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Life On Mars: Elon Musk Reveals Details of His Colonisation Vision 229

Elon Musk has put his Mars-colonization vision to paper, and you can read it for free. SpaceX's billionaire founder and CEO published the plan, which he unveiled at a conference in Mexico in September 2016, in the journal New Space. From a report: The paper outlines early designs of the gigantic spacecraft, designed to carry 100 passengers, that he hopes to construct. "The thrust level is enormous," the paper states. "We are talking about a lift-off thrust of 13,000 tons, so it will be quite tectonic when it takes off." Creating a fully self-sustained civilisation of around one million people -- the ultimate goal -- would take 40-100 years according to the plans. Before full colonisation takes place, though, Musk needs to entice the first pioneers to pave the way.
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Life On Mars: Elon Musk Reveals Details of His Colonisation Vision

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  • I'm sure Musk could easily find thousands to initially travel to mars, even with a 50% survivability rate... just look at how many people applied for that contest that was a one-way mission.

    I myself would happily go, if they are really looking...

    • Applying is one thing. Strapping in during the countdown is another.

    • Who would you rather have on Mars with you, one 300 lb man, or three 100 lb women? Cost to get there is the same for both right, based on weight?

      • Who would you rather have on Mars with you, one 300 lb man, or three 100 lb women?

        That's not hard to choose at all - the one guy uses less oxygen than the three women, not to mention if it comes down to it that one 300 pound guy provides a lot more calories than three thin women.

        Cost to get there is the same for both right, based on weight?

        See: Oxygen. Plus you could half the food rations for the 300lb guy figuring he can live party off his own body weight for a while at least.

        In fact if they were smart th

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      I'm sure Musk could easily find thousands to initially travel to mars, even with a 50% survivability rate...

      Sure, staffing the first ship is easy.

      Staffing the second ship, after everyone has seen what happened to all the people on the first one, however... that will be more challenging.

  • I don't want to live on this planet anymore.

  • This will work. All we need to do is mine and asteroid for space dust and fill the hull with it. When we land on Mars we will construct caves and live in them to get around the radiation problem. Anyone else have any ideas on how to colonize Mars?
  • Are there valuable minerals and resources on Mars? Because besides that I can't think of a good reason. Overpopulation isn't really a problem once nations modernize. In fact, underpopulation is. Don't we have better things to be doing then this?
    • Low G retirement. Live to be 150, maybe. The moon might be better, but we really don't know what the ideal G load for old farts raised in 1 G is.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 16, 2017 @02:24PM (#54635253)

      I believe Musk's stated reason is that it's good for the long-term survival of mankind to not have all of our eggs in one basket. It could take centuries to create a colony on Mars that is self-sufficient enough to live on indefinitely should Earth get stricken by an extinction level event. If we wait until an unavoidable threat to Earth is on the visible horizon, there might not be enough time left to build such a colony. Even if we ignore all that, however, a perfectly valid reason for going to Mars is simply because we can. Humans dedicate time and resources to all manner of endeavors that serve only to stoke our collective egos over what we're able to accomplish. If Musk and a ton of other people want to go to Mars simply because they think it would be a cool adventure, then that's good enough reason for them to do it.

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @03:13PM (#54635575) Homepage

      Don't we have better things to be doing then this?

      What, like invade third-world countries that pissed us off? Or sponsor another iteration of the Olympics? Or look at amusingly captioned photos of catst?

      In a lot of cases, the potential benefits of doing something are impossible to know in advance, but maybe you just do it anyway because it looks like it would be a cool thing to do. This is one of those cases. If you don't think it's a promising avenue, go do something else instead; nobody will stop you.

      • and making city air clean. And making clean manufacturing. And What about the upcoming potable water crisis? Mars doesn't exactly solve that one. Now, if we're going there to get more Helium after venting it all into space to make party balloons I might be for it (electronics require Helium)
  • It is a little cold, but we can warm it up. It has a very helpful atmosphere, which, being primarily CO2 with some nitrogen and argon and a few other trace elements, means that we can grow plants on Mars just by compressing the atmosphere.

    Just by compressing the atmosphere...? How do you compress an entire planet's atmosphere?

    • 1. Fly To Mars
    • 2. Compress atmosphere using ?
    • 3. Profit
    • eh, pump some atmosphere into an enclosed pressurized greenhouse

    • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @02:42PM (#54635377) Homepage Journal
      Every "colonizing Mars" plan has these holes. People say "create an atmosphere" or "dig caves" to live in. With what? There is no Home Depot on Mars. How do you create an atmosphere? How do you keep it when there is no magnetosphere? It is a mystery! But who cares - we are going to MARS!
      • Every "colonizing Mars" plan has these holes. People say "create an atmosphere" or "dig caves" to live in. With what? There is no Home Depot on Mars. How do you create an atmosphere? How do you keep it when there is no magnetosphere? It is a mystery! But who cares - we are going to MARS!

        Perhaps if there was a company that created boring machines to make tunnels, like a Boring Company. Then smelt the iron and other metals from the oxides on Mars to finish the tunnel interiors, and use the left over oxygen to help fill the newly built tunnels.

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        No serious person would suggest creating an atmosphere these days. Maybe they would have in the 50s or 60s but our knowledge of the planet (and in particular its lack of magnetosphere as you mentioned) has improved a lot since then.

        For everything else though, much of it does depend on us being able to find and refine minerals and ores on the planet. It might not be a Home Depot, but it should allow a colony to be plenty self-sufficient if we can figure that one out, in the same way that they didn't ship a

      • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

        Every "colonizing Mars" plan has these holes. People say "create an atmosphere" or "dig caves" to live in. With what? There is no Home Depot on Mars. How do you create an atmosphere? How do you keep it when there is no magnetosphere? It is a mystery! But who cares - we are going to MARS!

        Man, you're thinking way too limited! You identified the problem but thought small with the solutions. The first thing to do is to bury a lot of metal at the martian core so that it creates a magnetosphere, then you create an atmosphere (with compression?) that won't just get blown away.

        Yeah man, MARS!!!!

  • by Hussman32 ( 751772 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @02:17PM (#54635203)

    Taking the sun's-eye view of Life As We Know It, it can all go away with a massive asteroid (that we can't see), a freak solar storm (that we'd see for about 8 minutes), or other event that could take us all out.

    After that, all the science, all the technology, all the things we've done to separate ourselves from the rocks we kill each other with are gone. All because we are on a semi-closed system (planet Earth can take new mass in, and ejects minimal amounts of hydrogen).

    It seems prudent to me that we make the ark (Stephenson wasn't the first to name it) and get at least some life (some of it with the ability to sustain the rest) off of this planet. That gives us a non-zero probability of surviving if an extinction level event should happen. We have a budget of billions of dollars spent on items of less importance, sometimes I wonder how we get priorities like this.

    • I never understood this argument. Why is it so critical for our race to not go extinct? Species go extinct all the time. By they way, we can't live anywhere other than Earth (we evolved to live here and other reachable environments would kill us quickly). But as a thought experiment it is nice to think about spreading through the galaxy, even though it is impossible.
      • It's not just our species, its all life (that we know of) that could not exist anymore. Yes, the universe existed for 10 billion years (or so) before this tiny pebble somehow had a remarkable series of events [amazon.com] occur...I'm not religious but life is special and until we know it exists anywhere else on the universe, it seems like its our responsibility to ensure it continues. Otherwise the universe will be boring.

        • and before the grammar nazis get me, yes, I know I missed two apostrophes on the "it's". Someday Ill lurn to prrofreed.

        • Weird. So if you find out that life exists elsewhere you won't be so gung ho about "saving the species"? Species are going extinct right now.
      • I never understood this argument. Why is it so critical for our race to not go extinct?

        Because when it really comes down to it, that is the entire point of life.

      • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

        Why is it so critical for our race to not go extinct? Species go extinct all the time.

        Why is it so critical for you to eat food? People die of starvation all the time.

        Ah, I see -- you don't enjoy starvation and would prefer to avoid it. Similarly, humanity doesn't enjoy extinction, and would prefer to avoid it.

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        Why is it so critical for our race to not go extinct?

        In the grand scheme of things? Its not. In fact the universe will keep on turning even if all life everywhere was extinguished forever. The universe doesn't care about us. Or much of anything else for that matter. It just is.

        In our own perspective though? We consider our survival a little more important than the rest of the universe does. It might not be "critical" but its certainly "highly desirable."

        And of course if you're of the type, you could throw some God into the mix. Though he hasn't shown

    • by WrongMonkey ( 1027334 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @03:17PM (#54635599)

      That gives us a non-zero probability of surviving if an extinction level event should happen.

      We already have a non-zero probability of surviving if an extinction level event should happen. Earth has been hit by extinction level events many times in its history and every single time its still had infinitely more life than Mars has ever had. Even if Earth were simultaneous hit be a nuclear war, global warming and an asteroid, it would still be more hospitable to life than Mars.

      Mars IS an extinction level event. Every single second on Mars is a more hostile environment than Earth has ever been since life evolved. That's not a back up plan. That's a cult suicide pact.

      • Earth has been hit by extinction level events many times in its history and every single time its still had infinitely more life than Mars has ever had.

        Sure, life has always survived. Large organisms, not so much.

        Every single second on Mars is a more hostile environment than Earth has ever been since life evolved. That's not a back up plan.

        Nonsense. Oh, you're right that Mars is a more hostile environment than Earth, but that doesn't mean living there is impossible with the right technology. And if we can develop the technology to live reasonably well on Mars, then it is a disaster recovery plan, because it's far away from Earth.

        That's a cult suicide pact.

        Huh? How do you figure? The decision of some people to go to Mars won't in any way endanger the people who stay on Earth.

        And there really is absolutely no

      • Earth has been hit by extinction level events many times in its history and every single time its still had infinitely more life than Mars has ever had.

        With the possible exception of the Theia impact.

        But more importantly, the Earth is in constant danger of being eaten by an enormous mutant star goat. It's vital that we load the middle managers into an ark and send them to Mars to be safe.

    • by eddeye ( 85134 )

      Taking the sun's-eye view of Life As We Know It, it can all go away with a massive asteroid (that we can't see), a freak solar storm (that we'd see for about 8 minutes), or other event that could take us all out. After that, all the science, all the technology, all the things we've done to separate ourselves from the rocks we kill each other with are gone.

      And you know what? If that happens, chances are 99.9999% that me and all my friends and relatives will be gone to. Only a miniscule number of people

  • Every person who even thinks about colonizing Mars should overwinter at McMurdo station for a least 2 years straight. I don't think you'll find a million volunteers after that screening process. Even Elon Musk would probably change his tune.
    • but people live there and similar places. and most the million would be born there, not screened to live there

  • Musk is a strong believer in powerful AI coming soon. He should combine his two visions, and send robots to Mars so they can build a nice cozy house for him to live in, and enjoy the sunset.

  • ... is priceless and I couldn't refrain from sharing it with others. My favourite parts:

    The paper outlines early designs of the gigantic spacecraft, designed to carry 100 passengers, that he hopes to construct.

    the paper states. “We are talking about a lift-off thrust of 13,000 tons, so it will be quite tectonic when it takes off.”

    The current situation is summed up in a Venn diagram

    “What we need to do is to move those circles together,” Musk explains

    the paper strikes a buoyant, even jocular tone and doesn’t get excessively bogged down in technical detail

    It would be quite fun to be on Mars

    The spaceship’s design is summed up as: “In some ways, it is not that complicated,”

    “We have to figure out how to improve the cost of trips to Mars by five million percent”

    • I laughed because its all rocket jock talk. What about the biology? Psychology? What are everybody going to do once they actually get there? How are you going to build an entire society from scratch?

      Physics is simple. Biology is complex. Humans are insane.

  • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @03:41PM (#54635771)

    The sea dragon was a gigantic rocket designed to be as simple as possible. It was never done full scale, though small scale tests were done and the design was considered viable. It was designed to bring 550 tons to LEO, which is about the same as Musks's super rocket.

    A few awesome facts about the sea dragon :
    - 2 stages, with a single engine (the same) for each stage
    - The first stage of the Saturn V can fit in the engine bell
    - It is a pressurized tank design. No turbo-pumps, the engine is basically 2 valves and an igniter
    - The first stage burns kerosene + LOX. Regular kerosene, not the more expensive RP-1. The 2nd stage uses hydrogen
    - Designed to be launched directly from the sea, with most of the rocket being underwater. The rocket would be powerful enough to destroy any launchpad anyways.
    - Made from 8mm sheet steel, in a ship yard, using the same techniques they use to build submarines
    - Reuseable. It is designed to be able to resist a fall back into water. No costly delicate parts to break

    The whole idea behind this rocket was to make things BIG instead of complex. It is terribly inefficient compared to current designs but it is so huge that it doesn't matter.

  • So much energy is needed just to escape Earth's gravity well, it would make more sense to set up a refueling station either on-orbit or on the moon (much smaller gravity well). That way the giant rocket doesn't have to make the whole trip in one go and it would be much easier to arrange resupplying missions. Anyway, an unmanned mission should be planned first to set up power, air, and begin producing fuel so that the colonists have some things waiting for them that they can rely on for survival. Sending peo
    • The plan involves refueling in orbit. The needs for and benefits of doing so are one of the first topics addressed by the paper. As for the moon, you'd spend more propellant landing on the moon than you would going straight to Mars, and you'd need to deliver far more mass to set up ice mining operations on the moon than you would need on Mars. The moon is a place to go if you want to go to the moon, but it's not an easier target, and if you want to go to Mars it's only an expensive detour.

  • by Slicker ( 102588 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @07:32PM (#54636971)

    Like many, I am excited about what SpaceX is trying to do. I am often trying to fill in the blanks they've left, though. Here are a few:

    1. Gravity. I've long advocated a broad pill-shaped vessel for distant space travel. Spin can be used to simulate gravity but too much will create an uncomfortable corealis effect (dizziness, and the feeling of being pushed walking one way, pulled walking the other). Zero corealis is when the spin is 2 rpm or less but even at 8 rpm, the effects are reasonably negligible. For 2 rpm and Earth-like gravity, the craft would have to be 400 meters in diameter.

    The colonial transporter does seem to have bare walls in the lower occupiable deck. It looks like they may be able to put spinning crew quarters in there with perhaps a bit better than moon-like gravity. One could design a toilet to flush with splash-guards in that environment. If a curfew is put into effect, one could increase the rate of spin after lights out, such as to perhaps greatly reduce the long term effects of weightlessness... then slow it back down again just before wake-up time. The transition between a weightful and weightless environment can be disorienting but I presume one could reasonably adapt in low gravity to no gravity.

    2. Carbon Monoxide. For the colony on Mars itself, nobody (not even NASA) seems to be talking about the CO risk. CO will inevitably find itself way into habitation chambers and at some point, silently kill. Mars CO levels are trace gas but in deadly percentages. CO is very small and is not easily contained--it will seep through most containment materials.

    My solution would be to standardize on hydrogen combustion for heating, cooking, smelting, and other activities requiring high heat. The ambient air will draw in the CO with the oxygen destroying it. Of course, CO monitors must be kept in working order at all times. Hydrogen is easily obtainable through electrolysis of water--which is plentiful in the soils of Mars.

    3. Oxygen Toxicity. This criticism has been made of the Mars One project's published plans. In order to grow enough food to feed a certain number of people, you will inevitably also create more oxygen than they can consume and convert to CO2 through breathing. When too much oxygen builds up, it ultimately freezes the lungs from which the crystalization causes irreparable cellular damage... and death.

    My solution for Oxygen Toxicity is the same as for Carbon Monoxide--combust hydrogen to create heat. Any combustion will consume large amounts of oxygen but combusting hydrogen also solves the CO problem. Mars is very cold and heat it needed for many things.

    4. Heat Dissipation. Most seem concerned with generating and retaining heat in Mars' cold environment. However, heat loss on Mars will not be as rapid as it is on Earth because the atmosphere is thinner. Yes, thin atmosphere equals cold. However, exchange of heat requires molecules to come in contact with each other and when the air density is 1% or even a bit less than on Earth, don't expect the freezing to happen within seconds. A well insulated habitat is likely to over-heat, if no cooling system is available... even perhaps from body heat.

    I propose running cooling coils spread out into the Martian regolith, with ammonia as the heat exchange liquid. The regolith will be fully cooled and, mostly of silica, will very rapidly move heat away. Ammonia will not freeze at Martian temperatures and is readily made by the human body--in pee.

    5. Mental and Emotional Well-Being. Elon Musk's claims that the voyages will be fun seems hopeful but naive. Zero-G games, crew quarters, movies, and lecture halls, and a restaurant (aka glorified cafeteria) will all become old, quickly. Although the privacy of personal quarters, the challenges of games, and various forms of leisure are highly saught after on Earth, that is because we work so much. The truth is, having the stress and feeling of importance of your activities are more essential for human happiness.

  • Does Musk remind anyone else of S.R. Hadden from Contact?

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