SpaceX aims to put man on Mars in 10-20 years

Apr 23, 2011
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveils the Falcon Heavy rocket at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, April 5, 2011. Private US company SpaceX hopes to put an astronaut on Mars within 10 to 20 years, Musk has said.

Private US company SpaceX hopes to put an astronaut on Mars within 10 to 20 years, the head of the firm said.

"We'll probably put a first man in in about three years," Elon Musk told the Wall Street Journal Saturday. "We're going all the way to Mars, I think... best case 10 years, worst case 15 to 20 years."

SpaceX is one of the two leading private space companies in the United States and has won $75 million from the US space agency NASA to help its pursuit of developing a spacecraft to replace the .

The California-based company last year completed its first successful test of an unmanned into orbit and back.

"Our goal is to facilitate the transfer of people and cargo to other planets, and then it will be up to people if they want to go," said Musk, who also runs the Tesla company which develops electric cars.

The US space shuttle program is winding down later this year with final flights of Endeavour set for next week and Atlantis in June, ending an era of American spaceflight that began with the first space shuttle mission in 1981.

When the shuttle program ends, the United States hopes private industry will be able to fill the gap by creating the next generation of spacecraft to transport astronauts into space.

"A future where humanity is out there exploring stars is an incredibly exciting future, and inspiring, and that's what we're trying to help make happen," Musk added in the interview.

Earlier this month SpaceX unveiled what Musk has called the world's most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy, which will have its first demonstration flight at the end of 2012.

The launcher is designed to lift into orbit satellites or spacecraft weighing more than 53 metric tons, or 117,000 pounds -- more than twice the capacity of the Space Shuttle or Delta IV Heavy launcher.

SpaceX, short for Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, is one of two private companies that NASA has contracted to transport cargo to the International Space Station.

Musk, a South African who made his fortune in the Internet, created in 2002.

Explore further: The source of the sky's X-ray glow

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA awards $270 million in spaceship contracts

Apr 18, 2011

NASA on Monday announced it has awarded nearly 270 million dollars to four companies, including Boeing and SpaceX, to help their pursuit of making a spacecraft to replace the US space shuttle.

US space capsule launch set for Wednesday

Dec 07, 2010

A US company has received the go-ahead to launch its first space capsule into orbit Wednesday, in a key test for the future of commercial space flight as NASA looks to end its shuttle program.

SpaceX Plans Reusable Seven Person Capsule

Mar 15, 2006

SpaceX said it plans to develop a reusable capsule that could carry a crew of up to seven into low Earth orbit, making it a competitor to assume some of the tasks of NASA's space shuttle fleet after it is retired.

US private rocket readies launch in key space step

Jun 04, 2010

The privately-owned American firm SpaceX readied Friday for the first test flight of its Falcon 9 rocket, seen as a key step in developing commercial launchers to put people into space.

Recommended for you

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

15 hours ago

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

End dawns for Europe's space cargo delivery role

Jul 27, 2014

Europe will close an important chapter in its space flight history Tuesday, launching the fifth and final robot ship it had pledged for lifeline deliveries to the International Space Station.

Giant crater in Russia's far north sparks mystery

Jul 26, 2014

A vast crater discovered in a remote region of Siberia known to locals as "the end of the world" is causing a sensation in Russia, with a group of scientists being sent to investigate.

NASA Mars spacecraft prepare for close comet flyby

Jul 26, 2014

NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.

Bacteria manipulate salt to build shelters to hibernate

Jul 25, 2014

For the first time, Spanish researchers have detected an unknown interaction between microorganisms and salt. When Escherichia coli cells are introduced into a droplet of salt water and is left to dry, b ...

How do we terraform Venus?

Jul 25, 2014

It might be possible to terraform Venus some day, when our technology gets good enough. The challenges for Venus are totally different than for Mars. How will we need to fix Venus?

User comments : 93

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ubavontuba
3.5 / 5 (16) Apr 23, 2011
Wow. Go! Go! Go!

Now that's some cool news!

gvgoebel
3.6 / 5 (8) Apr 23, 2011
Y'know ... Elon Musk has a tremendous ego, but somehow unlike most such folks, he can potentially back it up.

I'm more than happy to give him the shot. SpaceX Super Heavy and VASIMR plasma drive, to Mars and back in six months.
kasen
1 / 5 (21) Apr 23, 2011
How's a private company going to make profit out of a proof-of-concept flag-planting mission? It'd have to have huge reserves to cover such an investment, and there'd have to be a market for this in the first place. It's either that, or a lot of space-enthusiastic billionaires.

Meanwhile, people are dying of hunger in various parts of the world...
skreidle
5 / 5 (18) Apr 23, 2011
False logic, kasen, on the "people are dying of hunger" bit. If your argument is "we shouldn't spend money on X because there are people who need Y", then no "X" will ever get accomplished, because there will never be a lack of "Y"
Inflaton
3 / 5 (4) Apr 23, 2011
I thought VASIMR would potentially make the trip to Mars ~40 days, so that the total trip would be just over 2.5 months.
ShotmanMaslo
3.1 / 5 (9) Apr 23, 2011
Thats some big claims indeed. But if anyone can pull this off, then it is SpaceX!

Go, SpaceX!
Inflaton
2 / 5 (7) Apr 23, 2011
However, i doubt we'll have a man on Mars between 2020-2030. I would guess 2040 something is when it will occur, if it does at all.
flashgordon
3.4 / 5 (8) Apr 23, 2011
Well, i think with the new nanotubes and now graphite manufacturing, some private space company can do it with or without vasimir; of coures with vasimir . . . Jovian planets and beyond!
ShotmanMaslo
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 23, 2011
Yes, here is the article.

http://www.space....ays.html
sstritt
1 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2011
Yes, here is the article.

http://www.space....ays.html

Just hook that up to the Rossi E-cat and away you go.
trantor
3.4 / 5 (12) Apr 23, 2011
@Kasen

If european countries had not discovered and then colonised America because there were people starving in Europe back in the 16th century, than Brazil, the US, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Argentina... none of these countries would ever exist.
Brandenburg
4 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2011
Incredible. I would rather see a Mars, Inc. than no Mars at all. These guys kinda remind me of the old MirCorp and LunaCorp. I just hope that a new era in corporate space exploration doesn't hide knowledge under the auspices of trade secrets and patents.
Jeddy_Mctedder
1.5 / 5 (15) Apr 23, 2011
elon musk had made a billion dollars being smart paypal blablabla...then he risked EVERYTHING HE HAD on two companies that would have gone belly up without HUGE government contracts and financing. and those came on the dubious heels of the bailout. Elon musk who was a very smart guy almost lost more than 1 billion dollars. his stakes in spaceX and Tesla would have been virtually worthless without political choices being made on his behalf regarding Nasa Contracting and without Tesla Maneuvering its way to crooked goldman sachs wall street financing ( and tesla will go bankrupt one day not too far away).

I applaud Elon Musk but he has stretched himself too far , and now he is huckstering by promising things ten years from now. Show don't tell, and if you trust Elon, you're going to lay all your ballz on the anvil. that isn't the way forward for space exploration, it's just another hustle for money that will go up in smoke.
gt000
4.8 / 5 (5) Apr 23, 2011
Yes, in theory VASIMR might get you to Mars in 40 days but to do so it will need a compact lightweight nuclear power supply.
As yet, there doesn't appear to be any sign of serious development work in this area.
DocM
5 / 5 (6) Apr 24, 2011
Earlier this week SpaceX said the lander for their lunar & Mars ambitions will be based on the crew Dragon by way of its propulsive landing thrusters and massively over-designed heat shield.

Saying "they can't" ignores that many others before you said the same thing about 9 engines built on a productiin line, etc. etc. and were wrong.
Sanescience
4.2 / 5 (10) Apr 24, 2011
@Jeddy_Mctedder: Your a bit bitter about something. Yea, Tesla Motors might not make it. SpaceX however was cash positive before the government started to realize that they were getting ripped off by the mega aerospace companies and SpaceX was looking better and better to save them big money.

Perhaps another way to look at it is the "snow ball" effect. Once they had demonstration of technology and paying customers to put commercial payloads into orbit, they were able to secure some significant government contracts (nothing like a subsidy)for developing then delivering to the ISS. That in turn lead to confidence enough for ORBCOMM to sign on.

My guess is that this band wagon is going to get pretty big.
PinkElephant
1 / 5 (10) Apr 24, 2011
Oh, goodie goodie goodie! I'm so excited by this ridiculous piece of hype, I'm just gonna go run and buy some SpaceX stock right friggin' now. NOT! (Even though that's obviously the intended result... and OK they're not public, but I bet preferred/restricted warrants are up for sale.)

Reminds me a lot of the stunts people used to pull in the 90's. Leave it to an Internet tycoon to resurrect the bad old times. It does make me suspect that perhaps not all is right with SpaceX's balance sheet...
Aliensarethere
3 / 5 (8) Apr 24, 2011
I don't see the point of sending humans to Mars, and I doubt it will ever happen. It's better to send robots which don't have to be kept alive with all means possible, and they are not so fragile as we humans.
AdleyBell
Apr 24, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
warra_warra
4.7 / 5 (7) Apr 24, 2011
Elon makes me proud to be a South African. If he believes they'll get to Mars in 20 years, they will - he has the right attitude. There are of course still many obstacles to overcome. It is one thing getting to Mars and back, but it is another thing altogether sending humans into outer space for such a long duration - this has never been done before. The biggest issue to deal with must surely be insulation from radiation.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (5) Apr 24, 2011
Is Space X going to be building for China?

I doubt it.
Recovering_Human
1 / 5 (11) Apr 24, 2011
I think the whole idea of putting man on Mars thing has lost its luster since everyone figured it would happen so much sooner. It's like how they only just got around to building a skyscraper that's a lot taller than the Empire State Building--nobody's really impressed, since it could have been done so long ago.
kasen
1 / 5 (10) Apr 24, 2011
If your argument is "we shouldn't spend money on X because there are people who need Y", then no "X" will ever get accomplished, because there will never be a lack of "Y"


My argument is "let's figure out how to make Earth long-term habitable again, then invest in other planets".

If european countries had not discovered and then colonised America because there were people starving in Europe back in the 16th century


There were a lot more resources back then and people weren't really aware that they'd ever run out, so expansion made sense and did actually solve most socio-economic issues Europe was confronting with.

We live on a planet now and we are approaching the limits of its habitability. There is no food on Mars, there is no oil, there is no energy. Not with our current technology. It will take more than rockets before we can benefit from outer space. And it's my opinion that it will take more than capitalism.
ShotmanMaslo
3.2 / 5 (9) Apr 24, 2011
"We live on a planet now and we are approaching the limits of its habitability."

Yes. But space exploration will actually help us with this problem - in space, alternative energy sources and recyclation are a necessity.

"There is no food on Mars, there is no oil, there is no energy."

Food is not a resource that is mined, so I dont see your point. And if our energy source is going to be oil, then we might as well give up now. Its a good thing there is no oil on Mars. And oil is on other bodies in the solar system.
Inflaton
3.3 / 5 (6) Apr 24, 2011
I'm interested in knowing what a potential Mars landing by spacex or any other private company will mean for Nasa's planned mission. Will Nasa even bother with a mission if spacex beats them to it?
Beard
4.9 / 5 (10) Apr 24, 2011
My argument is "let's figure out how to make Earth long-term habitable again, then invest in other planets"


I counter that choosing to remain a single planet species is to await an unpredictable and permanent extinction. If a private company like SpaceX can establish the transportation necessary to enable a colonization, and make it profitable, it would literally be insane not to do so. The knowledge gained here could even one day result in viable interstellar expansion.

Even if it requires government funding, this technology is absolutely necessary for our survival and in the grand scheme of things would probably cost less than we spend on cosmetic products each year. No one is suggesting we ignore Earths problems.
ShotmanMaslo
3 / 5 (6) Apr 24, 2011
I'm interested in knowing what a potential Mars landing by spacex or any other private company will mean for Nasa's planned mission. Will Nasa even bother with a mission if spacex beats them to it?


I think it is more probable that NASA will be the customer, like currently with COTS and CCDev. In a few years, SpaceX will be launching people and cargo to ISS routinely and Falcon Heavy will have succesfull flights already. In the meanwhile, NASA will struggle to develop another oversized and ultimately unneeded rocket (SLS) for those countless billions.
Maybe then someone will see the light, and channel the money where it is used effectively (privateers instead of government agency).
stripeless_zebra
2.3 / 5 (9) Apr 24, 2011
This is just a Soviet style propaganda.
It wont happen in the next 10 years wont happen in 20 years.
Elon is known to make remarks like this to attract investors and eventually go public with his business.
Even if this concept proves to be a failure Elon is predicted to grab 1-1.5bln dollars out of this business in the next 10 years if he keeps getting investors money at the current or higher rate.

Buyck
2.3 / 5 (4) Apr 24, 2011
Elon Musk is a hero !!! You can say that after his Tesla Motors company succes and Paypal. Its the Steve Jobs of commercial science and technology! Whatever he does his the number one on all fronts.
RandyC
5 / 5 (4) Apr 24, 2011
"How would a private company make a profit out of a proof-of-concept flag-planting mission? ... there'd have to be a market for this in the first place."
As a private company, SpaceX has a much bigger available market for transport services than NASA. SpaceX can transport exonauts of any country to the Moon, Phobos, or to Mars without needing US approval.
For instance, if Venezuela, a country currently not on friendly terms with the US, wanted to have one of their exonauts be part of the first crew to Phobos, they could sign a contract with SpaceX for, say, $10 billion (50% down now, 50% on delivery). The available market includes governments, not just rich individuals. As long as SpaceX does not transfer technology, and only provides transportation services, they should be able to sell services to the highest bidder.
SpaceWriter
2 / 5 (4) Apr 24, 2011
Remember: Takes 6 mo. to get there, but 2.5 years to get back because of orbits.
Even Jesus said "The poor you will always have with you."
Because fossil fuels will eventually and inevitably run out, the inexhaustible energy of the sun will have to be tapped to replace them. Space based solar power is still years away, but it won't be any closer 10, 20, 30 years from now if we don't start. One critical thing needed is low cost, reliable, reusable launch vehicles and hopefully folks like Musk will provide them--not just him, but some the others now working on them plus some who haven't even started yet.
It's unlikely that any individual or even consortium can provide enough money to get all this done, so government resources will be needed. OK, so what? Getting us off the planet involves all of us, not just one nation.
kasen
1.3 / 5 (3) Apr 24, 2011
in space, alternative energy sources and recyclation are a necessity


Yes, but space applications have different specs than the land ones. The synergy isn't that big.

Food is not a resource that is mined, so I dont see your point


It's a resource we need, and which is starting to run low down here. It'd take a lot more than a few decades before outer colonies could start supplying it.

If a private company like SpaceX can establish the transportation necessary to enable a colonization, and make it profitable


That's a huge if. Their biggest achievement is a bigger rocket. Same tech as 50 yrs ago. Needs fuel, and lots of it(argument against dumb booster strategy, also). A true space transportation industry will arise when a more efficient launch system is designed.
ShotmanMaslo
2.7 / 5 (6) Apr 24, 2011
"It's a resource we need, and which is starting to run low down here."

I dont think outer space colonies will ever supply the Earth with food, probably the other way around. Anyway, food is plentiful on Earth, its certainly not "starting to run low". Considering average food price (adjusted for inflation) still managed to go down in last 50 years while coping with HUGE worldwide population explosion (if anything, THAT is the problem), I dont think we need to explore space to get food.
Other resources are a whole new topic.

"Their biggest achievement is a bigger rocket."

Implying advanced and efficient chemical rockets and VASIMR engines (ad Astra) are not enough to eventually enable human colonisation almost to Jupiter.

And fuel cost is really negligible part of rocket launch costs, so that not really an issue.
kasen
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 24, 2011
SpaceX can transport exonauts of any country to the Moon, Phobos, or to Mars without needing US approval.


They'd need their own launch sites for that, to begin with. And unless they're in international waters, diplomatic relations will always reduce the available market. Then there's the global economy. Not a lot of countries can afford to spend on research, which is basically what this would be for the first 1-2 decades, and the ones that can already have their own space programmes.

Private or not, SpaceX is nevertheless an American company, and that weighs a lot in matters like "first man on x".
kasen
1 / 5 (3) Apr 24, 2011
Anyway, food is plentiful on Earth


Tell that to the growing Chinese middle-class. They love pork and they can afford it, too.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.9 / 5 (8) Apr 24, 2011
It's a resource we need, and which is starting to run low down here. It'd take a lot more than a few decades before outer colonies could start supplying it.
In order to solve poverty and hunger we need to limit reproduction. This has been accomplished in western society because the obsolete religionist cultures throughout Eurasia which would have resisted the ONE BILLION abortions which have taken place since, were destroyed during the world wars and ensuing communist martial law. Mission accomplished.

This leaves only the virulent religionist cultures throughout southern Asia and Africa to contend with. The means for their destruction was instituted at the end of the ottoman empire, and we are watching the Process play out as we speak.

So in the meantime let's go to mars. Like beard says, we are in a precarious position as we currently have all our eggs in one basket (actually Asimov said this?) Colonization is our first priority. This egg is about to hatch.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (8) Apr 24, 2011
My argument is "let's figure out how to make Earth long-term habitable again, then invest in other planets".
It's not long-term habitable. We are vulnerable to civilization-ending, life-ending events. We cannot afford to lose all that we have built and all that we have learned. This is possibly a very narrow window of opportunity. We may not get another chance.

Plenty of resources on mars to support an independent, permanent presence. Atomic borange machines can create cities underground. Plenty of solar for energy. Plenty of nutrients for growing mars-tailored foods.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.6 / 5 (7) Apr 24, 2011
Man I hate spellcheck. Atomic Boring machines like the US airforce has been operating beneath our feet for the last 40 yrs. We've been preparing for the Inevitable for a long time.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Apr 24, 2011
"Elon Musk is a hero !!! You can say that after his Tesla Motors company succes and Paypal" - Buyck

Tesla Motors' well-publicized struggle with growing pains is something of a soap opera. There's divorce, bankruptcy, plane crashes, sports cars, and lots of uncertainty--and the longer we watch, the more complicated things seem to get. With the EV startup set to launch its initial public offering next week, the juicy tidbits keep coming. The latest: while Tesla is only selling approximately 10 cars per week, the company is still planning to sell Cabriolet, van, and SUV models sometime in the future.

http://www.fastco...-and-suv
stripeless_zebra
2 / 5 (3) Apr 24, 2011
Elon Musk is a hero !!! You can say that after his Tesla Motors company succes and Paypal. Its the Steve Jobs of commercial science and technology! Whatever he does his the number one on all fronts.


I wouldn't call him a hero and I wouldn't call Tesla Motors a success either. Paypal is more of an Ebay success than his own. Tesla Motors is not going to survive in a long term and will never be a profitable company. So far Elon was able to persuade a few rich and naive investors to put a few hundred milion dollars into this bubble followed by a whopping 465mln dollars of tax payers money received from the Dep of Energy. It's worth to mention that Mr. Musk invested only a small fraction of the current company budget and experts say sitting on this money Tesla can survive 2-3 years. As a company CEO Elon can make a decent living just by making empty promises of the bright future.
stripeless_zebra
1.6 / 5 (5) Apr 24, 2011
Same business philosophy he applied to SpaceX.
Without making a single penny of profit at Tesla he funded yet another Fata Morgana Inc. sending a few cheap rockets into space to give basis to his propaganda of success and drawing hundreds of millions of dollars from private investors and now waiting for big mulla from the government. Of course being awashed with this money there is always a way to legally grab enough for yourself to drive the most expensive Tesla cars.
So, what's next?
Well, after wasting big $$$$ Tesla will look for a cheap takeover by GM or Mercedes etc. and Space X will end up as a NASA franchise or bought for cash by one of the Arab billionaires dreaming of driving his Merc on Mars.
kasen
2 / 5 (5) Apr 25, 2011
We are vulnerable to civilization-ending, life-ending events.


Barring highly unlikely cataclysmic events(asteroids and such) and self-inflicted problems(bio/nuke weaponry), most natural disasters can be managed.

Obviously, in the long run, expansion is logical, but as long as FTL is out of the question, we're talking about a few good decades just to establish a minimally self-sufficient colony on Mars, and it would need global collaboration.

Now, if we don't solve our basic problems here, how long do you think that collaboration would live? When things get economically rough again, which will happen a few times in 50 yrs, how do you think the earthlings will feel about sustaining the Mars colony?

My whole argument is, we should try to mature as a species before we get out in the "real" world, otherwise we might get seriously burned.
Beard
5 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2011
It really depends on how developed our manufacturing processes are in 20 years. Being able to refine material on-site into usable forms is critical for the expansion and sustainability of the colony.
mjesfahani
not rated yet Apr 25, 2011
yes. I was waiting for it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2011
Barring highly unlikely cataclysmic events(asteroids and such)
They're not unlikely. They are likely.
and self-inflicted problems(bio/nuke weaponry), most natural disasters can be managed.
It only takes one that we cannot. Survival comes first. Time to emigrate.
My whole argument is, we should try to mature as a species
Humans are born premature compared to other species did you know that? Our brains have gotten too big to be carried to term. We are thus born helpless.
askantik
4 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2011
I'm all for Mars. In fact, I think we could have already been there... but instead of adequately funding NASA, we spend their measly budget every week on needless wars, and give banks that screwed up our economy way more money, too. Maybe our lack of intelligence is a foreshadowing, eh?

Seriously, though, my only complaint is that, while I don't necessarily think private space exploration is bad, that we still need government (I would even say international) space exploration. Otherwise we're going to have (as someone else mentioned) "trade secrets," folks putting profit over safety (never seen that on Earth, have we?), and in general, I just think space exploration is such a worthy (and practical) goal that it's something we could all get excited about, rather than it just being something we just use to invest in and make money off of.
rbrtwjohnson
1 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2011
It is good news. I hope they develop innovative means of propulsion for manned missions to take us there and back again. www.youtube.com/w...MByWXphQ
K_C_Adams
5 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2011
Heres hoping they succeed!!!
danielbigham
3 / 5 (4) Apr 25, 2011
The prediction that a person will land on Mars in 10-20 years strikes me as completely absurd. Yes, it could theoretically happen, but it's also possible that I could go buy a lottery ticket today and win a million dollars -- even so, it seems silly to me to predict that would be the case.

Even if the US government announced that it was going to pour 50 billion dollars into a Mars mission, I'd be doubtful that it would happen in 20 years, let alone a small private space firm.

First of all, it would be irresponsible to start with a manned mission to the surface... I hope they wouldn't attempt a mission with a 10% chance of success, etc. You have to build towards that over a number of increasingly difficult missions.

And the money involved is kind of astronomical. Good luck Elon.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.1 / 5 (7) Apr 25, 2011
Seriously, though, my only complaint is that, while I don't necessarily think private space exploration is bad, that we still need government
Oh the govt will certainly be involved. Space is a military venue and this is why Obama announced the intent to take the 'high ground'- the asteroid belt and moons of mars- and let civilians and other govts settle earths moon and mars.
The prediction that a person will land on Mars in 10-20 years strikes me as completely absurd
People said this when Kennedy announced the moon program. Technology is progressing parabolically. We could get there sooner.
6_6
1 / 5 (8) Apr 25, 2011
how about we solve our own planet's troubles first before screwing up another ones'
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (9) Apr 25, 2011
how about we solve our own planet's troubles first before screwing up another ones'
In order to do this we would have to end the practice of all religion. While this is indeed being accomplished it will take some time and we really cannot wait to colonize.
Dave_Price
1 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2011
"We live on a planet now and we are approaching the limits of its habitability."

Heh, we've been approaching those limits for hundreds of years, and yet they always seem to recede faster than we approach.

You might want to check out the book "Future Babble" for a history of such predictions.

There was a study done a ways back suggesting that if we were willing to convert a large portion of the Earth's biomass to human-edible production, we could probably support a population of trillions of people... and that's with 1990s technology.
Dave_Price
1 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2011
"It really depends on how developed our manufacturing processes are in 20 years. Being able to refine material on-site into usable forms is critical for the expansion and sustainability of the colony."

Good point, without that abiility it's just a flag-planting mission -- exciting, but not really useful in any practical sense.

I'm hopeful we can go a step further and bioengineer some stuff hardy enough to start developing a Martian biosphere. I don't know if unaltered humans will ever live there unaided, but with enough tweaking of the planet and the genome we might be able to truly colonize. Random evolution is probably only scratching the surface of what life can do.
Silver_the_Fox
1 / 5 (4) Apr 25, 2011
Random evolution?
Biological/Nuclear Armageddon?
The end of all things religious?
Are we missing anything? SkyNet maybe? Or how about The Covanent? Ooh, I have one! War of the Worlds and Petrie Dish! And if we are feeling extra ridiculoius, how about a Death Star?

Enough doom and gloom, we arenn't going to die out as a species just yet. Think of it this way, the more humans that die out, the more food that will be availible. Also, the druggies that no longer want to eat anything are also going to die out, plus, any children they have are not likely to survive. Add in the many STD's that are floating around, and are transmittable by birth... and we have a deadly melting pot to help lower the population.

If I sound callous, Deal with it. The human race is on a path of self-destruction, and there is nothing we can do about it. Countries around the world are discovering the secret of making nuclear missles. (cont.)
Silver_the_Fox
1.3 / 5 (4) Apr 25, 2011
While organizations around the world are becoming more and more corrupt by the hour, i.e. NATO. We as a species will NOT survive if all we have is people like you who do nothing but think of the negatives. You want to live, help reseach a cure for Herpes and AIDS.
For God's sake, try for a cure for the common cold at the very least.

Now I'm done with my tirade.

Any questions?
Silver out.
TMLutas
4 / 5 (2) Apr 25, 2011
Mars is a very nice medium term goal. It is by no means a moon shot style "plant the flag program because long before you get to Mars you profit.

Long before Mars we're going to have simple, measurable metrics for whether we're on track. If the Falcon Heavy flies as promised and near the cost promised, that's going to change the game in a major way, making a huge number of business plans of *other* space entrepreneurs practical for the first time. If the man rating stuff works, that's also within the next couple of years. Both those accomplishments are vital to the Mars stuff but both of them will be profitable on their own and their real world accomplishment will be improving SpaceX's balance sheet within 5 years.

So now we know that SpaceX has a plan that goes out further than 3-5 years. That's good to know. It's likely to get executed only if the short term plans are profitable. That's where the major focus belongs.
kehvan
5 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2011
How's a private company going to make profit out of a proof-of-concept flag-planting mission? It'd have to have huge reserves to cover such an investment, and there'd have to be a market for this in the first place. It's either that, or a lot of space-enthusiastic billionaires.

Meanwhile, people are dying of hunger in various parts of the world...
People like Elon Musk recognize something you don't: there are infinitely more resources in our solar system than here on Earth alone, and the man who taps those resources will profit handsomely. Oh, and the people who are dying in those "various parts of the world" are dying only due to the corruption and incompetence of their governments.

However, i doubt we'll have a man on Mars between 2020-2030. I would guess 2040 something is when it will occur, if it does at all.
If you wait for government it will take that long. Private industry would get it done faster.
kehvan
not rated yet Apr 25, 2011
Incredible. I would rather see a Mars, Inc. than no Mars at all. These guys kinda remind me of the old MirCorp and LunaCorp. I just hope that a new era in corporate space exploration doesn't hide knowledge under the auspices of trade secrets and patents.
Trade secrets and patents are how private companies protect their research and development investments.

I don't see the point of sending humans to Mars, and I doubt it will ever happen. It's better to send robots which don't have to be kept alive with all means possible, and they are not so fragile as we humans.
There's plenty of reasons to send people to Mars. In fact, there are about 6 billion reasons. with terraforming Mars is habitable, and we must colonize it. We must do this, because it's insurance against some mass extinction event here on Earth. The sooner we do this, the sooner we start the process of colonizing Mars the better off we'll be.
Silver_the_Fox
1.6 / 5 (7) Apr 25, 2011
Terraforming, did I read right?
HAHAHAHA!!!

You are so naive that this is hilarious!! Terraforming take a huge amount of money, time, energy, and patience. Something no one on this planet has in abundance. Oh, and I almost forgot the most important factor about all of this, you need a gas to start with that we can work with. Plants need CO2 to survive, and we need O2 to survive, plants produce O2, and we produce CO2, right? well then, here's the big problem behind all of this, we can't transport enough of ALL of the necessary ingrediants to Mars to actually begin terraforming that planet. That, and it takes roughly 5 trees to keep one human alive, and it takes 2 living creatures of dog-size to keep a tree alive. Mull over that for a little bit please.

Any questions?
Silver out.
kasen
5 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2011
People like Elon Musk


People like Elon Musk are overly optimistic idealists, or at least that's what they project. Yeah, there are tons of resources, but how exactly does one tap into them?

Chemical rockets and ion drives. It's where we're at. One needs huge gas tanks, the other needs high-density energy production/storage(not there yet). Both need huge gas tanks to get off the planet in the first place, because we never really got beyond sticking a pod on top of a few tons of hypergolic fuel and firing it up.

Every launch event is just that, an event, a special occasion with a myriad of things that can go wrong. Launching a spaceship has to become more like launching a sea ship, then we can talk about profit.

the people who are dying in those "various parts of the world" are dying only due to the corruption and incompetence of their governments.


Right, and environmental genocide and artificial wars maintained by corporations has nothing to do with it.
Silver_the_Fox
1.3 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2011
Enviromental genocide, huh? That's a new name for simple lack of care right? Well, it also goes under the name of
The Universal Law of Unintentional Consequences, or ULUC for short.

You are right in saying that the Largest corporations on our planet are causing a massive amount of damage to the enviroment, and yes, the technology we have is borderlline space age (the ion drives we have and can use... just for RC cars however [Not entirely sure on that rumor] since they are incredibly small and lightweight), but look at the brightside, if the Earth goes to Hell, then they can pay for us to fix it. Or we can pray that the goodness of the human heart will prevail and we can fix it for free.

One can hope...
PinkElephant
4.7 / 5 (3) Apr 25, 2011
Terraforming take a huge amount of money, time, energy, and patience.
That is true. However, the rest of your assertions regarding terraforming (and ecology as well) are largely false. The most plausible proposal I've seen involves establishing a large number of robotic/automated/remote-controlled mining/refining plants on Mars (perhaps Nuclear-powered), that will produce super-greenhouse gases (such as CFCs) and release them into Mars' atmosphere. These will cause Mars to warm up, unlocking its frozen CO2 deposits, and thus further thickening its atmosphere and boosting the greenhouse effect. Eventually, it gets warm enough to melt water ice, and the vapor will boost greenhouse effect further still. The resulting atmosphere is unbreathable for humans, but should be OK for lichens, mosses, and maybe some of the hardier plants. I doubt it'd get human-friendly any time soon, as achieving 1 Earth-atmosphere of pressure (or even close to it) would be quite difficult.
Silver_the_Fox
1 / 5 (5) Apr 25, 2011
Sorry to shoot you down, but IS there any ice on Mars? Last I heard, that was just a sad little myth that was proven wrong by NASA, please tell me if I'm misinformed, I'd feel really stupid if that were the case.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 25, 2011
There was a study done a ways back suggesting that if we were willing to convert a large portion of the Earth's biomass to human-edible production, we could probably support a population of trillions of people... and that's with 1990s technology
Was this religionist-funded? We become willing and poof it is done and we can stop performing millions of abortions around the world?

And as the project ramps up and more food becomes available to fundamentalist cultures based on forced reproduction as a means of conquest, how much faster do you think theyll grow?

Link your study so we can make fun of it.
Sorry to shoot you down, but IS there any ice on Mars?
Personally I like to do some research before asking embarrassing questions.
http://science.na...marsice/
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) Apr 25, 2011
I doubt it'd get human-friendly any time soon, as achieving 1 Earth-atmosphere of pressure (or even close to it) would be quite difficult.
Proposals include hitting it with a comet or 2. I suppose we should make sure there is no indigenous life there first at any rate- where IS that methane coming from? Residual hydrocarbons?
Silver_the_Fox
1 / 5 (4) Apr 25, 2011
Possibly, some research into that may be needed in this case. worth a shot...
kehvan
5 / 5 (2) Apr 25, 2011
Sorry to shoot you down, but IS there any ice on Mars? Last I heard, that was just a sad little myth that was proven wrong by NASA, please tell me if I'm misinformed, I'd feel really stupid if that were the case.
You REALLY need to inform yourself before you put your fingers to your keyboard: http://www.discov...ars.html
Silver_the_Fox
1 / 5 (4) Apr 26, 2011
Sigh...
Silver_the_Fox
2.1 / 5 (7) Apr 26, 2011
No need to rub in the fact that I was horribly misinformed on this topic. Let some realize their mistake, and correct it please, anything else is over kill.

Silver out.
emsquared
1 / 5 (2) Apr 27, 2011
Forget about a breathable atmosphere, what about Mars' lack of a significant magnetosphere to protect us from cosmic radiation?! You want a Quatto sprouting out of your belly?!? ... Yeah, didn't think so.
emsquared
1 / 5 (2) Apr 27, 2011
... but then again, I guess you may also get the tri-breasted Martianette. Hmmm, this cost benefit must be weighed carefully.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (3) Apr 28, 2011
Forget about a breathable atmosphere, what about Mars' lack of a significant magnetosphere to protect us from cosmic radiation?! You want a Quatto sprouting out of your belly?!? ... Yeah, didn't think so.


Radiation shielding? There is plenty of soil to use. Radiation could be a big roblem on the way, tough.
emsquared
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 28, 2011
Radiation shielding? There is plenty of soil to use. Radiation could be a big roblem on the way, tough.

I'm sorry, honest question here - not sure I follow... Are you saying we'll build sod houses, or that the first steps of inhabiting Mars will have to take place underground?
ShotmanMaslo
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 28, 2011
Radiation shielding? There is plenty of soil to use. Radiation could be a big roblem on the way, tough.

I'm sorry, honest question here - not sure I follow... Are you saying we'll build sod houses, or that the first steps of inhabiting Mars will have to take place underground?


I am saying that if radiation is a concern, then covering the habitats with a layer of soil is effective solution to neatly solve it, no need to bring expensive and heavy shielding from Earth.
defunctdiety
3 / 5 (2) Apr 28, 2011
I am saying that if radiation is a concern, then covering the habitats with a layer of soil is effective solution to neatly solve it, no need to bring expensive and heavy shielding from Earth.

Riight... and what about plant life and associated ecosystem-perpetuating microbes that need the sun-light to grow, yet are still rendered sterile by radiation?

There's awhole bunch of reasons why there's life on Earth and not life on Mars, man. None of which are going to be solved by sod-houses.

P.S. there is no If... radiation is a concern.
ShotmanMaslo
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 28, 2011
Riight... and what about plant life and associated ecosystem-perpetuating microbes that need the sun-light to grow, yet are still rendered sterile by radiation?


Are they? I dont think so, crops and microbes are quite resistant to radiation, and it may be possible to breed even more resistant varietes.

http://www.astrob...ce-crops

Or just use artificial light for growing crops.
emsquared
1 / 5 (2) Apr 28, 2011
@defunct; Yeah, plants could probably manage... if they had a medium.

@Shotman; What about bacteria and fungi (and people) which are necessary parts of the nutrient cycle? From the "Life on Mars" (not the David Bowie song) wiki:

"In 2007, it was calculated that DNA and RNA damage by cosmic radiation would limit life on Mars to depths greater than 7.5 metres below the planet's surface."

The previous posters and I were talking about terraforming self-sustaining life on Mars and it's barriers. Sure that'd have to start in a bio-dome, no one said we couldn't build a space greenhouse, but how are we going to induce a magnetosphere to keep the rest of the atmosphere from being scoured away by cosmic wind, or so we could live outside and not have our huevos al carbon?
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2011
It's a resource we need, and which is starting to run low down here. It'd take a lot more than a few decades before outer colonies could start supplying it.


Actually, our food resources would be in abundance right now if we weren't burning around 40% of corn as Ethanol..
Quantum_Conundrum
1.3 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2011
emsquared:

YOu build in a pressurized building.

Plants do not need direct sunlight. They can live off light precisely tuned to their absorbtion frequencies as in modern hydroponics facilities, greatly improving their efficiency. In fact, it is so efficient that even on Earth, in some cases and for some crops, it is very likely that hydroponics is going to put traditional farming out of business in a few years.

All you do on Mars is make an air-tight habitat, and pump in the atmosphere to Earth pressures. Keep pumping it in and let the plants make oxygen, which is stored. Excess CO2 is pumped out of the facility (though some is stored for emergency fire extinguishing purposes).

Humans only go outside the habitat when they absolutely need to, and clearly there are double redundant air locks to prevent leakage and failure.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2011
One suggestion has been lava tubes. And yes nuclear powered robotic earth borers and excavators could be delivered in separate missions to begin carving tunnels. These can and will be tested on the moon soon enough.

We could even use Plowshare-style nukes to create voids below the surface which could be occupied within 6 mos.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2011
Our food resources are abundant, and have been since industrial revolution. There is more than enough food for everyone on Earth and much left, and there are more overweight people than starving people in the world.

The problem is with distribution.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 30, 2011
@shotman
Have you seen this site yet?
http://www.johnst....html#SU

Abortion and family planning are the ONLY reasons much of the world can now feed itself. There are still large pops who are not reproducing within their means because of the primitive and religionist cultures they live in. Most of these areas are experiencing starvation and explosive unrest expressly because, no matter how much food they are given, they will soon grow beyond the capacity to feed them.

Malthus was right. Any argument against his conclusions do not take into consideration the ONE BILLION abortions which have taken place since the beginning of the 1900s.

These obsolete cultures must be ended or their people will continue to suffer, fight, and starve no matter how much support the world gives them. Conflict, disease, and starvation are the only things keeping their numbers in check.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 30, 2011
Areas where these cultures predominate have the potential to explode and we are seeing this throughout the middle east right now, the direct results of a new wave of fundamentalist-inspired reproductive aggression.

"For example, at a 4 percent growth rate, a country's population will double in about 18 years..."
http://en.wikiped...wth_rate

These cultures must be ended before the growth rate problem can be addressed.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2011
Lost a link:
http://en.wikiped...pulation

-Food is not the most immediate nor the most severe problem. Water is.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2011
I fully agree with your posts. I just want to point out that it is not the amount of food that is the main problem, but mostly the distribution. That only makes the overpopulation problem more serious, because it is quite easy to produce more in modern times, but still much harder to make sure it will get to those who need it. Population has to grow in accordance with both the amount of food and the distribution capacity and infrastructure.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2011
Population has to grow in accordance with both the amount of food and the distribution capacity and infrastructure.
And within these cultures there will always be that one gen born beyond the capacity of the culture to support it. That's the way it is in nature, that's the way it is in primitive cultures, and that is the equation that religions use to try to dominate and conquer. This mandates starvation and conflict.
skitterlad
5 / 5 (1) Apr 30, 2011
Solar winds would rip any atmosphere away from mars like it has in the past. Don't you science nerds know anything?? How can you reignite the magnetic field? maybe we can take some pointers from the movie THE CORE. maybe.
holoman
1 / 5 (4) Apr 30, 2011
Using the same ancient rocket technology.

Maybe someday we will see anti-gravity near light propulsion.

Yawn for SpaceX.....a Failed NASA management stand in.

I am sure the great scientist at NASA have an anti-gravity
solution but getting by non-visionary management most difficult.
emsquared
1 / 5 (2) May 02, 2011
You build in a pressurized building.

Allow me to reiterate: no one said we couldn't build an enclosed habitat on Mars, we were talking about terraforming Mars. Engineering a self-sustaining ecosystem and it's barriers.
GSwift7
1.8 / 5 (5) May 02, 2011
Kasen said:

How's a private company going to make profit out of a proof-of-concept flag-planting mission? It'd have to have huge reserves to cover such an investment, and there'd have to be a market for this in the first place. It's either that, or a lot of space-enthusiastic billionaires.


In order to make money, you need to provide a service that people are already paying money for, and do it for less than they are currently paying, then offer to do it for them and split the difference on cost in some way.

The most in-demand thing right now on Mars is a sample return. Various agencies around the world would jump at the chance to pay whatever the market cost will be for Mars samples. A sample return would validate the technology and pave the way for the next most in-demand thing; a human expedition. SpaceX wouldn't send its own people. It would sell seats and cargo space to NASA, ESA, JAXA, etc. It should be paid for before it ever leaves the ground.

Just guessing.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (3) May 02, 2011
If you want to read a really fun and imaginative hard scifi series about how a Mars colonization effort might play out (based on the visions from the early 1990's) then try the following trillogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, "the Mars trillogy":

http://en.wikiped..._trilogy

It's a really fun read. I especially enjoy being able to compare the state of the art in Mars science between the early 90's and what we think we know 20 years later. Really cool.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (3) May 03, 2011
One thing they apparently got right in the Mars trillogy is the underground magma tubes on Mars. We've seen a few skylight holes on the surface, from satellite images, that suggest there are caves from magma tubes on the surface in some parts of Mars. In the books they sealed and pressurized those caves and used them as habitats to provide shelter from the radiation you guys are talking about above. That could actually be done. In some places there could even be water ice and/or co2 ice in those caves. Mars is a REALLY harsh place though. It would be easier to live at the top of Mt Everest than it is to live on Mars. Any visit to Mars in the next couple decades is going to be a short one, like the Moon landings. Don't expect a base until there have been several short visits and sample returns. You need to know about the dust and a whole bunch of other things before you can design a building for people to live in. We don't even have a Mars suit yet, not a 100% working model.
PinkElephant
not rated yet May 03, 2011
@skitterlad,
Solar winds would rip any atmosphere away from mars like it has in the past.
Yes, but that would take many (hundreds) millions of years. My guess is, whatever comes after humans won't care very much whether there's an atmosphere on a planet or not... Of course, I expect we'll become "obsolete" way before we had a chance to even begin terraforming Mars in the first place.

@emsquared,
how are we going to induce a magnetosphere to keep the rest of the atmosphere from being scoured away by cosmic wind, or so we could live outside and not have our huevos al carbon?
Regarding "scouring", see above. WRT radiation, for one, a sufficiently thick atmosphere would do a fine job of blocking most cosmic radiation. Also Mars, being on average 1.5 AU from the sun, gets less than 50% of Earth's solar wind and radiation. Plus consider adaptation, bioengineering, and shielded habitats (caves, canyons, underground bunkers.)