Slaying The Dragons Of Mars

Stewart Money has an interesting essay on progress in understanding the risks of a Mars flight:

This most recent experience brings to mind another observation Zubrin made in The Case for Mars, once it was foreseen that the oceans could be crossed, people of the era did not wait for the advent of iron plated steamships, they raised sail and headed out into the unknown with what they had available ”iron men in wooden ships.”

Why should we do any less?

Why indeed?

[Cross-posted at Safe Is Not An Option]

78 thoughts on “Slaying The Dragons Of Mars”

  1. Why would anyone want to go to Mars? There isn’t anything there. Its like going to Iowa to look at the mountains.

    If ancient seafarers could look across the ocean and see that a giant desert was waiting for them, would they have still gone?

    Aside from it being closer than other options and that it might have once had life, there isn’t anything compelling about Mars. And other places might have life that’s still alive.

  2. The lamest of lame analogies. Those who crossed the oceans took what they needed to pioneer another part of the Earth –not absolutely every damned thing needed to sustain life. And they employed technology that had been in use for thousands of years.

    1. The most important things those early pioneers took with them were tools and the skills to use them.

    2. Mike,

      No, if that was true there would be settlements in Antarctica now. Where are they except for science outposts?

      They pioneers didn’t need to take tools as the locals when they got there already had them and the knowledge to live off of local resources. The pioneers needed to step in and take over when European diseases wiped them out. The only place they needed to bring their own tools was where there were few locals left like the American west.

      The problem with Mars is not getting there. Any aerospace engineer could design you a system to do so if you have the money to build it. Your real challenge is learning how to live there once you do. The same is true of the Moon, NEOs and the rest of the Solar System.

      1. It is much, much easier to colonize the Sahara or (as Thomas says) Antarctica or the ocean floor than to colonize the moon or Mars. So, why go? Exploration? Lebensraum? Eggs and baskets? Political freedom? Resource exploitation (mining?)? Not keeping all your eggs in the same basket is getting a better and better argument–we’re getting closer and closer to garage nukes and biobombs–but a colony way out in the boonies of earth would be an unlikely target of those.

          1. There’ve been a few attempts at seasteading, so far none have been successful. I’m not sure what advantages an off-planet colony would have over a seastead, other than it takes longer for a missile to hit it.

          2. Seasteading is like an O’Neill colony. It actually requires a lot more wealth from the tenants.

            That’s the problem with every other settlement plan. It requires the colonists to pay for it. That kills their plans right there. It will never happen anymore than Apollo opened up the solar system.

            My plan is that every colonist goes for free and arrives with resources. This opens settlement up to everybody.

          3. I’ve been trying to imagine a scenario where it requires less financial outlay to get to Mars to join a colony than to join a seastead. So far I haven’t managed to some up with one.

          4. Sorry, I missed your final paragraph. So, someone foots the bill for the Mars colonists but nobody would foot the bill for the seasteaders?

    3. The points being: trans-oceanic pioneers a) had an inexpensive, familiar way to get where they were going and b) there was a there, there, i.e. they could survive there without requiring a lot of extraordinary means. When you can figure out a) how to drive a DC-9 to Mars and b) breathe the atmosphere and commence hunting and farming as soon as you show up, then we can talk.

      1. not absolutely every damned thing needed to sustain life

        There’s your first false assumption which makes everything that follows wrong. Mars already has everything required for life. Otherwise it would be a bad choice (like depending on delta V to secure resources before we are ready, which one day we will be.)

        Oxygen is trivial to secure. But just like on earth they will have to develop utilities to distribute things to people. Does your home not have utilities supplied to it? (Power, water, etc.) Why would it be any different on mars?

        breathe the atmosphere and commence hunting and farming as soon as you show up, then we can talk

        They will be breathing at all times so this makes no sense. They will not be hunting (any game they bring will be in a chamber that wouldn’t make much sport of it.) Hunting is not a requirement; they will have meat without the need to hunt. Most Americans do not hunt for their food. So why bring in such an unnecessary requirement? (Which suggest another motive?)

        They will be able to farm as soon as they show up; however, it will scale up over time. At first they may do hydroponics. You can get the kits at Walmart and other stores. Not much later they will have plastic domes with UV protection for a shirtsleeve gardening environment (at 10psi which is the same as where I live at 7000 ft.)

          1. What? This is not faith based. How hard is it to drive to Walmart? We already know how they can make plastic for their domes ISRU, but the first landers will bring enough for dozens of farms with them.

            Instead of hand waving, pick a particular issue and explain why it can’t be done? (and will be if required on their frontier.)

        1. Some of the funnier schemes for the O’Neill colonies were those related to the production of meat. Somewhere in storage I have copies of the Mother Earth articles that made up the big debates between the rabbit and guinea pigs folks about which would be the better meat animal.

          What few folks don’t seem to understand is that beyond Earth meat makes no sense. At best for each pound of meat you get you need to produce about 10 pounds of food that could go straight to the settlers. Also there is the labor involved per pound of meat which is an even more important resource.

          The test tube meat that PETA is developing is promising, but for very practical reason most space settlers will be vegans, not out of philosophy but out of simple necessity.

          On Earth its not an issue because of all the pastureland and farmland available, just plant extra crops for the livestock or turn them out to pasture. In space that simply won’t work for many generations and by then the settlers will be so used to being vegan they won’t worry about doing it.

          Which again illustrates the biggest challenge with space settlements. Everyone is focusing on the easiest part of the problem, building rockets, few are focusing the critical problem of how to survive off local resources when we get there so you don’t need a year long supply chain for food.

          1. Meat makes no sense, unless you want some. That’s why beef cost more than carrots.

            Again, Pournelle identified the one critical item in the 70s. Lot’s of cheap energy.

          2. Ken,

            Its not about wanting it. Its about having the capability to produce. Or are your planning to send some cattle with your settlers?

          3. Well, once they have Firefly class vessels…

            Yes, Thomas. Somebody, someday will spend six months shipping a few calves to mars. To corner the market. Somebody else will figure out how to compete with them.

            Before that, somebody will ship a few steaks and sell it for gold because the marginal cost to do so will allow it.

  3. Antarctica again, Thomas? I thought we’d already driven a stake through the heart of that analogy? First, you don’t live on glaciers. Second, people don’t want to live there.

    People do want to live on mars and that is the only justification required (assuming they don’t demand other people pay for it.)

    1. Ken,

      Antarctica is a garden spot compared to Mars. Why do you think it attracts tens of thousands of tourists every year. But more to the point. If you are not able to be self-sufficient in Antarctica you have no hope of being so on Mars.

      1. Ridiculous, Thomas. Mars not only has much more diverse resources than Antartica, it probably has more now than ANY spot on earth because it hasn’t been picked clean yet.

        just to leave

        Brian, only if they’re stupid. Which is to say unprepared. I’ve lived in places in California that looked like mars with scrub brush. At night the desert gets cold. The people in the area moved there because they preferred it to other options. On both mars and the desert you would depend on others to provide the things you don’t provide yourself. A great opportunity for free enterprise and wealth.

        On earth, the chances are that any service or product you come up with already has so much competition there’s no room for you to enter as another provider. On mars, almost every product or service you can think of will be in demand. That’s paradise for the right people. No welfare to support either, basic needs are taken care of from the basic martian kit (water, power, food.)

        Food will be a natural field of enterprise. While you may grow enough food to survive you will want to trade with others. If you specialize in something the colony needs, you can skip gardening and making water and such and just buy it from your neighbors. No different than on earth.

          1. I don’t follow your logic. First, I don’t expect children to be put on rockets until society finds them safe enough. So only adults will be traveling to mars. Second, if there are children on mars they will be staying there until the first condition is met or they become adults.

        1. Ken,

          [[[Mars not only has much more diverse resources than Antartica, it probably has more now than ANY spot on earth because it hasn’t been picked clean yet.]]]

          Do you really believe that? For one, Antarctica has coal, a very useful substance, not just for energy but for a variety of chemical process. Have you seen any reports of coal beds on Mars? Then of course there are the local wildlife that is eatable. I didn’t see many seals in the Mars rover images. Having air to breathe without have to crack it out of soil is nice as well…

          1. Do you really believe that?


            Oh, I guess I should elaborate. Antarctica has coal does it? Wonderful. What does mars have? Air filled with carbon. Just as useful and a lot easier to get at.

            Generally, nobody eats wildlife (well, Sarah and Todd.) We eat farm animals. Just like the farm animals martians will eat.

            Air to breath, water to drink. We sure do need these. Now, explain how martians will lack these?

            Let’s look at water on earth for example. How many people would die off if we treated it the same as the air? They don’t because we don’t. So why would you think the martians wouldn’t do the very tiny little bit required to have oxygen and water stored in abundance?

            The oxygen is recycled (Carbon DiOXIDE.) They don’t have to, but they will recycle water as well. Neither actually has to be recycled because it abundant enough for them to waste.

            The only thing they really need is abundant cheap power. If they shoot the lawyers [figuratively] they will have that.

          2. Ken,

            Although coal is mostly Carbon, its not all carbon and those small amounts of sulfur, oxygen and hydrogen are important. Also with carbon the structure of the molecule is always important which is why coal is not the same as what you find in the martian atmosphere. Its like claiming pencil “lead” (Graphite) and Diamonds are the same 🙂

            Wildlife is useful when your food production fails. And a hundred years was a common supplement in many rural areas. Why do you think kids used to carry guns to school? It was so they could “pick up” dinner on the way home after school.

          3. Now you’re just getting lame Thomas. There is a huge difference between “it’s not in the form I like” and “It’s not there at all.” Mars has sulfur as well. Since we’ve already mentioned water, why mention hydrogen?

            Wildlife is useful when your food production fails.

            Yes it is. But I note that communist countries still manage to starve people. The solution is not to allow food production to fail by building in the profit motive and not choosing some form of communism or central planning as the foundation of your colony.

            I’ve pointed out numerous time that industrial processes don’t have to be the best possible, they only have to be enough. Mars has more than enough of everything a colony needs. Pointing out that it isn’t earth is not an argument.

          4. I will note that when I went to Istanbul to meet my fiance, we met another couple and spent some time seeing the sights. We kept in touch afterward and learned later that the woman from Russia lost her son. He froze to death while fishing. He wasn’t fishing for sport.

          5. Ken,

            I take it you haven’t taken organic chemistry. Hint – its all about carbon 🙂

            Superman may be able to make diamonds from coal by just squeezing it in his hand. However the actual process for making artificial diamonds is a bit more complex in reality. And you need more than simple energy.

            Yes, there is carbon in the atmosphere, or more correctly carbon dioxide. But its not going to be as easy as you think to turn it into fuel or the other goodies we get from coal beds.

          6. Thomas, you are not talking to a child. I know what organic chemistry is.

            Thomas, you are just not getting me, are you?

            It is no a question of, is it easier on earth. You are whistling past me with that argument.

            Even on earth we sometimes do not use the ‘best’ chemical process because other processes have other advantages.

            The question is can you do it at all? They have abundant carbon, easy to get at… Which means they can have industry based on organic chemistry. It doesn’t have to be the same as on earth.

            Methane is a pretty good fuel.

            Mars isn’t going to be a copy of earth. Values will go to different levels in the market for the same things on earth. But they will be able to live, as Pournelle puts it, in style.

            Economic laws work the same everywhere in the universe. They will not have the same industries on mars, some will be, some will not be, but the industry they have will suit their requirements and resources.

          7. The real issue with mars is not technical or even industrial, it’s political.

            Mars gives us the opportunity for true liberty. That requires a government even more limited than our constitution which gave too much wiggle room for fascism.

            Property rights, contract law and liberty is all they need; their biggest fight will be with their own tendencies to do things as a ‘public.’

  4. there isn’t anything compelling about Mars

    An amazing statement Wodun. Especially from a guy that is so right on so many other issues.

    You measure compelling by how many people are interested. By that measure, few things are as compelling as mars. 70% of Americans want us to send humans to mars. 7% want to go themselves. Thousands of people have already contact mars one to be the only four people living on a planet (a suicide mission as Trent rightly describes it.) That’s compelling.

    1. I can see the appeal of Mars but I am not sold on it as a destination at least not initially. There are too many barriers to living on the surface, leaving the surface, and interacting with other groups of humans. The moons of Mars are also unattractive. The only thing that gives Mars a leg up, is the shorter distance over other alternatives. But when we solve the problems in terms of technology and life sciences that will allow relatively safe and swift passage to Mars, it could be that other destinations would be a wiser course.

      Is your settlement plan dependent on Mars or can it be implemented in other locations?

      When I look at the solar system, I see a board game and I apply game theory when daydreaming about where we should go. Where are the resources that are the most easily accessible and easiest to ship to the home planet or other destinations? Where could we set up many different communities that would be able to interact with each other physically and communicate without long delays?

      Looking at the board, with these goals in mind, Jupiter and Saturn look appealing. If life were an RTS, one of those two places is where I would go first. One day I was thinking about this and how I would determine which place is better and since its a daydream, you know the sky is the limit. So I drew a crude picture of the solar system and started filling in some details about each of the planets.

      The sort of stuff like how many moons per planet, what resources those moons have, and any other interesting features. Now, this analogy isn’t perfect and I am just a daydreaming space cadet not a rocket surgeon, so the math could kill this in any number of ways I am sure but as I stared at the Greeks and Trojans it struck me how the solar system is a lot like a vagina.

      I say vagina cause it sounds cool to say but the important stuff that makes the analogy work is a little further up. The Greeks and Trojans are like ovaries, visually anyway, pumping out eggs toward Earth, the Earth shoots its little sperm to the eggs and a zygote is created. And doesn’t the asteroid belt look at little bit like a placenta? Anyway, it is an imperfect analogy.

      The main point is that the moons of Jupiter and the asteroids trapped in the Lagrange points could pump life enabling nutrients, especially water, into the womb of the solar system. Distance and time don’t matter as much for shipping items back as long as the there is scale and consistency to the shipments. And around Jupiter there could be many small communities that would be able to communicate, trade, and support each other. Radiation is a major issue but that is something we must learn to deal with where ever we go.

      Anyways, like any space cadet I could go on and on but that’s my daydream.

      1. Wodun,

        Actually you should look a little further out to Saturn. Rings of ice already chopped up into small easy to handle sizes, a moon full of hydrocarbons (think plastic and petrochemicals…) and a variety of Moons (62 and counting so far) each with its own goodies to exploit. What more could you want?

        1. I thought about Saturn and it is definitely a place we need to set up shop but it didn’t fit all of my criteria, especially being able to make a vagina analogy.

  5. The biggest problem with mars mission plans is they leave out the one thing that will make them successful… ownership.

    The Space Settlement Initiative gives ownership to a single entity, then few. This would be the India model where people are choking on government restrictions.

    Mars One just recently made all their potential colonists employees. This does not look good for the idea of individual ownership. They will depend on life support only their slave owner supplies.

    Other plans have great architectural designs for a community of slaves.

    Individuals with resources don’t need top down enslaving designs. They just need freedom. Without property ownership there will be no freedom.

  6. John Hare says I have a germ of an idea that doesn’t close the business case. I am very appreciative of his criticism. His main objection seems to be that others would go, not being a part of my charter. My response is so what?, let each ideology compete.

    What do I need to get John Hare on board? Because then I will know my plan is right. What do I need to do to get the rest of you to be critical? What about my argument is wrong?

    Thomas is my next biggest critic and I think I’ve demolished his Antarctic analogy.

    Trent has rightly brought up the issue of what size claim works. I don’t think any size works in the short term and but that almost any works in the long term. The important thing is a strong belief in ownership, regardless of size.

    No amount of persuasion will move some of course.

    I don’t want to hear from O’Neill supporters (that’s just a distraction) unless they focus on critical aspects of a mars colony. Will it work with my settlement charter or not?

    1. Ken,

      Not really given its a couple order of magnitudes easier to survive in the Antarctic then on Mars. As least you have air to breath. And potential sources of food like Seals, Penguins, Fish.

      More to the point there were briefly settlements off shore on islands like South Georgia when whaling/sealing was big. In short a business model, unlike Mars.

      1. Not really given is, it’s a couple order of magnitudes easier to survive in get to the Antarctic than to Mars.


        you have air to breath

        Yes, the martians will… and water, and power, and food, and waste disposal, TV and everything else we expect where ever we live. This is like asking if people in Alaska read the news? If you listen carefully, you can hear the groans of martians.

        potential sources of food like Seals, Penguins, Fish

        I don’t know about seals and penguins (these are martians, not Inuit) but fish they will have in abundance including variety.

        I’ve given you a business model. That it doesn’t include whaling is another fish, the red herring.

  7. They pioneers didn’t need to take tools as the locals when they got there already had them and the knowledge to live off of local resources.

    Glad we agree Thomas. You were talking about martians, right? 😉

    1. Given that there aren’t any current Martians it will be hard to live off their experience.

  8. Is your settlement plan dependent on Mars or can it be implemented in other locations?

    Ownership should work everywhere. The advantage mars has is it already has everything we need already sitting there that can be gathered by independent free people (in walking distance, but they’ll use trucks.) People get hung up on the fact that it requires a bit of work to make a comfortable life. It’s not that much work (it does require diverse knowledge, but that’s not a problem and not material to the main life support requirements which everybody will have a working knowledge of.)

    Life to start will be like living on a ranch. You have time to think about your next moves. You will have the resources to implement them. Time is on your side. You will not have government nannies telling you what to do (unless you’re a wimp that invites them in rather than the Iron Men that make the voyage.)

    That’s the problem with the moon (besides a lack of some resources) we’ve already invited the U.N. nannies in that think they should decide how people live. Let retirees live on the moon.

    1. Ken,

      I see you bought into the mythology of ranching. Ranches only came into existence where there were local sources (say a couple of days by wagon) of supply to keep them going, like the local army fort, trading post, railroad depot. It takes a while to get those crops growing and cattle fat, and then you need someone to buy them. As a result none were even near the level of self-sufficiency you would need for Mars, although some ranchers may believe they are 🙂

      The old Spanish missions might be an better analogy, but they always were built near native American villages so they had a source of labor and a place to purchase food while they became “self-sufficient”.

      Probably the best analogy would be the Polynesians who occupied a new island, but they were able to live off the sea while getting established. The challenge of producing the food needed to sustain you on Mars is not as easy as you imagine. That is why I recommend trying it on Earth first. You will find it is far more time and resource consuming. Perhaps one day when 3D printing reaches the stage of Star Trek replicators, but not at the current level of technology.

      Also your comment about the UN and the Moon makes no sense as the poorly titled “Moon Treaty” applies to all the “Celestial Bodies” in the Solar System, including Mars.

      1. I’ve lived on a ranch, have you? Do you know the definition of ranch vs. farm? I do because a rancher explained it to me.

        I said ranch and I meant ranch. What you are calling a ranch is actually a farm. The difference? A farm produces a product for sale. A ranch produces everything they need. I understand the confusion because a lot of places today that call themselves ranches aren’t actually… dude.

        The moon treaty only applies to those that accept it. Even if America had signed on to it, which it did not, it would not apply to individuals that, as has always been the historical precedent, assert there own individual right to possess.

        Iron men don’t bend over to have nanny stick them in the hind quarters. I’m really getting sick of people thinking the circle jerk of lawyers that want to tell us all how it is while letting the corruption of our governments proceed from bad to worse continues. NOBODY OWNS ANY BODY BEO. NOBODY CAN TELL ANYONE WHAT THEY CAN DO IN THE UNIVERSE. We and our lawyers DO NOT OWN THE UNIVERSE OR ANYBODY IN IT. That included the Andromedans who are laughing there asses off at our provincialism.

        1. Ken,

          Elko has plenty of ranches, good size ones, and you see the ranchers brag all the time about how self-sufficient they are as they are shoping in Wal-Mart for their beans and bacon 🙂

          Really Ken, a good farm has far more chance of being self-sufficient that a ranch.

          Now homesteads are another matter. Here is classic book on homesteading free for downloading.

          Ten acres enough: a practical experience, showing how a very small farm may be made to keep a very large family.

          Its from 1864 so what it shows is not dependent on the large support infrastructures or tools modern farms and ranches are dependent on.

          As a side note, its books like these space settlers need to be reading instead of books on the rocket equation. The reason so many settlers died at Plymouth and Jamestown was that most of them spent their time learning about politics, sailing and military affairs rather than farming…

          1. A farm produces a product for sale. A ranch produces everything they need. Those are the definitions.

            If they don’t, they are not a ranch. Perhaps those farms are actually ranches. But at least you do understand the point about being self sufficient.

            its books like these space settlers need to be reading instead of books on the rocket equation.

            That’s what I’ve been saying all along. Is there something wrong with the way I’ve been saying it? They only have to get to mars once. They have to live there the rest of there lives.

          2. Ken,

            Yes, but if they want to learn from the lessons of the past than the folks that go will know how to produce their food before they leave Earth. Much of the hardship of Jamestown and Plymouth was because the first wave of settlers were adventurers out to get rich quick and not farmers. Or ranchers if you prefer.

    1. Well, like you said, ownership should work everywhere. Just look at the vital resources available around those two planets. If you want to talk real estate, they are the prime locations.

      My awesome vagina analogy aside, I do really think we need to take a game theory approach to settlement and exploration. I am not sure if you have ever played many RTS’s but there are a lot of lessons to be drawn from them that are applicable like resource gathering, time management, knowledge of terrain, logistics, and build strats. I think an academic use of game theory would lead to a similar conclusion.

      And whomever controls the spice water controls the universe.

  9. I was expecting someone to question me about utilities on mars. “They can’t. Pipes. Wiring. Etc.”

    That’s not how things start. Go to any small town in America and you will see a water tower. That tank on metal legs, sunk in concrete, with a tank on top with the name of the town proudly displayed on it. Somebody keeps it filled with water. Others drive a water truck or trailer under that tank and pay pennies to fill up. Then they take it home and pump it into their home water tank… all across America where they don’t have pipes going directly to their property.

    Nobody says “we can’t live on earth because running wire for power is too hard.” We just accept it as a natural part of our lives. NO. DIFFERENT. ON. MARS. Whatever solutions they put in place over time will be background noise to those living there.

    Early phone systems used fence barbed wire. People make do.

  10. So, someone foots the bill for the Mars colonists but nobody would foot the bill for the seasteaders?

    That’s it exactly Daver, which is why I know very few are paying attention to what I’m saying. Let me highlight another point, done right mars could cost about the same as a single Boeing 747 ($200m) and much less than a seasteader ship.

    I invite everyone to criticise all that I’ve written on my blog. Since my concept has been revised quite a bit, that shouldn’t be any problem for ya at all.

    1. Ken,

      The key problem is not with the model, there were for example “professional” homesteaders in the West that would claim and prove up a homestead, then sell it once they had title and move on to do it again.

      The key is working out and demonstrating the technology needed to live off the land before they go to Mars. You don’t want to get there and find out the seeds you brought with you don’t work or have no idea how to build and run a greenhouse. Instructional manuals and theories only go so far and don’t replace practical experience.

      That is why I keep suggesting a test run in rural Arizona with properties focused on the “doomsday prep” market and those just wanting to disconnect from the economy in general. A some community of 10 or so families could prove out a large part of the tech and give creditability to the business model. Imagine the possibilities of small homestead in Arizona that gets recycles all of its water and gets what it needs from Earth’s atmosphere or from the local soil with solar/wind power for energy.

      Yes, on Mars you will use nuclear energy, but everything will run on electric power and for purposes of the demonstrator it doesn’t matter where it comes from.

      1. Yep. Too many unknowns. I think we’re about 50 years from knowing what we’d need to live there. Figuring out how to grow food is certainly a big chunk of it. It wouldn’t be too hard to check out some of that here, where it’s cheap–how big of a sphere you need, what grows best at those light levels, maybe the radiation environment. Of course you can’t simulate the gravity without going off-planet.

        1. You take bags of soil with you because soil is a living thing. We know the UV environment so we bring plastic with UV protection with us. We bring what we need for hydroponics which means an abundance of power. We don’t have to be perfect and things will grow. By doing it on site we will learn in a year what we will not learn in fifty on earth. Zubrin has already done the math on a 50m hobby farm. They could start there although I think a half cylinder makes more sense than a hemisphere so we take both. and reflective mylar in case mirrors are needed.

          1. Because it’s not me or you taking the soil, it’s some colonist that sees any advantage to it. For example, being the first one, he can use it to try to produce a martian version (complete with fertilizer) as a product to sell on mars.

            Or just because he’s free and thinks it’s a good idea (regardless of right or wrong.) Did I mention he or she is free?

          2. I give you free people and you give me NASA? What the hell does this have to do with NASA? Why the crack about understanding agriculture? You’ve lost it, kiddo.

            When all else fails, Thomas reverts to statism.

            By NASA’s ‘standards’, people are a biological contaminant. After the first arrives all those bets are off.

  11. The key is working out and demonstrating the technology needed to live off the land before they go to Mars.

    That’s the wrong way. The right way is to take an abundance with you so if one thing doesn’t work, another will. Wooden ships are not steel ships. Dragon electronics are not hardened electronics. SpaceX is not NASA.

    This does not mean you don’t mitigate. You mitigate the hell out of your plans. But at some point you just need to go and we have reached that point.

    Otherwise, there is never a right time because you can always test more. Since we don’t know how much time we have left, now is the prudent time even if people die.

  12. How do we determine the right time table? By working on things concurrently with specific steps.

    * We identify and make a list of all the potential hazards. We come up with several options to mitigate each. This list will grow and be an ongoing effort that does not hold up any of the following which will add to their data. This includes adapting an industrial ecology for mars and training people that already have skills such as machinists and chemists.

    * We put a BA330 ship in orbit as soon as the Falcon Heavy can. Using Bigelow’s plan we try to profit . We put as many in orbit as the market will bear (so that all are profitable.)

    * SpaceX develops the Mars One wide body lander and tries to sell NASA on using it to put things on mars, thus testing it before crew landings. Supplies are prepositioned on a mars site as funding from the BA330s allows.

    * We learn how to fuel our BA330 ship and take it on shakedown cruises around the moon.

    * We send as many ships to mars orbit as we can afford, the first four land near a robotically prepared site. Others will have plenty of supplies in orbit and can land as the surface base is expanded which they will help expand telerobotically. Unlike the Mars One plan, the first four do not wait years for helping hands.

  13. Instructional manuals and theories only go so far and don’t replace practical experience.

    This is absolutely true and a great point. Let me explain my understanding of the application. The colonists on mars will not require a ‘research program’ to make better farms (even though they will probably have such.) Economic competition will do the job for them. The word will get out, “I hear this is how Thomas grew those beautiful tomatoes.” Again, competition and free enterprise wins.

    That’s why most of the people we send will have practical experience. First in a trade they been employed at on earth. Second by hands on experience making elements of the industrial ecology we’ve identified. But that hands on training doesn’t hold up the program (except for the knowledge of life support systems which will be more like Inspiration Mars than the I.S.S.) Some will have the training and ability to make regolith moving equipment from martian iron. They will have a great need for such equipment. They aren’t going to be hamsters in their landers.

    Oh, and the idea that seeds wont grow on mars has to be reconciled with the fact that seeds will grow in a wet napkin.

  14. Much of the hardship of Jamestown and Plymouth was because the first wave of settlers were adventurers out to get rich quick and not farmers. Or ranchers if you prefer.

    Farms are often bigger than ranches precisely because they are in the business of selling a product. Which I suspect is part of the confusion.

    We aren’t going to send the first colonists to mars telling them sink or swim. When the numbers are just a few dozen we can easily provide them will all the food they need (2500 kg per lander, just add water.) Farming in that case is a supplement until it takes off. We only grow the community at a rate that doesn’t overwhelm their abilities, until their abilities outstrip our ability to send more people. This is not going to be a repeat of Jamestown.

  15. BTW- there’s been plenty of Arctic and Antarctic settlements. Every other year someone gets driven out by the governments that claim not to own the territories (and the Russians who do).

    1. Trent,

      Folks have lived around the Arctic Ocean since late neolithic times, but that is because there is wildlife to hunt.

      Same with Antarctica, but I haven’t heard of any settlements beyond the science outposts. Do you have any specifics? Names, dates, of settlements.

      Argentina and Chile have a couple government sponsored ones with families, for example Argentine’s Orcadas base in the South Orkney Islands they are geopolitical settlements, basically to enforce thei land claims in the region.

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