lot about your view that Martian life exists, or that it is dangerous if it does exist. Your position, experience, and having your name on papers should give you more than enough to go to PIs (PhDs) to present a case for them to lead such an experiment. Fundraising and experiment management is what the PI does. That you haven’t done it before makes it the challenge. If it is important (it is certainly urgent) then it should be a relatively easy challenge. If it is not important, then it may not be the problem that you feel it is. To make it even easier, try talking to SpaceX to see what they are planning for such planetary protection, then talk to SpaceX’s own principal investigators to suggest additional experiments and measures that you think are necessary.

    You have to do the work, not just make a claim that contradicts the existing science. You assume (once again, you assume) that no one has any concern about planetary protection and that nothing will be done, but I have already explained one easy portion of such protection, an easy test that will happen with the first manned mission to the Martian surface, whether or not anyone wants to do the experiment. Undoubtedly there will be additional measures taken. For the sake of your nerves, I hope that the scientists handling the Perseverance return samples will be more careful than the Wuhan scientists were with their gain-of-function flu viruses.

  • J Fincannon

    Edward,

    Well, this has been a joy.

    “Second, we engineers are greatly offended by people who lack the understanding that we solve problems of sensibility and feasibility. Just because it is impossible does not mean that we cannot do it.”

    Had to look up what you said. I guess I missed that you were speaking for all engineers. But be that as it may, I guess I feel as offended as you about this. We both have thick skins and can be offended and still whistle a merry tune.

    As to how I am supposed to challenge the system, thank you for your suggestions. I will have to give them some thought, it would be going outside my comfort zone considerably. I am trying to draw upon accepted literature and meetings by experts for my arguments in reviewing policy and requirements documents.

    I do not respect the expertise or knowledge of “experts” as much as you. Has not the Pandemic or Climate Change suggested that can be questioned? I see a mixed bag in what PhD means. Humility is needed, on both sides, especially on what is hard knowledge. This has been a real problem with how GCR affects astronaut biota which could create superbugs. People do not care. Money has so many areas to be spent in going to Mars, little can be used in each area.

    I am aware of the planetary protection attitudes and have tried to discover the rationale for the laxer attitudes than we had up to fairly recently. I have been working with relevant folk. Perhaps in the upcoming months more meetings will be held on the topic. I would like more rationale as to why this is no longer an issue.

    So long for now. Maybe we shall meet again in some other Zimmerman posting.

  • Edward

    I would like more rationale as to why this is no longer an issue.

    I’m not quite sure what you think is no longer an issue, because we were not worried about backward contamination until recently. Conditions on Mars are very harsh for life as we know it. High radiation, lack of oxygen for life to use to burn fuel (food), very low temperatures, the lack of organic molecules, and more recently the discovery of perchlorates widespread in the soil.

    You may find support from those scientists who doubt the conclusions from Viking. Good luck to you, and if you find life on Mars that would be a very big feather in your cap!

    We had thought that the first manned mission to Mars would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, but SpaceX may be able to do it for around ten billion or so. SpaceX’s relatively inexpensive plan is similar to Robert Zubrin’s proposal, which just goes to show how much influence one person can have.

  • Elon is capable and energetic person and his thinking outside the box is what makes it different.

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