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Mars The Almighty Buck

Mars One CEO Insists, Our Mars Colonization Plan Is Feasible 147

szotz writes: Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp has a bizarre definition of the word "plan". Last week he debated two MIT aerospace engineers who were co-authors on a report that said that astronauts would suffocate on Mars if they tried to grow their own food with existing tech. The question on the table: Is the Mars One plan feasible? And the answer seemed to be "it depends on what your definition of a plan is". The stated plan is to send the first humans to Mars for $6 billion by 2027 (twice delayed already). Lansdorp admits they probably won't stick to that schedule or that budget, but that has nothing to do with whether they're going or not. IEEE Spectrum has a write-up of the debate and a link to the MIT team's presentation. It seems the company's looking for $15 million now to fund--you guessed it--more studies.
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Mars One CEO Insists, Our Mars Colonization Plan Is Feasible

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  • 15 million could be way too much or barely enough. Are these studies solely focused on theoretical and simulations, or are they actually building and testing in the real world?
    • by taustin ( 171655 )

      One cannot help but suspect that these studies are on how to make boat payments and take expensive vacations right here on earth.

    • How about maintaining CEO salary?

      Mars One is a crock, and nothing but wishful thinking. They have neither the technical know how nor the means to do anything they say.

      I don't believe a single thing Mars One says, and even some past candidates have quit and said the selection process was as much about your ability to pay the entry fee as anything else.

      In my opinion Mars One is either a really long con, or a serious amount of deluded people thinking they're going to space.

      But it sure as hell isn't something

      • In my opinion Mars One is either a really long con, or a serious amount of deluded people thinking they're going to space.

        It could also be about "hope" - for something different, perhaps better. The fact that so many people are willing to get off this rock, probably to die soon thereafter, might be something we all want to look into as a symptom of something wrong here on Earth. Personally, I can't stand all the hypocrisy, fighting, greed, ego/ethno-centrism. People killing each other because their religions are different, people - especially already rich people - fucking over (or ignoring) others to make an extra nickel. Yad

  • (The plan to bilk the public for even more money, that is.)

    • Yeah. We haven't even managed to have a sustainable, sealed bio plantation here on earth, and it is much, much easier to build something like that than on earth. It would be easier to build a colony on the bottom of the ocean than on Mars.

      But hey, with a budget of $6 billion, they'll be lucky if the people even make it to Mars alive. Colonization is like an impossible stretch goal. For comparison, Mars landers frequently cost in the $2-3 billion range.
      • You don't understand. Mars probes cost NASA $3 billion, but a bunch of "space buffs" who have never attempted to build anything are *way smarter* than everybody else.

        • by aybiss ( 876862 )

          Or on the other hand, Mars probes cost NASA $3 billion, but one man without a government bureaucracy looking over his shoulder could have done the same for a hundredth of the cost in a hundredth of the time.

        • by Anonymous Coward
          As someone who's actually built something for NASA that's flown beyond and in Earth's orbit, the trick seems to be spend 4 months making it work, then 2 years leading NASA on to find out how much money they really do have before turning it over.
    • (The plan to bilk the public for even more money, that is.)

      At least they're not wasting government money, like NASA.
      I'm all in favor of space exploration (including NASA), but if this can be funded by commercial money, through advertising or sponsoring, then that's all the better.

      Maybe this plan is too ambitious, and probably it will fail. But hopefully, a few valuable lessons will be learned, and it will help us all to get a little closer to spreading ourselves a little through the galaxy.

  • Moon Zero? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zamboni1138 ( 308944 ) on Monday August 17, 2015 @10:31PM (#50336425)

    Can someone please remind me why going back to the Moon and putting up some kind of base there isn't the next step?

    I'm all for Humans expanding out into our solar system, but shouldn't we go for extended camping trips in our own backyard before we take the kids on the long haul trip to Wally World?

    • A moon base would be expensive, difficult, and wouldn't really help much for a trip to Mars. Landing on the moon first means you need to escape one more gravity well, more fuel, etc.

      But you don't have to agree with me, some people have proposed a moon base [go.com] on the way to Mars. Most of these proposals (including Mars One) have more to do with manipulating people on earth than they do about actually getting to Mars.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        On the other hand, there are benefits to going to the moon first. The biggest one will be testing new technologies that would be needed on Mars. These can be accomplished with robotic missions, at considerably lower cost and considerably higher frequency. These can also be accomplished with manned missions, again at a lower cost and higher frequency, with a chance of returning the astronauts to Earth if things do go wrong. (Even if you could guarantee the return vehicle for the longer duration flight, r

      • Building a Moon Base and making it self sufficient would be much easier than doing so on Mars. If nothing else, the Moon's only a few days away from Earth, so that emergency supplies could be brought in much more quickly. That means that we'd be able to learn how to construct and maintain a closed ecology without being forced to get everything absolutely right the first time. Then, once we've done that, doing it again on Mars would be much simpler because we'd know ahead of time what we needed to take an
        • Re:Moon Zero? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2015 @12:02AM (#50336735) Homepage

          Building a Moon Base and making it self sufficient would be much easier than doing so on Mars. If nothing else, the Moon's only a few days away from Earth, so that emergency supplies could be brought in much more quickly. That means that we'd be able to learn how to construct and maintain a closed ecology without being forced to get everything absolutely right the first time. Then, once we've done that, doing it again on Mars would be much simpler because we'd know ahead of time what we needed to take and what we didn't.

          Although I don't disagree with your assessment, the same assessment could be made for doing a "test run" on earth. Antarctica is probably closer to the conditions found on mars than the moon is. It seems like it would make the most sense to set up a closed ecology in Antarctica or some place similar first and test everything out there first. An underwater habitat would also be a good option but would most likely be a different construction that what would work best on mars. A lightweight positive pressure dome that can withstand extreme cold would probably work best on mars. You could simulate this easily in Antarctica with a dome of 2psi instead of 1psi so you could see how it all worked for a fraction of the cost of mars or the moon. Growing plants in this dome and any other tests while monitoring co2 levels and other living conditions. I have a hard time taking any country or organization serious that plans on sending a manned mission to mars if they don't also have a plan to do a test run first at one of the two poles and to my knowledge no one has any plans like this so my only conclusion is that no one is seriously planning on trying to send humans to another planet anytime soon.

          • I have a hard time taking any country or organization serious that plans on sending a manned mission to mars if they don't also have a plan to do a test run first at one of the two poles and to my knowledge no one has any plans like this so my only conclusion is that no one is seriously planning on trying to send humans to another planet anytime soon.

            Well said.

          • We're already doing "test runs" on Antartica, with longer "closed transport windows" than the moon would have.

            If you want an explicit Mars colony simulation, put it under a dome on some spare land in Space Center Houston and only access it through strict procedural simulation.

            • We're already doing "test runs" on Antartica, with longer "closed transport windows" than the moon would have.

              If you want an explicit Mars colony simulation, put it under a dome on some spare land in Space Center Houston and only access it through strict procedural simulation.

              The Antarctica station is nowhere close to an actual "test run". Yes, it might have limited transport windows and it's cold but that's about where the similarity ends. It's not the limited transport window that's the big problem but the fact that we have no clue how to create a self sustaining biodome. A proper test station in Antarctica should be completely airtight and should have enough room inside to actually grow enough food to eat and to produce the needed oxygen. Another option to produce the oxy

          • The only thing doing the test runs in Antarctica accomplishes that doing them in Houston doesn't is increase the risk. Yes, there's some benefit there, people behave differently if they know their life is on the line. On the other hand, if you spend half a decade training your astronauts and have them die in the final shakeout you're out literally millions of dollars and irreplaceable training time.

            • if you spend half a decade training your astronauts and have them die in the final shakeout you're out literally millions of dollars and irreplaceable training time.

              If you can't keep an astronaut alive in Antarctica then you have no business planning a trip to mars. Antarctica is a cakewalk compared to all the additional risks and dangers associated with mars. You have no issue with air quality, you can burn an open fire to stay warm until help arrives. We can fly a plane in to get you. It's several orders of magnitude easier and safer in Antarctica than a trip to Mars would be.

          • I still like the underwater habitat idea. You are right, the conditions are more mars-like at the poles. But an undwerwater habitat HAS to be completely self-contained. If there is a leak they are going to know about it very quickly! With an Antarctic (or Arctic) habitat there would always be a little lingering doubt.. did they really manage to maintain the proper O2 to CO2 balance.. or was there mixing going on with the outside air...

            Ideally they would do both but it would be nice if they made it into sp

            • How about a double dome? The outer dome's translucency is changed so the amount of sunlight coming through is the same as on Mars, and the pressure, temperature and composition of the air between the domes is carefully maintained to resemble Mars as much as possible. Then the self-sufficient system has to recreate earth-like conditions inside the inner dome. You can use all sorts of tricks and as much energy as you like to maintain the Mars atmosphere between the domes, but the inner dome has to be self-suf

              • How about a double dome? The outer dome's translucency is changed so the amount of sunlight coming through is the same as on Mars, and the pressure, temperature and composition of the air between the domes is carefully maintained to resemble Mars as much as possible. Then the self-sufficient system has to recreate earth-like conditions inside the inner dome. You can use all sorts of tricks and as much energy as you like to maintain the Mars atmosphere between the domes, but the inner dome has to be self-sufficient. The only thing that doesn't match Mars conditions then, is gravity.

                This would work rather well. There are acceptable tricks the inner dome could do too like outgassing, pulling in the "martian air" to correct imbalances, etc... Also, I'm not sure 100% self-contained and self-sufficient is necessary. One reason that the biodomes failed is that they set the bar too high. If they set the bar a little lower and instead of being deceitful, just kept track of when they "cheated" and recorded the amount of outgassing, extra food needed, extra oxygen needed, etc... then that

          • You don't need polar conditions, you just need a cold place. The top of a mountain in the Rocky mountains would work just fine, and some mountains even have roads and power lines already.
        • Build the base on the moon, when it's up and running, put a big motor under it and launch the whole thing to Mars. Big old Winnebago... What would look cooler?

      • by aybiss ( 876862 )

        Nobody is suggesting it's a permanent outpost you have to go to first before Mars. What it is is a scaled down version of the same problem.

      • I wasn't looking to agree/disagree, I was looking to engage debate. I thank you for adding into that.

        In regards to cost, wouldn't it be more feasible, for transport, financial expense, time-to-goal, to be looking at the moon as a next step after what has already been done in LEO (Low Earth Orbit)?

        • Someone else in this conversation suggested that if any government were serious about establishing a long-term base on the moon or Mars, they would start by building a self-contained base on Antarctica. That seems reasonable to me.
          • I think the main problem with that is "where is the fun in that". It will probably be a lot easier to get funds and people on a mission to the Moon or Mars that to set up a test base on Antarctica. It's not as sexy.
          • Someone else in this conversation suggested that if any government were serious about establishing a long-term base on the moon or Mars, they would start by building a self-contained base on Antarctica. That seems reasonable to me.

            It really doesn't make any sense. The high desert is where they should go. It's dramatically more similar to either planet than is Antarctica, which has a crapload of solid water flying about.

            • It really doesn't make any sense. The high desert is where they should go. It's dramatically more similar to either planet than is Antarctica, which has a crapload of solid water flying about.

              What is "crapload" in metric terms? Antarctica has very little precipitation [wikipedia.org]: "It is also extremely dry (technically a desert), averaging 166mm (6.5 in) of precipitation per year". All of the ice in Antarctica may confuse you, but the reason why there is so much is that it is extremely cold ("The Climate of Antarctica is the coldest on Earth.") so that the little water that falls does not melt and run off.

      • Moon base would have many the same issues as Mars base. No atmosphere from human being's lungs point of view (0.6% of earth's pressure on mars), high radiation, no concentrated water, need for tight recycling...it would be the ideal place to solve many engineering problems of supporting humans on Mars mission.

        • Moon is even worse than Mars, with more radiation due to the inverse square law, no CO2 to harvest from, worse lack of gravity.
          We should do nothing at all. Better to spend on more useful things such as another billion per year on nuclear fusion, or water treatment plants here on Earth.

          • Why is our vision for the future limited to "another billion a year"?

            If we can get all fired up about imaginary weapons of mass destruction and spend $800 Billion over 8 years, why not fusion?

          • more radiation combined with proximity to earth makes it an excellent training base for further manned exploration of solar system, Until certain key engineering issues solved for Mars exploration by man, moon is logical choice to establish base.

      • The Moon is not a good rest area for a trip to Mars. But it is a good practice area for building colonies.

        But just like you allow kids to camp first in your own backyard, then at the local campsite before allowing them to go trekking through the Rockies, you want to do a few practice runs closer to home with a good chance of survival if stuff goes wrong.

        If would make little sense to drop down another gravity on your way. The only sensible rest area would be a space station in orbit, like the ISS.

      • I see a moon base as not literally "on the way to Mars" but more developmentally.

        Build the moon base, solve problems at closer distance / lower cost. Then take on the bigger journey. The problems will be different on Mars, but not so different that the moon base experience will be 100% useless.

        I'd liken it to colonizing the Canary Islands, before trying to jump all the way to Mexico (from Spain).

    • Economically, going to the moon was a failure. What i mean by this is: it lowered living standards for those on earth, because the resources consumed in doing it, did not create anything useful that allowed the same amount to be created. This is the reason we have never gone back. Mars is the next target because only governments will pour so much money down the drain, and no government is interested in doing something that Americans did 50 years ago. So it's the next political goal. The viability of mars
      • by aybiss ( 876862 )

        "It's worth comparing to missions undertaken to the new world, or the colonisation of Australia"

        Hmmm yeah when that funding from you guys ran out it was hell down here. Oh except for all that coal our self-sustaining economy keeps selling, but hey that's only a half a billion tons per year.

      • Economically, going to the moon was a failure. What i mean by this is: it lowered living standards for those on earth, because the resources consumed in doing it, did not create anything useful that allowed the same amount to be created.

        It certainly inspired an entire generation, many of whom pursued technical careers. Guess there's no value in that.

      • you think we humans gained nothing from NASA from its start until the end of apollo (or now???)

        I feel sad for you
      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        You know commercial development of Antarctica is illegal by international treaty, right? On the other side, there's lots of commercial development (of the oil drilling and diamond mining variety) in the arctic.

        Mars isn't going to be economically viable for anything. The moon though, there are possibilities. The far side is shielded from Earth for radio telescopes, there's lots of hard vacuum, and the crust is full of stuff for making solar panels. It's also pretty likely we could make rocket fuel on the

      • Economically, going to the moon was a failure. What i mean by this is: it lowered living standards for those on earth, because the resources consumed in doing it, did not create anything useful that allowed the same amount to be created.

        Do you have any citation for the lowered living standards other than extrapolating from "resources were consumed" and "nothing useful was created". I don't think economics works in this simple way.

    • by merky1 ( 83978 )

      because we will be able to hear the dying screams of the colonists sooner with a moon base. With a mars base, no one cares because the time it would take to launch a rescue would be futile.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Entirely agree. It is the epitome of arrogance to think we could design everything needed to colonize Mars without testing it in any kind of realistic way. "Ok, here's a bunch of stuff we think will all work together as needed to let us survive on a sterile planet bathed in radiation. And if we forgot something, I'm sure we can work it out, with all the resources we have close at hand." Not. The lunar environment is essentially identical to that of Mars, and it is _right next door_. Let's try living

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The atmosphere also helps with aerobraking. No need to import carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen is more readily available. Yes, there is a radiation problem. You can build an Earth-Mars cycler as Buzz Aldrin proposes. There is also biology, which will have benefits on earth.

    • Can someone please remind me why going back to the Moon and putting up some kind of base there isn't the next step?

      For the same reason you don't practice for an expedition to Antarctica in the Sahara desert.

      • So nothing more can be learned by sending a next generation of craft and personnel to the Moon for extended periods of time?

        • Not really - the environments are simply too different, and thus there is virtually nothing common in the equipment. Exploration training can be conducted much more cheaply on Earth, and logistics and planning training much more cheaply in LEO.

    • by deego ( 587575 )

      You kidding me, right?

      With a Mars colony, unlike with a moon colony, there's hope. Hope of creating a self-sustaining colony. A backup for the human race.

      ALL the world's problems you worry about everyday pale in comparison to that one single problem. Poverty, Racism, republicans, democrats (yes, they're both problems, aren't they?), global warming, dictatorships, mass murder are all tiny, tiny, non-issues compared to this one problem: We, as a species, have no backup.

    • by zmooc ( 33175 )

      A day on the moon takes a month. A day on Antarctica, which is mentioned as a good alternative to the moon has winter nights that last months. A day on Mars, OTOH, is a bit more than 24 hours. Also note that water on the moon can probably be found near the poles while on Mars there's a slight chance some digging will get you water in areas with a less hostile climate. Once you get there, life on Mars is likely to be easier than it is on Antarctica during the winter.

      Large scale biosphere-recreating experimen

  • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Monday August 17, 2015 @10:48PM (#50336501)
    They have a very basic plan, that goes something like this:

    Step 1: Raise Lots of Money.
    Step 2: ???????
    Step 3: Profit!
    • I think you can just delete Step 2.
      • You need Step 2. so that you can sucker people into helping you with Step 1.

        Meanwhile, we'll see economically viable seasteading before we see a viable Mars project, and seasteading systems follow a similar financial plan.

    • How is that different from NASA, or any research? It always starts with step 1, followed by step 2. Only step 3 is different, and in this case I have yet to see that this was just a cheap scam. I personally think that these people are naive, but honest.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Not having step 3 makes an huge diference

        • Mars One is a not for profit foundation.
          NASA on the other hand is employing loads of for-profit enterprises in its research and development of new probes/technologies.

          • Mars One is a not for profit foundation.

            "Non profits" are perfectly capable of paying their officers huge salaries for doing nothing. All "not for profit" means is that there are no share holders and they can collect money with many tax exemptions. "Non profits" that are run for the profit of the founder and his/her cronies is one of the oldest scams in the book.

  • ...and absolutely pointless. Mars cannot sustain humans because it cannot sustain an atmosphere -- it's a dead rock. Explore it with bots, coolness: Send humans, pointless waste of resources. Venus is much closer and far more practical in terms of potential scientific returns on expenditure. Forget Mars for now.

    • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      But that's where all the precursor ships are! There have to be like, 15 precursor ships and bases on Mars!

      Well... and whatever this [cnet.com] is, on Ceres. That looks like some precursor shit right there, too.

  • Sorry, but a one-way TELEVISED trip to Mars isn't "feasible".

    It's a goddamn extended snuff film. Nothing more, nothing less.

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      I don't know, that seems to me to be the only feasible thing about the whole scheme. Getting people to Mars? Possible. Keeping them alive there for an extended period of time? Unlikely. People paying to watch a bunch of other people crammed into a can go to pieces and then die? You betcha.

    • I'd still pay to see it, and for the right finders fee, I know a few people we could coerce to go.
  • My plan for flapping my arms and attaining supersonic speed is totally feasible. I just need more money for studies.

    But seriously though, this whole thing has been an exercise in watching someone (Bas Lansdorp) gradually become educated about space technology and why going to Mars is hard, except his self-education has been happening publicly and somewhat humiliatingly and against his own will. And this is if we're being charitable and assuming it's not a scam.

    Elon Musk has an infinitely better plan for goi

    • Elon Musk has an infinitely better plan for going to Mars, and best of all, he has the smarts and the resources to do it.

      I have as big a nerd-crush on Musk as the next geek, but he doesn't have what it takes to acomplish his "ultimate" goal of setting up a backup for humanity on Mars. Terraforming mars is a few orders of magnitude more difficult than reversing climate change here on Earth.

      • Musk's plan is addressed in the article I linked. It's worth a read. A big part of his idea is to build a cheap reusable rocket so that going to Mars isn't as expensive as it is now.

        Terraforming Mars is a distant goal and isn't necessary right now. The first habitats on Mars will probably be pressurized tunnels and domes.

  • Not, that this makes the MarsONE Project any more feasible in this timeframe but the Study is not worth the paper it is printed on!

    1. They claim, there is no easy ay to separate Nitrogen from Oxygen (clearly false, there are several ways, easiest and cheapest is with membrane filters)
    2. they have not understood, how plants produce O2 (out of CO2, so oxygen levels could only rise if there was a large amount of additional CO2 supplied to the pants in addition to the one produced by humands and microorganis
    • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

      1. separation of constituent gases using a column is well known process in the petrochemical industry.
      2. Plants consume oxygen as well, the point at which plants produce more oxygen than they consume is the point at which they thrive because they're finding the ideal environment with the right balance of solar energy, CO2, water and oxygen. You could drop a plant in a pure CO2 environment but guess what? It'll suffocate just like a cat would.
      3. CO2 isn't toxic. Plants prove that. Nobody ever suffocated due

  • That's only five times the cost of a twenty eight mile tram line in my neighbourhood.

    Lemme do the math...

    5 x 28 = 140.

    Six billion gets you one two millionth the way there in today's money.

    Something doesn't add up. How the fuck are they doing this with six billion?

  • You know what? Maybe we shouldn't go anywhere until as an entire race we fix our fuck-ups here on Earth or die trying. This includes how we treat each other as well. Otherwise we're likely to just repeat the same stupid mistakes and perpetuate the same shitty behavior somewhere else.
  • To make this happen, they really need to build a biosphere 3 and get it to work. If they have to add some O2, fine. But they need to know what the facts are.

    Ideally, they would build this in the Antarctica's amundsen scott south pole station. For energy, it would be great if they were allowed to put a SMALLL nuclear reactor there. Likewise, use some of the Bigelow Units for living in. This would be by far the closest to Mars that we could see on Earth.
  • Mars One isn't a hoax, it's a lie. The guy is doing it for money and fame, not for giggles.

  • People need to get over this idea of fixed deadlines. This is research. Research is filled with unknowns. That's the whole point. If it was easy then everyone would be doing it and all the problems would already be known and solved. The reality is you don't even know what you're talking about. You don't know what the problems will be. You can't know what the solutions will be. It will require years, perhaps decades, and a lot of money to figure out what are the problems and what are the solutions. People wi

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