16 thoughts on “A Smartass Interview”

  1. That was really funny. Buzz is right too, we should be making our Mars missions one-way, with lots of ISRU equipment etc.

    The amount of fuel you have to burn to carry to Mars the fuel you need to get back is so massive that you could instead carry all of the supplies, ISRU, shelters, greenhouses, solar panels, seeds, etc that youd ever need to stay there permanently.

  2. Buzz is not alone in calling for a one-way manned mission to Mars. I recall Marines suggesting and volunteering for just such a mission. However, it would be another Giant Leap, when what we need is small steps.

    I think Buzz is right to question the need for a heavy-lift rocket. It would be like arguing for a wider gauge on North American railroad tracks. Sure, you could haul more freight per rail car if the tracks were built further apart (enabling bigger cars), but the up-front costs would be enormous and the demand can be met by simply using more cars.

    I fully agree with his characterization of Apollo as a stunt, and permanent colonization as truly impressive. When people are going into space to stay permanently, there will inevitably be a first baby born off the Earth. That’s a first I hope to see in my lifetime, because it won’t be a stunt.

  3. I also think that Mars one way makes sense, but only if they ship a lot of power supplies (think nuclear) before hand. I have never read if they have found any uranium or thorium on Mars like they have on the Moon.

    This one way Mars thing probably needs a megawatt at a minimum to be self sustaining.

    Anyone have any info on this?

  4. It’s great to see Buzz out there promoting one-way to Mars. There are plenty of people (myself included) who would sign up for it if it were available. And it’s the only thing that makes economic sense.

    Congress: “So, NASA, what will it take to put a man on Mars?”

    NASA: “Well, to put a man on Mars and return him to Earth will cost $250 billion.”

    Congress: “Hang on a second…where will this man be after we spend the $250 billion?”

    NASA: “Why, right here on Earth.”

    Congress: “Uh….we may not be a rocket scientists, but we think we can figure out how to achieve that same result for a LOT less money.”

  5. Re your headline, “Smartass Interview…” I have to agree with the characterization. When did Vanity Fair become so scatalogical?

  6. I also think that Mars one way makes sense, but only if they ship a lot of power supplies (think nuclear) before…

    A Mars mission should have an oversupply of everything waiting on the surface. A nuclear powerplant and a dozer to move it should be among the supplies. Several of each actually. We have the capability of starting this now.

    But how does it happen? NASA doesn’t really have a mars program. It’s still too expensive as a private program.

    A mars lander is a very specific problem. An x-prize might be appropriate. Actually, an x-prize might be even more appropriate for prepositioning supplies at the landing site.

    Transportation to mars orbit could be an open competition with a known ticket price per passenger declared beforehand as part of a competition.

    Make it all x-prizes and it’s no government cost unless any prize is completed. Include a recognized title to martian real estate, which makes one way becomes a much more viable option.

  7. I’m a major fan of Buzz’s in most respects, but he’s just out to lunch on this whole one-way trips to Mars thing. A spacefaring civilization should be defined as one in which it is no more difficult to go from point B to point A than it is to do the opposite in the first place. We wouldn’t call the U.S. a seafaring nation if the only places one could sail to were reachable strictly via one-way tickets aboard ships destined to be burned upon reaching their intended far shores. There is a difference between “faring” – of whatever kind – and permanent exile.

  8. There is a difference between “faring” – of whatever kind – and permanent exile.

    But when the Europeans colonized the New World, they were one-way trips, for the most part.

  9. Dick, I know a LOT of people who would not consider it “exile” but “liberation”. But that’s okay, you don’t have to go. You can “exile” me.

  10. But when the Europeans colonized the New World, they were one-way trips, for the most part.

    You’re confusing colonists with explorers. The explorers go first, but they nearly always expect to come back, even those who get scragged by the bad luck of the draw along the way, like Capt. Cook. Christopher Columbus came back. Francis Drake came back. Lewis & Clark came back. Even Hernando Cortez – who didn’t, as legend asserts, actually burn his ships upon arrival in what is now Mexico – came back. We aren’t even at the explorer stage yet where Mars is concerned. It’s too freakin’ early for one way trips.

  11. You’re confusing colonists with explorers.

    No, I understand the difference. That’s why I used the word “colonized”. We’ve been doing plenty of exploration. It’s being done robotically, which is an option that didn’t exist 500 years ago, and the capabilities of our robotic explorers are increasing every year. I would say that we currently know much more about conditions on Mars than the 16th century explorers knew about the New World. And the 15th century explorers were unaware of the very existence of two entire continents!

    I’m not arguing with you; merely pointing that out. I’m not interested in a one-way trip myself, and I’m sure that’s true for the vast majority of people. But you only need a few at first.

  12. Remember that old b&w movie, “When Worlds Collide?”

    Not to say that it will, but we have no way of knowing if an undetected planet killer is heading our way. It could come out of the sun with no warning. Everybody on earth would die.

    That’s a low probability, but high value result that we can mitigate now. Wouldn’t it be sad if we didn’t? Using everything we know about mars plus what the first colonists would learn would give us a good start at developing our first world BEO.

    Some might think it’s worth the effort. Many, right now, are willing to make that one way trip. I hope I live to see it.

  13. I’m not interested in a one-way trip myself, and I’m sure that’s true for the vast majority of people. But you only need a few at first.

    To expand on that a bit, at first only a few colonists came over in dribs and drabs, but as the infrastructure of civilization was gradually built up in the Americas, that trickle became a torrent. It took centuries for our population to reach today’s levels.

    Yet to this day, there are several hundred million Europeans who have never been to the Americas and have no desire to go. Likewise, it will take centuries for Martian colonies to reach population levels comparable with Earth (if that’s even possible, since it’s a smaller planet). Centuries hence, there will still be many people who will continue to live out their lives here on Earth and never go to Mars. They will be content to read books by Martian authors, and watch Martian movies and sporting events on TV.

  14. Re: power requirements for a Mars settlement:

    check out the 4Frontiers Corportation (www.4frontierscorp.com); they did a fair bit of work looking at power requirements for a sustained Mars settlement. They pulled in quite a large number of experts on that study.

  15. If the justification for one-way colonizing is to economize on transported mass requirements early on, one can economize a lot further by simply declining to lug along all the reaction & lander mass needed to land either a minimally resilient and self-sustaining population of people or their minimum infrastructure needs on the Martian surface at all.

    Colonize Mars orbit first; or, maybe, dare I say it, instead. Turn ISRU tools loose on the substance of Deimos and Phobos. Build rotating colony structures with long-term closed-cycle life support systems while living in the rotating crew quarters of the deep space transport that brought you there and subsisting on its long-term closed-cycle life support system.

    Keep the Ph.D. candidates happy by sending humanoid robot explorers down to the surface for all the hard, dangerous labor involved in large-scale surface surveys. Controlling these worthies from Near-Mars Orbit will be orders of magnitude more efficient and productive than attempting to do so from Earth, as current rovers are controlled.

    In the, in my view, increasingly remote event anyone actually wants to try living permanently on a gravitationally deficient dirtball like Mars, these random eccentrics can be accommodated in due course; once the real Mars colony is a going concern – in orbit.

    As per Ken’s concern with establishing an extinction level event insurance policy off-Earth – a goal I heartily endorse, by the way – I maintain my approach can accomplish this more swiftly, more securely and more cheaply than any competing approach that assumes a planetary surface-centric population model.

    When should we do flags and footprints on Mars? How about never!

  16. Dick Eagleson:
    I don’t have a problem with anything you said there. It may well turn out that rotating space colonies have advantages to colonies on the surface; in which case, we should do that instead.

    If so, then the the only human settlements on other planets and moons may be scientific stations like in Antarctica.

    I’m also inclined to believe that some activities like asteroid mining will be done entirely robotically.

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