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Mars Government NASA Space The Almighty Buck

Elon Musk Probably Won't Be the First Martian 169

pacopico writes: In a new biography on him, Elon Musk goes into gory details on his plans for colonizing Mars. The author of the book subsequently decided to run those plans by Andy Weir, the author of The Martian. Weir's book is famous for its technical acumen around getting to and from The Red Planet. His conclusion is that Musk's technology, which includes the biggest rocket ever built, is feasible — but that Musk will not be the first man on Mars. The interview also hits on the future of NASA and what we need to get to Mars. Good stuff. Weir says, "My estimate is that this will happen in 2050. NASA is saying more like 2035, but I don't have faith in Congress to fund them."
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Elon Musk Probably Won't Be the First Martian

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  • >> Elon Musk Probably Won't Be the First Martian

    Neither could anyone else on Earth if there once was (or still is) life on Mars.

  • Of course not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @12:04PM (#49978163)

    Ray Walston

  • by WrongMonkey ( 1027334 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @12:05PM (#49978175)
    Elon Musk is already a Martian. He's just trying to get back home.
    • Is his real name Valentine Michael Smith?

      • by invid ( 163714 )

        Is his real name Valentine Michael Smith?

        I grok that.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @12:12PM (#49978231)

    Just like how the sitting president never traveled far from US borders (Until safe aircraft and a Radio communication infrastructure). A CEO of a large global corporation, really doesn't have the time to leave on an extended multi-year adventure.
    A 20 minute data Lag for a modern CEO could cause major business issues.
    Also the fact when it is ready Musk will be an old man, not really fit for such an adventure.
    Sadly I will be too old to travel to mars in my lifetime. Who has nearly less responsibility as Musk.

    • Elon has said many times that he won't go to Mars until SpaceX is running regular flights to the red planet. He says the same thing about taking SpaceX public.

    • by Megane ( 129182 )
      Basicially, he is The Man Who Sold Mars. [wikipedia.org]
    • If the CEO needs to make real time minute by minute decisions he's not doing his job.

      So what if he's old ? What's the risk, that he'll die ? Life is ultimately a one way trip and at that point in his life he doesn't have that many trips left, might as well make it a big one.

      • He cannot do his job with a 40+ minute lag time in communication, assuming he can get the bandwidth he needs.

        Age is an issue. This isn't going to be a vacation cruise. You will need to work while the ship is getting there. If you are too old to be effective, he will only be in the way, and what do you do with the body if he did die.

        • and what do you do with the body if he did die.

          Tie a rope to it and tie it off to the ship? Give him a viking space funeral? Attach a rocket to his ass and shoot him towards Pluto?

        • what do you do with the body if he did die

          Soylent Green. Fertilizer. What else would you have us do with it? Current burial practices in Western society are ridiculous.

    • A 20 minute data Lag for a modern CEO could cause major business issues.

      A multibillion dollar corporation that requires the CEO on call every minute of every day is filled with complete incompetents on every level. I can't even imagine a decision that requires the CEO to be available 24/7 - if nothing else, running the decision past the legal department gives enough padding that the CEO will have hours, if not days to make any decision....

      • Well that explains why a lot of Stupid decisions made from major corporations.

        There is an attempt of trying to try to get duel CEO for companies so they are not oncall all the time.

    • He's going to semi-retire and run a Tesla showroom in Arabia Planitia. That will probably be easier than opening a showroom in Texas.
    • He's said he wants to retire to Mars, not to work there. Low gravity and a more controlled environment where it's quite possible nobody will have the flu could be good for the elderly.

  • oh such a disconnect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @12:14PM (#49978253) Homepage

    but I dont have faith in Congress to fund them.

    Then you have no one to blame but yourself. Congress can't approve or even discuss meaningful tax and funding increases to NASA because lobbyists and networks of nonprofits like ALEC work around the clock to justify gutting it and other programs meaningful and important to advancing mankind. These nonprofits get their cash and impetus from people like you, and others whom for which taxation at any level is simply outrageous and not to be tolerated.

    You're one man, Elon. Organized systems like NASA are designed to circumvent the single point of failure. Once you shuffle off this mortal coil, your estate will likely take great pains to eliminate this whimsical space travel endeavor of yours and instead re-invest the money into something like oil or war machines, focusing solely on their own profit. If you want to help, if your dream is space and not some aggrandized ego stroke, then you fund nasa and make mars a reality for everyone.

    • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @01:23PM (#49978893)

      If you want to help, if your dream is space and not some aggrandized ego stroke, then you fund nasa and make mars a reality for everyone.

      I got curious so I looked. I know fact checking isn't cool, but really, you couldn't be bothered? Elon Musk's net worth is about $14 billion give or take. NASA's budget for just this year is $17 billion. Mind explaining how he's going to "fund nasa" as you put it when his entire net worth won't fully fund one year?

      The problem is that the public doesn't want money spent on NASA "until we fix our problems here". That day will never, ever come. There will always be "problems here". To give you an example, a guy I know at work who likes SciFi and is pretty smart doesn't want to see NASA get even the $17 billion they get now per year because he thinks the money needs to be spent here on those problems that need to be solved. There are a lot more people like him than me who think that NASA needs even more money than $17 billion.

  • Let China do it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @12:15PM (#49978269) Journal

    but I don't have faith in Congress to fund them

    Let China blow a wad of money* on it. I'd rather see our money spent on an unmanned Titan boat probe, an unmanned Europa submarine, and an extra-solar (alien) planet atmosphere spectragraph "artificial eclipsing" telescope.

    Approx 10% of the cost, but 5x the science, 30% of the same Wow factor (more if plant life found), and a failure would be only 3% as embarrassing as a dead Marsnaut. A friggen bargain to both Ferengi's and Vulcans: logic and greed favor the bots.

    * That they get from lopsided "trade" with us

    • I'd rather see our money spent on an unmanned Titan boat probe, an unmanned Europa submarine, and an extra-solar (alien) planet atmosphere spectragraph "artificial eclipsing" telescope.

      Those are all great things but it doesn't have to be an either/or thing. I'm not at all against robotic exploration but our country could easily fund both manned and robotic missions for a tiny fraction of what we spend on defense. I sigh every time I think about how much science and technology development we could fund with the absurd amount of money the US puts into its military.

      Approx 10% of the cost, but 5x the science, 30% of the same Wow factor (more if plant life found), and a failure would be only 3% as embarrassing as a dead Marsnaut.

      Certainly cheaper for specific tasks. I completely disagree that you'll get 5X the science. You'll just get different scienc

  • by invid ( 163714 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @12:16PM (#49978271)
    As much as I would love to colonize Mars, it would be a lot easier to colonize the Moon. In both cases you need a pressure suit and you're going to be hit by lots of radiation. You'll be spending most of your time underground in both cases. And it's cheaper to get more stuff to the Moon to help people to survive.
    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      That's nice. And what will you do once you get there? Play some awesome networked FPS games?

      The moon seems to have very little of use to us, moon dust is nasty sandpaper that sticks to everything and will probably give you silicosis of the lung, plus the lower gravity is worse for human bodies. (And if you say Helium-3 fusion, you are a complete and total space nutter idiot. We're not even near basic fusion yet, and He3 is not the easiest fuel to fuse.) It's a dead rock full of nothing but basalt. And even

      • by invid ( 163714 ) on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @02:44PM (#49979621)

        That's nice. And what will you do once you get there? Play some awesome networked FPS games?

        I would like to build a Moon base with 2 goal, one as a base for astronomical observatories (radio, visible light, I think it would be a good place to try to detect gravity waves, test some dark matter detection theories) and it would be a good test of how viable it is to live on a very inhospitable world. Lessons learned from a Moon habitat will be useful for an eventual Mars habitat. I have no illusions about a Moon habitat being self sustaining over the long term.

      • by invid ( 163714 )

        And if you say Helium-3 fusion, you are a complete and total space nutter idiot. We're not even near basic fusion yet, and He3 is not the easiest fuel to fuse.

        I am a big proponent of harnessing fusion . . .using solar panels.

      • The perchlorates might be poisonous to Earth life

        Poison? Who cares?! It's a source of oxygen! 4 of them, in fact!

  • The cycling orbit space habitat mentioned in the article is almost the answer. You add to it asteroid mining from nearby orbits. That gives you radiation shielding and a source of fuel, oxygen, food, etc. Now you can send lots of people to Mars without having to use a big rocket each time.

    More details:

    The Earth-Mars space is full of small asteroids. 12,750 have been found so far. Some of them will be a small delta-V (velocity change) from a transfer orbit that goes from Earth to Mars and back. So you

    • by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday June 24, 2015 @12:51PM (#49978583) Homepage Journal
      The problem with orbital mining is that it depends on the presence of orbital manufacturing. And orbital manufacturing depends on the existence of raw material. There is a chicken and egg problem unless you're willing to try to safely deorbit many tons of material every year, which is a terrifying prospect. It doesn't really make sense until we're building some sort of enormous space station or space ship in orbit and the launch costs exceed the eye popping costs of starting up an orbital mining/refining/manufacturing industry.
      • > The problem with orbital mining is that it depends on the presence of orbital manufacturing.

        I'm sorry, but that's a very confused statement. It is quite possible to build a space tug that mines rock from an asteroid, and delivers it to another orbit where it is needed. If the need is for radiation shielding, then no manufacturing steps are required. The more general flow of industry goes:

        Extraction -> Raw Materials Processing -> Ready to Use Materials -> Parts Fabrication -> Assembly

        Usin

  • ...when he decides it is in his interest to found Replicant Inc.

  • If you are talking about a huge rocket, and providing a massive amount of fuel anyway - then why not make use of that to provide constant thrust the entire journey? You can use thrust most of the way to accelerate, then turn around and use the thrust to decelerate. It uses more fuel but it solves the gravity issue.

    You don't even have to provide 1G, just 0.4G or so to acclimate the people to Martian gravity - you could probably get away with less really as long as the people exercised regularly.

    It's also a

    • If we were able to create anywhere near 1G constant thrust, we could be going to other solar systems instead of Mars.

  • from http://www.projectrho.com/publ... [projectrho.com]
    quote:
    I'll believe in people settling Mars at about the same time I see people setting the Gobi Desert. The Gobi Desert is about a thousand times as hospitable as Mars and five hundred times cheaper and easier to reach. Nobody ever writes "Gobi Desert Opera" because, well, it's just kind of plonkingly obvious that there's no good reason to go there and live. It's ugly, it's inhospitable and there's no way to make it pay. Mars is just the same, really. We just romanti
    • > I'll believe in people settling Mars at about the same time I see people setting the Gobi Desert

      Nomadic herders have lived there for a long time. Lately they are building a massive copper and gold mine:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      So I expect there is a pretty big mining town to support the mine. You believe in Mars colonies now?

  • Leonardo da Vinci was. Way too late.
  • A number of parties are yacking about how they're going to Mars. My view is that the first to actually put together a serious attempt will probably be the first to arrive. For example, Weir states:

    A large international effort means large international politics, and you would not be able to be the United States at that table and say, "OK, here's what's going to happen. We need $500 billion among the countries at this table to make a manned mission happen. We'll put in $200 billion, you'll put in whatever. And then what's going to happen is all you guys give the money to us, and we'll turn around and give it to SpaceX to do it all.â No. They're just not going to do that. Each one of these countries is going to want their own businesses to be doing it, right?

    That sounds like a typical clusterfuck not a serious attempt at a manned journey to Mars. If employing local business is a higher priority than a competently run mission, then I don't see how it's going to happen. It's not something you throw together in a few years. That makes such a trip well beyond the planning

  • He won't even be my favorite martian.
  • I got interested again in space exploration and development way back in 1977 when I read a book by physicist Gerard K. O'Neill [ssi.org] titled The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space. That book laid out a case for building large rotating space stations -- called space colonies -- that could be as large as 5 miles long and 2 miles in diameter. By rotating them, it would feel -- roughly -- like Earth normal gravity inside. With a properly created biosphere inside, it would seem like living on Earth. What would

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