Filthy Meatbag Bodies On Mars

As Keith Cowing points out, the Planetary Society is in no hurry to put anyone on the surface of the Red Planet. They want to do Apollo to Mars, but take almost three and a half decades before the first boots on Mars, and almost four decades before long-term habitation. Though Firouz Naderi claims that keeping it under the cost limit makes it more likely, I’d say that it is doomed to failure. Something that takes that long, accomplishes so little, for so much money, is unsustainable in a democratic Republic. This is why Apollo to Mars is doomed in general. I’m discussing this in the Kickstarter project. We need to have a different approach, starting with an end to the phrase “space exploration” as the reason we send humans into space.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Here’s the link to the report. I’m reading it now, hoping it will have some useful cost data from Aerospace.

JPL Mars Mission Schedule

[Update a while later]

Even Chris Carberry recognizes that we won’t ever get another “Kennedy moment.” I’m not sure, though, how one “stays the course” to Mars, when there is no course.

[Late-morning update]

Over at Sarah Hoyt’s place NASA employee Les Johnson proposes (wait for it) Apollo to Mars.

It is not going to happen, and it should not happen.

21 thoughts on “Filthy Meatbag Bodies On Mars”

  1. There is a joke in here somewhere about the film “Capricorn One” and sending O.J. Simpson back to Mars.

  2. I see some advantages to the Planetary Society’s program based on NASA hardware. When the first crew finally lands, instead of exploring the surface on foot, they would go over the counter and rent a Tesla M, greatly expanding the amount of territory they can cover.

    1. Maybe they can stop at the Hooters next to the Luna City Hilton on their way out of Earth orbit. I hear they have 1/2 off chicken wings for government employees.

  3. Why hurry? Because we might regret killing our entire civilization otherwise. Likely? No. Possible. Yes. How low does the possibility have to be that as a civilization we ignore it?

    The problem is money, but let’s put that aside for a moment. Assume some rich guy pays for it, what’s the next problem? Lack of positive imagination. Negative imagination is important to avoid death, but lacking positive imagination means we pay too much and do too little.

    A BA330 is too big for today. Not to get to orbit, but to keep cost down because of the rocket equation. A Sundancer (or equivalent, Bigelow isn’t the only player) makes more sense because it only requires an F9 to orbit rather than the FH the BA330 would require. Either could be put into orbit for less than $200m total cost. We need more than a habitat in orbit and that has a solution that holds costs down as well.

    Musk is looking at full reuse and may be missing an opportunity. The upper stage goes to orbit. Exactly where it’s needed for reuse at zero additional cost. So why not integrate a habitat (Sundancer) with the upper stage so instead of a habitat you are putting a ship in orbit (for under $200m.)

    We shakedown the ship around the moon allowing enough time to give us confidence we can make the trip to mars orbit without issues. We have low cost landers sent on low cost trajectories waiting to meet them in mars orbit. On mars they live off the land. The plan should be that anything they need from earth comes as the personal property of following colonists.

    Over time we figure out how to do it all better because peope we can’t imagine today will see us actually doing something and will figure out how they can contribute. You can’t plan this, but you can waste time trying and get paralysis by analysis.

    1. The problem never really is money, per se. Money is just a method we use for allocating resources. As with hydrogen fuel, it is a medium, not a source.

      So, the issue is actually one of opportunity costs – are there better ways to allocate those resources that will lead to greater prosperity and future growth? I can’t think of any. The problem is, a majority, or a powerful minority, must agree with me in order for the resources to get allocated.

      1. “The problem is, a majority, or a powerful minority, must agree with me in order for the resources to get allocated.”

        Not really, not anymore. We are rapidly approaching a time where small groups of exceptional people can make the decision, and fund it themselves. I think it will happen far sooner than anyone expects.

        I believe a huge tipping point is about to be reached. Of course, I believe that primarily because I am trying to bring it about – so I guess I’m a little biased. But big things are happening in many places!

    2. Money is an issue, especially if colonists fund themselves, but money is less of an issue when it comes to government spending. Government money is a contest of ideology and if space is important enough, then it will get more money in relation to other spending priorities.

      NASA already spends billions a year on different things, so spending several billion shouldn’t be an issue if they get more money or reprioritize current funding. The trick is how do you convince congress and taxpayers that the effort is worth it? There isn’t a single compelling reason but there are many compelling reasons.

  4. I agree with Keith. Secretly, I don’t think the Planetary Society wants dirty meat bags on Mars period. Sterilized toasters yes, people no. Please don’t muddy up my divine celestial spheres with your dirty trans-terrestrial lineage. Mars, 40 years out, forever…

  5. So we wait until 2035 to figure out you can’t test a mars lander on the moon. Brilliant. Genius. That’s why they get the big bucks!

  6. Something that takes that long, accomplishes so little, for so much money, is unsustainable in a democratic Republic.

    Ummm .. ISS anyone ?

      1. Exactly. Thank you Rand. People may disagree on the usefulness of ISS, but it was built fairly swiftly. Even if you trace it back to Space Station Freedom days, it’s still only about 15 years from then to permanent habitation.

        1. It pretty much was. They’d been spinning their wheels since 1983. Once the Russians came in, requirements became more clear, and they got serious about designing it. It’s not comparable to Apollo to Mars.

  7. The Planetary Society has always been far more interested in automated remote exploration than using “meatbags.” Now, both the advantage and the problem with automatons is that they’ve cost a lot less to get to destinations and maintain than meatbags.

    They’ve cost less to send to their destinations even under a system of wildly costly spaceflight created by the missile-Apollo-NASA era. But the cost of exploration using humans has been exponentially more inflated because of that era, which has indefinitely pushed out research on things we really need to understand such as partial g effects, not to mention fundamental work applicable to various reusability systems (the things which should be NASA’s real job).

    So automatons look good, and the porkers can pretend to tackle the human path to mars with frauds such as SLS/Orion.

    BTW it’s high time that NASA’s “#JourneytoMars be renamed the #Journey[away]fromMars.

  8. We need to have a different approach, starting with an end to the phrase “space exploration” as the reason we send humans into space.

    Why do we need a single reason?

    It seems that a freedom loving libertarian capitalist would want as many reasons as people can imagine. A non-government approach should take advantage of the predictable and unpredictable desires of individuals and groups of individuals, which will lead to many reasons to send humans to space. Also, the more reasons you have to do something, the stronger the case you can make for it.

    Rand has spoke before about being destination agnostic and wanting to enable many destinations and activities so maybe we will get to hear more when the kickstarter project or the next book is finished.

      1. Well, I suppose settlement is a good catch all. I always thought arguing over a single reason for being off Earth was a trap. There isn’t a single reason that will unite everyone but settlement can include diverse activities and motivations while also not excluding things many people think are important like exploration or scientific research.

  9. I hope activities in space or on Mars are not hampered by a fear that the arachnids that live in the pores of our skin will either destroy non-terrestrial life or evolve into human killing monsters.

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