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NASA Science

NASA Boss Says Mars Colonization Will Be Corporate Only 299

Posted by samzenpus
from the this-asteroid-brought-to-you-by dept.
99luftballon writes "The head of NASA Ames Research Center has said that he expects any colonization of Mars, the Moon or asteroids to be done by private companies rather than by NASA. There's some interesting parallels with the East India Company, although that was hardly a triumph of capitalism. From the article: 'Dr. Simon Worden, director at NASA Ames Research Center, told The Register that the agency was firmly enmeshing itself with the private sector, citing cooperation on the Dragon capsule being developed by Elon Musk's SpaceX team as a good example. NASA developed a heat shield material called PICA (Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator), capable of withstanding 1850 degrees Celsius (3360 degrees Fahrenheit), and gave it to SpaceX, who manufactured it.' The article also mentions Google's head of space projects, who has 'Intergalactic Federation King Almighty and Commander of the Universe' on her business cards."
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NASA Boss Says Mars Colonization Will Be Corporate Only

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  • by a_ghostwheel (699776) on Friday March 09, 2012 @01:34AM (#39297759)
    Well - we already even have a business plan [amazon.com].
  • China (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BasilBrush (643681) on Friday March 09, 2012 @01:34AM (#39297761)

    Colonization of Mars will be done by China. What's it got to do with NASA?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by unixisc (2429386)
      You mean China will take all its billion people and move over to Mars?
      • Re:China (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 99luftballon (838486) on Friday March 09, 2012 @02:01AM (#39297909)
        We'll never solve population pressure with space travel, it costs too much to get into orbit. But I'd bet the Chinese are considering mining operations off planet.
      • Re:China (Score:5, Funny)

        by Dutchmaan (442553) on Friday March 09, 2012 @02:02AM (#39297919) Homepage
        Well it's not called the Red Planet for nothing...
        • Re:China (Score:5, Informative)

          by Teancum (67324) <(robert_horning) (at) (netzero.net)> on Friday March 09, 2012 @04:18AM (#39298501) Homepage Journal

          There was a plan put forward a number of years ago to try and have a manned Soviet presence on Mars by 2017 (and the centennial of the October Revolution as a general goal). That would have been an amazing project if it had ever been pulled off so far as a really impressive and fitting accomplishment in terms of propaganda and publicity that certainly would have fit the old Soviet bureaucratic mentality. Unfortunately such plans ended with not just the death of Sergei Korolev, but also with the general collapse of the USSR, not to mention how the N1 rocket was shelved and officially disavowed that could have developed the technology necessary to pull off such an endeavor.

          I certainly don't see anything that the Chinese are doing which could pull off anything close to that.

          • Re:China (Score:5, Interesting)

            by mbone (558574) on Friday March 09, 2012 @08:47AM (#39299633)

            Sergei Korolev died in 1966, and the N1 was finally canceled in 1976. So, by "a number of years ago" you mean "decades ago." If the Soviets could plan in (say) 1970 to land on Mars 47 years later, I don't see why the Chinese couldn't plan now to land on Mars in (say) 2049, which would be the Centennial of their revolution. And, if they pursue this goal, I think they could, in that time frame, pull it off.

             

        • And when the first settlers arrived, they performed tests on the soil, and found hemoglobin among various other oddities.

    • Re:China (Score:5, Interesting)

      by WindBourne (631190) on Friday March 09, 2012 @02:06AM (#39297925) Journal
      That is not certain. If NASA is allowed to get private space going, then it is a certainty that by 2020, that NASA via private space will be on the moon. And likewise, within 5 years later, private space will go to Mars. Why? Profits. By building multiple private space stations in orbit, multiple nations will want to use them. From there, if companies like SpaceX, ULA, Bigelow will want to get to the moon. Why again? Profits. They KNOW that nations will pay much more to go to the moon and explore. So will other companies. The ability to mine for water and send it back to the ISS and private space stations much cheaper than from earth would be a big deal. Likewise, the ability to mine Uranium, breed it, and then fuel rocket engines with it to go to Mars will be a strong demand.

      America DOES have a problem. We have to get past politicians like Hatch, Coffman, Hutchinson, Shelby, Wolfe, Nelson, etc., but I know that even Coffman is already being called on his destructive actions against NASA. The others will be looked at as well.
      • Re:China (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Teancum (67324) <(robert_horning) (at) (netzero.net)> on Friday March 09, 2012 @04:35AM (#39298573) Homepage Journal

        That is not certain. If NASA is allowed to get private space going, then it is a certainty that by 2020, that NASA via private space will be on the moon. And likewise, within 5 years later, private space will go to Mars.

        NASA doesn't need to "get private space going". What NASA needs to do is get out of the way and let the FAA Office of Commercial Spaceflight set the standards and do its job, and for NASA to assume more of a role like the NACA did back in the early part of the 20th Century towards aviation... but applied toward spaceflight too. If there is money to be made in space, the U.S. Federal government also needs to quit doing stuff like ITAR that deliberately undermines private space initiatives.

        If the U.S. Federal government wanted to so something really impressive in terms of encouraging private spaceflight, Congress would pass legislation that would allow all companies and private individuals for the next 50 years to be able to avoid paying any federal taxes for any activities that primarily are conducted in space. Make it long enough for whatever laws get into place to be predictable and for some serious long-term planning to take place. It wouldn't be a huge loss for the U.S. government at the moment, because the amount of commercial activity in space is nearly zero, or at least so small that the loss of revenue wouldn't even be missed in terms of balancing the federal budget. That would also cut out that list of senators who are in effect damaging the American spaceflight efforts as their pork barrel projects really wouldn't matter and be seen as the irrelevant projects that they are.

      • Re:China (Score:4, Interesting)

        by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmhNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:03AM (#39299693) Journal

        You think mining anything from the moon and sending it to the ISS is cheaper than just launching it from Earth? You think bringing anything back from Mars could be profitable? You think space exploration is worth anything more than science (such a priority among governments these days!) and national dick-waving?

        Barring some radical and far-off breakthroughs in space travel, the only material that could possibly be profitable to retrieve from anywhere outside the planet is He3 from the Moon, for use in fusion power. As long as we are pushing spaceships from A to B this won't change.

        The places worth exploring from a scientific standpoint are Europa and Enceladus. I'd be shocked if there was no life on them. Mars, it's a barren desert, we'd be lucky to find anything in the nearly liquidless, radiation-scorched wasteland that spans the entire planet. Let the Chinese entertain us with manned missions to it while some smarter country - maybe the US - goes for the interesting stuff. Let them bring back more barren red soil while somebody smarter brings back alien life.

        • by Teancum (67324)

          There are other industrial uses of He3 besides fusion energy. One that comes to mind is the ability to use He3 as a refrigerant, as it stays in a gaseous state at a far colder temperature than any other substance (if you want to get into super conductor research for example). It also has additional applications in general nuclear energy research as well which has a consistent demand worldwide for obtaining that particular elemental isotope.

          BTW, I do think that mining stuff on the Moon could be made eventu

        • Sending water or any easily mined item from the moon to LEO is MUCH MUCH cheaper then sending it from anyplace on earth to LEO.
          MUCH cheaper, once the initial investment. That is exactly why there are more than 3 companies that being put together to go to the moon to do just that.
          The reason is the moon is ~1/6 G.
          In fact, we may actually find that getting water from CERES (an asteroid further out than Mars) is MUCH MUCH cheaper than the moon. Why? Because it is 1/5 G of the moon. IOW, 1/22 G of the earth.
    • Re:China (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sir_Sri (199544) on Friday March 09, 2012 @02:32AM (#39298087)

      I wouldn't bet on that. They have their own problems to solve with the money. Colonization takes a lot of money. By the time this starts being a real issue they will have a shrinking or flat population and that has a whole wack of social problems.

      And it's not like a statement like this from NASA means anything. By 2016/2017 there will definitely be a new policy for NASA, with new governments with new priorities, and they could completely change their minds in any number of directions. They could decide it will be the US colonizing mars, it could be the Europeans deciding this is how they'll get the greeks out of the Euro once and for all, who knows. At best this is a cue to the private companies that for the moment NASA isn't going to stand in the way. But times change.

      • Frankly, given the current situation, growing population also has it's problems. Implying shrinking or flat population is worse than the current widespread starvation sounds a bit weird.

        • It's not shrinking, or flat population that is a problem- it's an aging population that is the problem. More mouths to feed with fewer young able-bodied labourers.

          Simply put (and this is over simplified)- the worst challenge to an individual nation-state is an aging population. The worst challenge for the entire earth is over-population. Not enough children = problem for nation. Too many children = problem for humanity. Nation-states act in the best interest of themselves; thus even though it is bad fo

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            It's not shrinking, or flat population that is a problem- it's an aging population that is the problem. More mouths to feed with fewer young able-bodied labourers.

            The problem is not and never has been enough food. The problem is getting the food into the mouths. The problem with that is not and never has been the ability to do it. It is the will.

            If only there were a planet nearby we could stick some people on and continue to expand.

            Without a space elevator you're not "sticking" anyone anywhere. There is no other lift technology even imagined yet which can energy-effectively do the job of lifting a significant percentage of earth's population out of this gravity well, except MAYBE skyhooks, which have all the problems of space elevators and then some.

            • Re:China (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Friday March 09, 2012 @10:24AM (#39300339)

              We won't see a space elevator in our lifetime. We certainly won't see sky hooks- not on earth.

              I expect to see man on Mars in my lifetime- and I believe it will be a permenant station. I don't think we will go UNTIL we can sustain a base there- a trip and back doesn't make sense.

              I don't expect we will see mass migration to Mars or elsewhere in our lifetime... or my children's lifetime. My comment about "if only there were a planet" was more tongue-in-cheek.

              Eventually, yes. There will be many men who live outside of earth's confines... it won't be for a long time- and most likely not with any technology for which we currently have full understanding.

      • Re:China (Score:4, Insightful)

        by lightknight (213164) on Friday March 09, 2012 @04:41AM (#39298605) Homepage

        Yes money, but more along the lines of technological achievements. We need a way to and from Mars, under a week's time, and that's only going to happen with some technological development.

    • Re:China (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Teancum (67324) <(robert_horning) (at) (netzero.net)> on Friday March 09, 2012 @04:05AM (#39298443) Homepage Journal

      As much as this is suggested, I highly doubt it... at least not without somebody else going there first and developing the technologies independent of China.

      While I will admit that China may be a major player in the future of spaceflight, their culture is one that does not encourage technological innovation, and their governmental system is also one that does not encourage innovation other than trying to figure out how to make stuff cheaper by cutting quality.

      I am also not really impressed with the progress that they are making in terms of spaceflight. They are doing stuff, but it is very slow (especially compared to what the good old USSR did back in the 1950's and 1960's.... and don't even get me started with a comparison to NASA in the 1950's and 1960's) and their operational tempo is absolutely pathetic. By operational tempo, they are setting themselves up to a whole bunch of problems in the future because their ground crews and engineers simply aren't gaining any experience in actually putting people into space. It has been a couple of years since the last manned spaceflight by China, and people do forget how to do simple things if you don't practice those skills. For example, would you trust an aircraft mechanic who only repaired an engine once every 3-5 years? Why would you trust a rocket engine built by a team of technicians who only built one set of engines every 3-5 years?

      On top of that, the operational tempo they have right now isn't even sufficient for maintaining a LEO space station, much less trying to establish any sort of outpost/base somewhere beyond LEO. They simply don't have the personnel who are trained with the experience necessary to get much done in space. Both Roscosmos and NASA have those people, and a number of private companies in both Russia and America have veterans of those programs to get private astronaut corps of their own going. This could change, but it would take a substantial increase in the Chinese space budget and a real commitment on the part of the Chinese government to really get stuff done in space. The European Union (either through the ESA or some other similar organization) might also get into the game, and to me they are the one other potential rival in terms of getting a substantial manned presence in space. The Europeans have the technology and the wealth necessary to pull it off, what they lack is the political will to accomplish much.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AK Marc (707885)

        While I will admit that China may be a major player in the future of spaceflight, their culture is one that does not encourage technological innovation, and their governmental system is also one that does not encourage innovation other than trying to figure out how to make stuff cheaper by cutting quality.

        China's drive to cut costs is at our request, and when they do what we ask, we taunt them for it. That's not a fault with the Chinese. The Chinese government is more capitalistic than the US government.

        • by Teancum (67324)

          China's drive to cut costs is at our request, and when they do what we ask, we taunt them for it. That's not a fault with the Chinese. The Chinese government is more capitalistic than the US government.

          China may encourage "a free market", and certainly has a tax structure to reward business development in a way that I only wish the U.S. government would do at the moment (claims otherwise not withstanding), what China lacks is personal liberties and the ability to really think outside the box. That is something which is very much a part of Chinese culture, where engineers in China are squashed like a bug if they speak up about an issue and try to come up with a solution that hasn't been thought up by uppe

      • Re:China (Score:5, Interesting)

        by cobbaut (232092) <paul.cobbaut@NoSPaM.gmail.com> on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:05AM (#39299701) Homepage Journal

        They are doing stuff, but it is very slow (especially compared to what the good old USSR did back in the 1950's and 1960's.... and don't even get me started with a comparison to NASA in the 1950's and 1960's) and their operational tempo is absolutely pathetic.

        Sorry to burst the bubble, but it took Americans a couple of decades before they mastered fully automated docking. The Chinese accomplished this on their very first attempt.

        Their progress seems to go very slow, but underneath it is an admirable long term plan (5 years plans that fit into ten year plans, that fit themselves into longer term plans!). I guess that's the advantage of having a dictatorship. They are not that far behind on what they announced back in 1999 (manned flight in 2002 (done in 2003), moon probe in 2007 (done in 2007), space station and docking around 2010 (done in 2011)...).
        This summer they will man their first space station, twice. Next year Tiangong 2 will go up, by 2015 they will have 20 ton modules (tiangong 3) and improved launch power (CZ5).
        Next year also the Chinese will land a rover on the Moon: first rover on the Moon since the Soviets in 1976, but more importantly it will be the only rover on the Moon.

        Their Shenzhou spacecraft program might resemble the American Mercury or Gemini, but it includes all Apollo features as well. By 2020 they will have landed on the Moon, to stay a bit longer than a couple of days!

        • by thrich81 (1357561)

          I applaud their efforts, but even without doing direct reverse engineering, accomplishing any engineering project is vastly easier if you have seen that someone else has done it before. So until the Chinese do something that the Americans and Russians haven't already done, they haven't really proved anything in space. As far as building on the American and Russian space technology of the 20th century and applying 21st century improvements where they are useful, I'll put Space-X up against the Chinese and

        • by celle (906675)

          "Sorry to burst the bubble, but it took Americans a couple of decades before they mastered fully automated docking. The Chinese accomplished this on their very first attempt."

          It's very easy to do something when everyone else already has and you have access to all their mistakes. The chinese also have access to evolved technology and experience now to make things happen right as opposed to 50 years ago when the US and Russia were doing it all for the first time ever and developing and running

  • Indentured Servants (Score:5, Interesting)

    by andymadigan (792996) <amadigan@nOSPAM.gmail.com> on Friday March 09, 2012 @01:35AM (#39297769)
    I wonder how many people will end up as indentured servants unable to purchase transport back to earth, working in dangerous working conditions on a world run by corporations. They'll be lured by false promises, or maybe even sent by countries with overpopulated prisons.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2012 @01:44AM (#39297829)

      You mean like the US and Australia? ... I am not an ozzie so I wonder about indentured servents. But this is how people came ot the new world and how slavery started in the south.

      • by Teancum (67324) <(robert_horning) (at) (netzero.net)> on Friday March 09, 2012 @04:50AM (#39298659) Homepage Journal

        Slavery started in "the south" (and the "north" of the British colonies like New York and Massachusetts.... which both had slavery in 1776) in part because the indentured servant program was deemed as ineffective. Poor people from Ireland and London's south end would move to America, and by the time their seven to ten years of servitude were done they finally had the skills necessary to be effective.... but their term of service was up. Several of these "servants" would also simply disappear into the American wilderness and set up farms or homesteads of their own where law enforcement to make sure these indentured servants would finish their terms of service was largely ineffective.

        People of African descent stuck out as much more obvious and had a much harder time being able to disappear in a similar fashion. Yes, it was also utterly racist and some of the first people from Africa were also indentured servants, but the general process of indentured servitude wasn't really the problem. It was the more permanent status of general slavery and the fact that such a status could be inherited that caused the problems. I'll admit indentured servitude can lead to general slavery as well, but it doesn't have to be seen as something so ugly either. Strong limits simply need to be set on how it is implemented with a recognition that civil rights do apply to those "servants" as well.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          The easiest way to solve the problem of people who don't pay their debts to private concerns is to make those debts the responsibility of the lender, which is pretty much what you'd have if you took the courts out of the equation and just left the credit reporting system. Forcing them to labor is simply an economic rationalization and system of selection for slavery as opposed to, say, a racial one.

          Indentured servitude is just another fancy word for "slavery" and nothing you say can change that.

          You have adv

          • by Teancum (67324)

            You have advocated slavery. You are scum.

            It is a matter of degree. If you have accepted an employment contract of any kind, it is in effect a form of slavery regardless of your view of the terms. The conditions and the ability to inherit the condition of employment is the big issue that distinguishes voluntary employment contracts with slavery as practiced "in the old south".

            I'll also point out that even after "slavery" was abolished after the U.S. Civil War, there still were employment contracts that were pretty close to slavery. The practice

      • by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday March 09, 2012 @05:04AM (#39298723)

        You mean like the US and Australia?... I am not an ozzie so I wonder about indentured servents.

        There may have been indentured servants in Oz, but the big issue was its use by the British as a penal colony.

        But this is how people came ot the new world and how slavery started in the south.

        No, indentured servitude is when free persons agree to a longish labor contract in exchange for something, e.g. passage to the New World.

        Slavery in the Americas started with the Spanish policy of repartimento, which was the use of natives for slave labor, rationalized as repayment for the favor of being saved from their pagan religion by their conquerors. But when they took people from the Mexican highlands and put them to work on the coastal plantations, they suffered greatly and died soon. So a certain Bishop Las Casas, somewhat enlightened for his time, but not by modern values, recommended bringing in African slaves, who would be more acclimated to that sort of work environment.

        According to Wikipedia, he later decided that that wasn't right either, and took a stand against it. (Wikipedia also says he wasn't the only one who advocated it in the first place. My knowledge of this comes from Prescott's monumental History of the Conquest of Mexico, which is long and sometimes tedious, but well worth the read if you're interested in the topic. But it's ~150 years old now, so I'm inclined to lean toward the Wikipedia version. See the article on Las Casas, and while there click the link to the article about the import of African slaves.)

        Britain and its colonies got in on slavery much later, becoming entangled with the Spanish in the slave trade. (The above was well before the British had the colonies that eventually became the USA and expended across "the south".)

      • by BlueStrat (756137) on Friday March 09, 2012 @05:38AM (#39298847)

        But this is how people came ot the new world and how slavery started in the south.

        Actually, slavery was officially established in Virginia in 1654, when Anthony Johnson (a black man) convinced a court that his servant (also a black man), John Casor, was his for life.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Johnson_(American_Colonial)#Significance [wikipedia.org]

        I imagine eventual space colonization will proceed roughly following the same pattern other colonizations to distant lands has proceeded here on Earth. That is, the first explorations will be done by government and privately funded explorers/expeditions, then a mix of government-related (military, cartographers, etc) and large commercial interests to start mapping and searching for and starting to exploit natural resources.

        Then, as the larger commercial interests reduce costs and make conditions safer, more and smaller business interests, ending with families and individuals, will make the journey to take advantage of the huge opportunities for wealth and freedom inherent to a new land or world.

        Strat

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I wonder how many people will end up as indentured servants unable to purchase transport back to earth, working in dangerous working conditions on a world run by corporations. They'll be lured by false promises, or maybe even sent by countries with overpopulated prisons.

      Well.. Worked for australia

    • by Anubis350 (772791) on Friday March 09, 2012 @02:07AM (#39297929)
      "In 2291, in an attempt to control violence among deep space miners, the New Earth Government legalized no-holds-bared fighting. Liandri Mining Corporation, working with the NEG, established a series of leagues and bloody public exhibitions. The fights' popularity grew with their brutality. Soon, Liandri discovered that the public matches were their most profitable enterprise. The professional league was formed; a cabal of the most violent and skilled warriors in known space, selected to fight in a Grand Tournament. Now it is 2341. 50 years have passed since founding of DeathMatch. Profits from the Tournament number in the hundreds of billions. You have been selected to fight in the professional league by the Liandri Rules Board. Your strength and brutality are legendary. The time has come to prove you are the best. To crush your enemies; to win the Tournament." (video here [youtube.com])
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday March 09, 2012 @02:07AM (#39297931)

      Unless there is a MAJOR breakthrough with getting mass into orbit.

      It is unlikely that a criminal will have any skills you'd need that would be worth the expense of lifting him into orbit and keeping him fed and watered and breathing.

      • Unless there is a MAJOR breakthrough with getting mass into orbit

        Doesn't have to be fat criminals though.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Downbelow, the brown sector dwellers

    • by sconeu (64226)

      Been there, done that [wikipedia.org]

    • by hodma727 (915852)
      Mars, a prison for the modern age, just like Australia was in its time. This time around it can be for copy write infringements.
      • Perhaps. But in a few centuries, the parties which sniffed their noses at the chance of advance colonization of this or that planet will hate themselves.

        A few words here and there, and someone else could have ended up with Australia. That's an entire continent. Mind you, an entire continent filled with some of the most deadly animals on earth, but it's still a continent that people thrive on.

    • >> I wonder how many people will end up as indentured servants

      A lot. They will all die after working themselves to death. In a hundred years, some wide-eyed university researcher might write a paper about the "human cost" of colonizing the space, that will be read by a few and understood by fewer. That is how humanity expands its frontiers. It's not moral, but it's practical... and sad .

  • by Skapare (16644) on Friday March 09, 2012 @01:36AM (#39297775) Homepage

    And, of course. the government and NASA will help make sure the big corporations will lock out small business and startups from even getting going.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      By the time colonization of Mars will occur, we'll already have targeted ads on our ballots, a president who wears corporate badges on his suit and cap, and five year naming rights for our country sold to the highest bidder*. It'd be a little silly to allow small businesses to come along, innovate, and threaten our sponsor-leaders, wouldn't it?

      *At least there'll be a little amusing political humor if we end up being called the Citi States of America or similar.

    • That's why they buy the laws, it keeps things profitable.
      We can't expect anyone ambitious to help out unless they can win and everyone else loses now, can we?

    • Launch near the equator, you won't suffer from this problem.

    • And, of course. the government and NASA will help make sure the big corporations will lock out small business and startups from even getting going.

      And your tax dollars will subsidize their profits.

  • .... on mars will there ever be any significant corporate interest in going there.

    From what we know so far, it's primarily just a gigantic rusted ball.

    If it turns out that there are more precious materials further below the surface than the tiny rovers that we have sent so far have scraped off, or, even better, albeit probably much more of a stretch, if there are compounds that have never been discovered here on earth and exist naturally there which have sufficiently desirable properties, it might very

    • Nope. Nations will back this just to be part of it. My guess is that the first team will include about 6 ppl on a one-way mission with 3 to 6 nations being represented.
  • Just What We Need (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2012 @01:56AM (#39297881)

    *bingbong* "It looks like you're low on oxygen. Please insert another oxygen canister to continue.......... Oh I'm sorry, that doesn't seem to be a MarsCo(r) Brand Oxygen Experience Unit(tm). Aftermarket canisters such as yours are not supported. Suffocation in 5...4... this death is brought to you by..."

  • by 99luftballon (838486) on Friday March 09, 2012 @01:57AM (#39297889)
    Facehugger anyone? Seriously though, how many of us would sign up for a one-way trip? I'd do it in a heartbeat, but the wife would kill me.
  • And he is dead on (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190)
    The fact is, that NASA can not afford to do prolonged bases. We have already seen the damage that CONgress can do to us over and over and over. Back in the mid 90's, the republicans destroyed NASA's ability to go BEO. Then they gutted them again in 2001. Likewise, they are doing everything possible to gut private space now, to push their SLS. Sadly, CONgress members like Hatch, Coffman, Wolfe, Shelby, Hutchinson, Nelson, etc. are fighting to destroy private space while continuing the funding of SLS until
  • Before any corporation would attempt Mars, the logical stepping stone is the Moon. Any products returned to earth derived from the moon would fall under this law. Helium 3 would fall under this. Moon Bases would complicate ownership. Who is going to verify land ownership for these Corporations if we cant even own a simple Moon Rock?
    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      Laws can be changed? Doesn't seem that complicated a concept. If they have value beyond novelty as moon rocks then they'll have to allow them to be owned.

      Right now moon rocks are valuable because going to the moon is novel, rocks are rare, and they have intrinsic value because they are rare (and worth studying), and even have value as display items because they are from the moon, even if they are, in all other ways, identical to, or more boring than earth rocks. That necessarily requires rules to deal wit

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "...the logical stepping stone is the Moon."

      why? I can think of a lot of research that can be done on the moon, but it doesn't have to be a step.

      When Columbus stumbled upon the Americas, the Spain owned every rock and item. That falls to the side with colonization

  • The "Red Mars", "Green Mars", "Blue Mars" trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson is a great future history that lays out a credible way the Mars colonisation could play out, including the inevitable revolt against the megacorporations. Enjoyed it last summer. The books were written in the early 1990's, evidenly with the best knowledge about Mars available then. At times it feels like the author had visited the place in person... There is no technobable, no miracle technology, this is hard sci-fi at its hardest. Bu
  • Neither NASA nor any other Earth space agency has the right to determine who can/can't travel to Mars. On my space airline, corporate passengers will be prohibited.

  • Exactly what NASA doesn't need. Yes, start offering LEO to corporate entities. There is not enough guarantee or immediate return for Mars, asteroids, etc.

    However, private companies are involved whenever NASA does do things, because Private companies generally build the stuff NASA specifies.

    It doesn't seem like he gets that. It took government money for the Christopher Columbus mission; which was needed to lay the path..as it were.

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday March 09, 2012 @03:09AM (#39298209) Journal

    The summary somewhat misrepresents what Worden said. From the article, here's Worden's actual statement, which seems quite sensible to me: "Governments can develop new technology and do some of the exciting early exploration but in the long run it's the private sector that finds ways to make profit, finds ways to expand humanity. ... Most of private individuals I've talked to about interest in settling on Mars, including Elon Musk, talk about in the next few decades they think the private sector will fund settlement missions - whether to the Moon, Mars, or asteroids. As a government laboratory our job is to develop to enable those kinds of things by developing technology and early exploration, and we hope the private sector will find a way to do something like that."

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday March 09, 2012 @03:30AM (#39298285)
    Expect a quick change of mind after the first Chinese lunar colony is established.
  • I still remember several good novels on that topic (privately funded Mars missions).

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:18AM (#39299005)

    How do we inspire corporations to build things or invest on other worlds? How do they make a profit? If they can't then all their focus will be on getting things into low earth orbit.

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:23AM (#39299021)

    Corporations only care about projects that have a good chance of profits in 5-10 years, which is why private spacecraft are only in LEO. Space exploration is something that might be very important 100 years later, but today it's mostly an expensive scientific project. Which is why corporations aren't interested in it, and why it has to be pioneered by governments. What this statement really means is that NASA has no intentions in a manned Mars mission.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Friday March 09, 2012 @08:39AM (#39299589) Homepage

    A fish rots from the head and that is particularly true at NASA. NASA used to be an amazing organization driven by engineering, now it's a top-heavy, risk-adverse bunch of middle managers spouting complete nonsense and handing out grandiose gag business cards. It's a mish-mash of gutless leadership and money-sucking contractors.

    Colonization of Mars will never be profitable, no company is going to make that kind of investment. How far would we have gotten waiting on corporate sponsorship for the moon landings?

    We need a new NASA with engineering leadership.

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