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Space

Elon Musk Wants Space Colonists, Not Just Tourists 67

Posted by michael
from the one-way-trip dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Elon Musk, founder of PayPal and CEO of SpaceX, is not all that excited about space tourism: he wants to colonize Mars. 'I don't think it's a tragedy that people can't have fun in space. People should be able to go if they want to, but it's no great tragedy if they can't. But I do think it is a great tragedy if humanity can't establish itself on another planet. It's the single most important thing we can do to continue the human race.' SpaceX will launch Falcon I in mid to late January 2005."
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Elon Musk Wants Space Colonists, Not Just Tourists

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  • by WhiplashII (542766) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @11:16AM (#10787669) Homepage Journal
    I don't think we should colonize another planet. Why waste all that energy getting out of this gravity well only to stick ourselves in another one? I think the future of humanity is to create and live in structures in solar orbit. All the problems can be solved through engineering, just like the Mars problems would have to be. And once we have figured it out, there are no limits on expansion, etc!

    Anybody with me?

    • I know, if given an honest opportunity to do something like that, I'd jump at the chance.

      Sure, it'd probably be shitty for the first hundred years or so. But think of what you'd be doing for humankind. It far surpasses any colonization in history.
    • Mars has all the elements required for life, including (if we can trust the evidence) water. It's difficult to get off Mars but you can do it with single-stage rockets. I don't know if you're going to be able to find an asteroid which yields everything you need for building materials, atmosphere, and the rest. Having to do a lot of scooting around to get those things from different rocks may increase your trouble and risk more than putting down on a little planet like Mars.
      • by WhiplashII (542766) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @12:27PM (#10788555) Homepage Journal
        I am thinking more long term. There are problems to be solved on Mars (cold, sand storms, low energy availability, etc.), and (probably somewhat harder) problems to be solved in space (near perfect recycling of air and water, safety, artificial gravity that doesn't make you sick, etc.). My point is that if you solve the problems on Mars, you have less than doubled the space available for humans (or probability of our species survival, if you prefer). Mars colonization doesn't lead anywhere but Mars.

        Once we have gone to space, our possibilities are limitless. For example, once completely self contained space platforms are common, one of them will almost certainly get fed up with everyone in the sol system - and take off for another star. It won't matter how far you are going, because the journey (or arrival) would not really change your life style any.

        In addition, it will be possible to get with a group of like-minded people and build your own society. This could be an end of terrorism, maybe even an end of some of the other unlpeasant things that happen on Earth. (Not that this will change human nature, it will just reduce the struggle for resources.)

        • by dpilot (134227) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @12:33PM (#10788624) Homepage Journal
          So the Libertarian Arcology is out in the asteroids, and the Sunni Muslim Arcology is orbiting Mars, and the Shiites are near Venus, while the Baptists are at L5. Maybe the best thing about space is that it's BIG, and these different groups of like-minded people could stay separated.

          But somehow I have this feeling that they would feel compelled to park all of their Arcologies in geosynchronous orbit over the Jerusalem/Mecca vicinity, and duke it out.
          • But even if they do that, it is better than what we have now. I don't have to be involved. And neither do, for example, the people in Iraq that really want peace - they could just leave in this instance. Right now, I cannot escape the fact that eventually a terrorist is going to make a crater out of a building near me. There is no reason I should be involved in a middle eastern problem that I personally had no (or at least very little) part in creating. Frankly, I could live well enough getting my ener
            • The problem is with the debris raining on our heads. I'm sure any significant battle at geosync would have blasts sufficient to de-orbit big chunks of metal. Plus if they're in geosync, they're going to take an "interest" in what's going on, below. I don't think I like that, either.
              • Well, technically almost anything done in geosync is not going to make it to Earth. It is unlikely for anything to be put in an orbit intersecting Earth (an object thrown straight down from geo will not necessarily hit earth), and even if it did it would burn up in the atmosphere first (bad entry angle and all that). But what I was really saying is that anyone that wanted to could leave Earth, and so they don't have to worry about stuff falling on their heads.

                People who stay on Earth are the people to w
            • >>There is no reason I should be involved in a Middle Eastern problem that I personally had no (or at least very little) part in creating.
              >>

              Just because you feel no connection to the place does not eliminate the fact that you are benefiting from thousands of years of the evolution of human social and scientific systems.

              Those benefits came at a price. The technology age /space age is a product of the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution was a product of the enlightenment. The

              • OK, I looked at your other posts and your not a troll, so...

                You must have misunderstood me. I have no problem being a part of the solution, I just have a problem being called the problem. The terrorist hate me. The terrorists want to kill me, personally. They are not just going after the Romans, Greeks, Bush, etc because that group has attacked them. I am not doing anything to them, but because oil companies deal with Saudi Arabia (something not within my control) my life is in danger. The terrorist
              • > If we don't deal with those "other" parts of the world, they are going to contiunue come after us as they did on 9/11.

                The day the Muslims develop a culture capable of building an arcology (as opposed to merely deorbiting one) is the day humanity ceases to have to worry about Muslims "coming after us" - in space or on Earth.

                Stranger things have happened in history, but I'm not holding my breath.

                > The SIG for another /. poster is something like "History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes."

    • I'm with you, man. Space is MUCH closer than Mars.

    • Let's go! [spaceref.com]
    • If it is...

      • ...to escape being swallowed by the sun in a red-giant expansion? Then you need to be further away than Mars.

      • ...to survive a nearby supernova, your only chance is to be underground inside of a giant mass (and be able to survive the extreme conditions).

      • ...to have abundant raw materials? Then Luna is closer than Mars, and the asteroid belt requires less energy if you are going to import the materials.

      • ...to build a space-faring capability? Then yeah, you'll want to live in space but don'

  • Homestead Mars! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dr. Bent (533421) <benNO@SPAMint.com> on Thursday November 11, 2004 @11:19AM (#10787700) Homepage
    We need a Homestead Act [wikipedia.org] for Mars. It would probably have to be an international treaty (although with the current White House that's not a strict requirement). Carve out a section of Mars and say: If you live here for X number of years, you own it.

    If you REALLY want to colonize Mars, allow corporations to do this as well as individuals. That's probably the fastest way. Whether or not it's the best way is up for debate...
  • From the Babylon 5 [warnerbros.com] television series, Capt. John Sheridan:

    "Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics and you'll get ten different answers, but there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us. It'll take Marilyn Monroe and Lao-Tzu, Einstein, Morobuto, Buddy Holly, Aristophanes .. and all of this .. all of this was for nothing unless we go to the stars." (Infection, season 1, ep. 4)
    • It's been a while since I've done any reading in this area. But I think this is a "hide under a tree in the rain" fallacy. The old joke goes that two guys are out on the golf course when it starts to rain. One guys says he's going to wait it out under a tree. The second guy asks him what he'll do when that tree is all wet and dripping on him. First guy says he'll move to a different tree.

      I'm sure there's some fudge factor, but (give or take a few million years)if our star is running down - I bet the r
      • The life expectancy of a star depends on many factors (size, composition etc). Just as different trees would offer various levels of protection during a rain storm. We have billions of years before our sun goes pop and tens of million before the suns expansions makes the planet unlivible. Bigger problems are population growth, polution, engery, resources and bio-diversity. At current population growth we only have a few hundred years before we hit critical mass.
    • "The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program."

      We need to get off the planet.

    • I am not infavor of the proposition that the Sun must grow cold and go out because it seems to be a leader-argument to (or a side-effect of) all of what is know in the universe eventually fizzling in some greater or lesser death.

      To be clear (for those who choose to use prejudice filters you can begin here) - I feel that the energy organization principle that we refer to as consciousness predates material formation, and so would not cease in the advent of a dissappeared life-envelope as we presently constru
  • I recall Elon founding X.com which was an online bank that was not much of a success and eventually merged with PayPal. I remember X.com from the dotcom days because I opened an account with them since they payed money for it. Here is a link with no reference to PayPal: http://rider.wharton.upenn.edu/~mslls/99_00/musk.h tml
    • From the spacex.com website:

      SpaceX is the third company founded by Mr. Musk. Prior to SpaceX, he co-founded PayPal, the world's leading electronic payment system, and served as the company's chairman and CEO. PayPal has over twenty million customers in 38 countries, processes several billion dollars per year and went public on the NASDAQ under PYPL in early 2002. Mr. Musk was the largest shareholder of PayPal until the company was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in October 2002.

      Before PayPal, Mr. Mus

  • Why not try to build cities on the bottom of the Oceans? I guess people like this really have no idea of the amouth of resouces that would be needed to colonize Mars. It would be much cheaper to colonize the deep seas. But nobody thinks about doing this. If we are not even able to preserve the climate on Earth how are we going to think we can colonize Mars.
    • Why not try to build cities on the bottom of the Oceans?

      The water pressure would be soooooooo crushing that such a structure would probably cost as much as a Mars space ship.

      Now, colonizing the continental shelves might be practical.
  • why choose? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @12:06PM (#10788306) Homepage Journal
    People colonize other places because of what they need to do there, not for what they can send back here. Space tourists will be something in space that "locals" will be needed to take care of. Tourism is a lot less risky and expensive to get started than energy/matter mining, so it's a good reason to start colonies, that tourists can visit.

    All recent colonization (past few thousand years) has been an effort to connect with other people already living in remote locations, and prior "aboriginal" colonization was apparently due to exhausting resources (or social conflict) in the original location. While planting colonies among alien "people" seems an attractive option, it's unlikely. While waiting until the Earth is used up, or too hostile to stay, is a much less likely way to ensure our species' survival.
    • Re:why choose? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cephyn (461066)
      People colonize other places because of what they need to do there, not for what they can send back here

      Hmm that's not how the colonists in North America saw it -- the Colonies were pretty angry that everything they made had to be sold back to England, and that their economy was being crushed by English taxes. People didn't go to the new world for tourism, they went because of business opportunity -- and when the unfair trading practices made those opportunities poor, they revolted.

      The colonization of N
      • The North American colonists, whether English, Spanish, French, or other Europeans, came to America to trade with the American tribal nations, largely for tobacco and fur. To facilitate that trade, colonists settled along the coasts and along rivers. After a few generations, the Europeans started cutting out the middleman, capitalizing on the thousands of years of animal and plant breeding developed by the tribal people. After several generations, they had become American enough to take over much of the her
        • First paragraph: No. English came for tobacco and fur, and ended losing the fur trade (which was really the only real trade with the natives) to the French, and it was lucrative but limited to the north (Canada). The English just grew their own tobacco, and started importing slaves from Africa to work the fields -- note, they didn't enslave the natives, they wanted nothing to do with them. Colonists settled along coasts and rivers because those were the easiest places to get to, and the easiest to get produ
          • "Velásquez commissioned Hernán Cortés to explore, trade, and search for Christian captives in the Yucatán." [ucalgary.ca]

            There are lots of other descriptions of the early trade between Europeans and American tribes, when the newcomers were at a disadvantage for mere survival, let alone conquest. When that phase passed, Europeans leveraged their superior firepower and transportation into conquest. All in the name of taking what the Americans had produced, in their lifetimes or over generations of bre
            • Did you even read what you sent me?

              " Although the voyages did not yield an immediate solution for the Governor of Cuba, there were indications of a wealthy civilisation somewhere just beyond the Spaniard's reach. Intrigued and excited about the possibility of finding the source of this wealth, Velásquez commissioned Hernán Cortés to explore, trade, and search for Christian captives in the Yucatán."

              "ortés did not want to explore, trade, and search for Christian captives. Rather, hi
              • Did you read it? Velasquez was the governor of Cuba, and was sending people out to trade. Cortez was a killer, and cared only for his firepower superiority over the Aztecs, who were obviously not "savages" in their cities among a network of boat channels and roads. Cortez is an example of the turnover from trade to conquest, and his mission demonstrates the trade orientation of the earlier phase.
                • Clearly the aztecs were not savages. but Cortez wrote back that they were, which had Chuckie V OK the expedition to conquer it.

                  Velasquez sent them out to trade with a civilization, one his recon men had only heard about. He was expecting the kind of civilization you'd see in Europe. The euro idea of civilization was pretty narrow. Cortez saw what the aztecs were, and knew it wasn't "Civilization" and so conquered it.

                  "Cortés' gambled that his success would absolve him of his rebellion against Vel
                  • We agree about the European view towards overseas cultures. Voltaire himself wrote convincingly of the impossibility of African civilization, despite its reality. Eurochauvinism cheats us of vast learning developed by other people, which we can steal without diminishing them (to paraphrase Jefferson, another chauvinist ;).

                    I'm currently reading the pioneering study of "fractal sensibility" in African craft, African Fractals [rpi.edu]. We are fortunate to be more enlightened than most Enlightenment Europeans - our wor
    • All recent colonization (past few thousand years) has been an effort to connect with other people already living in remote locations, and prior "aboriginal" colonization was apparently due to exhausting resources (or social conflict) in the original location.

      Was Europe used up when they started colonize the Americas? Life in colonial America was much tougher than England, even the voyage itself was dangerous. Sure some people moved here for more freedom or to convert the natives, but most did it for th

      • The gold, tobacco, cotton, fur and other industries that encouraged Europeans to bankroll the colonies were all produced by native tribes. Europeans started by trading with them, combined with some conquering. After more conquering, they got into enslaving. None of which would have been possible without the people who first developed the Americas, then became part of the bounty. Remember that it was South America that first attracted European attention, and retained it for centuries before the North became
        • The fact that there were native people here (in the Americas), does not change the fact that they made the voyage and colonized primarily for the raw materials. The didn't come over here for the purpose of trading with the natives, but to get the raw materials. Trading is just one way of accomplishing it.

          ...some of which were more advanced in practically every way other than the wheel, the horse, guns and ships

          I know tobacco and cocaine, were quite advanced... AKA, of course there were many things th

          • Remember that Europeans sailed to "India" (the European term), found the Americas instead, called the inhabitants "Indians", and traded with them until they could steal instead. And remember that my point was that people colonize for the value of staying in the distant place, not just the value of sending some of it back. So I merely propose that tourists will give colonists a reason to stay long-term, rather than set up mining and leave. A precedent on Earth is fishermen who explored inhabited coasts, like
  • I mean, who would really but up to such a challenge of giving up everything they have here on Earth? Obviously living on Mars, you would lose so many of the conviences and luxuries you are used to here on Earth. Most likely no more TV, broadband internet, or junk food. You would have to spend your entire life inside a building or in a space suit when you wanted to get out and stretch your legs or explore (if you are authorized to do such things). It would definately take some serious courage to change your
    • I guess there goes my karma I worked so hard for! I wasn't trying to be a troll or flamebait! WTF? Anyways, I was trying to say that going to space/Mars would be very hard on people psychologically. I wasn't trying to offend anyone, but I guess who cares! *sigh*
    • Odd that you were marked as troll and flamebait. In general you are correct, except that (free will) colonists are normally middle class (because they can afford the ticket). They typically are trying to go from a situation they have no control over to a situation they have more control over. Quakers came to America for freedom of religion. Some Irish came over to avoid a famin. People talk about leaving the US to avoid Republican government, etc.

      The real motivator I feel will be 2 fold. First, the
    • I think the comfort of life shouldn't change much if you play it smart [wikisource.org]. And if doing it that way, the colonies will enhance earth life a lot.

      You can still have internet,tv and communications with earth, however with a 10 minute delay. For internet and TV that should not be that big of a problem (must people visit the same sites everyday anyway). Just have big cache for internet that automatically updates. TV is even less of a big deal, so what if you watch yesterdays show? Communication can be akward but y
    • I mean, who would really but up to such a challenge of giving up everything they have here on Earth? Obviously living on Mars, you would lose so many of the conviences and luxuries you are used to here on Earth. Most likely no more TV, broadband internet, or junk food. You would have to spend your entire life inside a building or in a space suit when you wanted to get out and stretch your legs or explore (if you are authorized to do such things). It would definately take some serious courage to change your
  • His idea is so "forward thinking" that it's science fiction.

    Until we can discover/create a sufficiently small, powerful, manageable power source, we aren't going beyong the moon.

    Any ship that would take anyone (except Apollo 11-type explorers) on interplanetary travel will need to be robust enough to protect against small meteors, adequately shielded from radiation, and large enough to provide some sort of pseudo-gravity.

    Accelerating such a craft to a speed adequate to "rapidly" cross the ~300(*) million
    • Until we can discover/create a sufficiently small, powerful, manageable power source, we aren't going beyong the moon.

      Nukes. Solar power. Either suffice for travel to Mars. Nukes can be used for farther than that, but solar power requires much larger collection equipment in the asteroids.

      Any ship that would take anyone (except Apollo 11-type explorers) on interplanetary travel will need to be robust enough to protect against small meteors, adequately shielded from radiation, and large enough to provi
      • Nukes.

        Isn't manageable (yet)

        Why "back"?

        Because people want to travel back and forth?

        And, the proper sort of power source would allow "us" or the Martian colonists to mine the asteroids, etc, etc.

        Rotational "gravity" isn't required unless it's going to be longer than 6 months or so, which a fast ship wouldn't be.

        I'd still much rather travel in a shielded craft that provides at least partial, temporary(*) gravity.

        (*) spinning sleep rooms, for example, so that your body is subject to pseudo-gravity
        • Nukes.

          Isn't manageable (yet)


          It's been manageable since the 1960s. A craft in either the NERVA or Orion families would be much more capable than any chemical rocket, and pretty straightforward to build.
    • The average straight-line distance is ~73 million km, but, of course, spaceships never travel in straight lines. So, I guesstimate that the actual "kilometers traveled" would be 145M km. And, because it's a round trip, double it to ~300M km.

      The average straight-line distance is considerably more than 73 Gm. 73 Gm is very close to the MINIMUM straight-line distance. Average is a lot closer to 240 Gm.

      Actual distance travelled in a Hohmann transfer orbit (which is a poor choice for a manned mission) is ~60

      • And if you simply MUST have artificial gravity, then take two ships, tether them together with a long line once they enter their transfer orbit, and spin them about their common axis.

        And if the 2 ships aren't exactly balanced, it'll wobble, and that's a Bad Thing.

        Think of an out-of-balance ceiling fan.
    • Admittedly, There is a large power demand for life support and the needs of people. However, I think that can be taken care of with solar power.

      You are correct that you need adequate power to accelerate and decelerate the space ship; but distance will not matter because of inertia. Once the ship is at maximum speed you can turn the engine off and it will continue to Mars at maximum speed until you start the deceleration process.

    • umm, ever heard of nuclear fision?
  • >>the single most important thing we can do to continue the human race.

    Well, something more important right now would be to insure our continued survival on this planet first. Think about potential catastrophe from nuclear war, bio war, bio industry, other non-intentional environmental issues (pollution, heat, etc.), and we have the potential to pretty well f* it up here before getting anywhere else.
    • Well, that's the point, isn't it? If things get F-ed up here, regardless of if it's a huge asteroid hitting our planet or some "W"ild and crazy guy pressing the shiny red button, there will be an outpost somewhere else that can continue.
      • I believe we should look to go off-world. I do. But right now and for some time we have a much better chance here than on Mars or elsewhere, and so the most important thing, right now, is to ensure that here remains OK. Mars (& other places) is farther down the list. I guess it's the "single most important" modifier that I have issue with in that statement. Earth is important. Take care of it.
  • Musk's ultimate goal is to help colonize Mars.

    It's the only planet that could support a human civilization, he said.

    I think he has his numbers a little bit wrong (or was misquoted), I would think there is another planet that has proved itself capable of supporting life, in the Solar System at any rate.
  • Does anyone out there understand that the reason we thrive on this planet is because it is practically made out of food? The soil that our food grows in, this same food that our food animals eat, is all recycled material that has existed here for eons. There is no suitable 'soil' on Mars, and if you wanted to grow anything, you would have to bring all of that soil with you. And then provide a suitable atmosphere for it to grow in. This would be a massive undertaking. We have barely scratched the surface
    • No it isn't. See that big thing in the sky that is providing energy to all the plants we eat, that's the sun and even a 3 year old knows that means the earth isn't a closed system. Did you even think before you posted that topic?
  • Did anyone else notice the single paragraph in the article about an inflatable hotel in space next year!?!?!?!

    SpaceX certainly isn't opposed to space tourism, however. Its first customer for the heavy-lift Falcon 5, designed to carry more than 6 tons to low-Earth orbit, is a commercial space firm in Las Vegas owned by hotel operator Robert Bigelow. He wants to launch a prototype inflatable space hotel into orbit. Launch is targeted for late next year.

    NEXT YEAR!!!!! Wow.

  • Here is a nice web site that discusses Space Tourism: http://www.space.cc/ [space.cc]

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