Sorry, Elon Musk, but it's now clear that colonising Mars is unlikely – and a bad idea

August 2, 2018 by Andrew Coates, The Conversation
Pie in the sky? Mars Ice Home concept. Credit: NASA/Clouds AO/SEArch

Space X and Tesla founder Elon Musk has a vision for colonising Mars, based on a big rocket, nuclear explosions and an infrastructure to transport millions of people there. This was seen as highly ambitious but technically challenging in several ways. Planetary protection rules and the difficulties of terraforming (making the planet hospitable by, for example, warming it up) and dealing with the harsh radiation were quoted as severe obstacles.

Undeterred, Musk took a first step towards his aim in February this year with the launch of a Tesla roadster car into an orbit travelling beyond Mars on the first Falcon Heavy rocket. This dramatically illustrated the increasing launch capability for future missions made available by partnerships between commercial and government agencies.

But six months later, the plans have started to look more like fantasy. We have since learned that there could be life beneath Mars' surface and that it may be impossible to terraform its surface.

The possibility that there currently could be life on the red planet was raised last week as scientists reported the discovery of a salt water lake beneath Mars' surface. The lake would be 1.5km below the south polar cap and at least 20km in diameter. This was found from analysis of subsurface radar data from the Mars Express spacecraft. The water is thought to be briny, with the likely magnesium, calcium, and sodium perchlorate salts acting as an antifreeze down to temperatures of perhaps 200K (-73.15°C).

This is exciting as it is the first definitive detection of liquid water on Mars, and it is possible that there may be further deep lakes elsewhere on the planet. This means there is a real possibility of current life on Mars.

We already knew life could have existed on Mars in the past. There are several pieces of evidence indicating that Mars was habitable 3.8-4 billion years ago. Data from recent missions – including Mars Global Surveyor, Odyssey, Opportunity, Curiosity and Mars Express – have provided mounting evidence that water was present on the surface in streams and lakes with reasonable acidity and that the right chemistry for life to evolve existed there around the time that life was evolving on Earth.

Mars’ south polar cap, hiding the lake. Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS

But Mars lost its magnetic field, which would have protected life from harsh radiation from space, 3.8 billion years ago. This also meant its atmosphere started leaking into space, making it increasingly inhospitable. So living organisms may not have survived.

But while the new discovery may fuel aspiring colonisers' dreams that the water in the subsurface lake might be usable to sustain a human presence, the reality is very different.

The risk of contamination means we shouldn't send humans there until we know for sure whether there is naturally evolved life – something that could take years to decades. We will need to drill under the surface and to analyse samples, either in-situ or from material returned to Earth, and find suitable biomarkers to be sure.

Terraforming plans crushed?

Perhaps even more damning, the long-suggested idea of terraforming Mars is now firmly locked in the realm of science fiction. Musk has previously indicated that he wants to terraform the planet to make it more Earth-like, so you can "eventually walk around outside without anything on." This would most easily be done by producing an atmosphere made of heat-trapping greenhouse gases locked in the planet's ice in order to raise its temperature and pressure. Musk has suggested that we could drop thermonuclear bombs on the ice at its poles in order to heat it up to release the carbon dioxide.

But according to a new study, published in Nature Astronomy, Mars has lost so much of its potential greenhouse gases to space over billions of years that there is now no possibility of transforming the remaining atmosphere into a breathable one with available technology.

Sorry, Elon Musk, but it's now clear that colonising Mars is unlikely – and a bad idea
An Earth-like Mars? Credit: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr, CC BY-SA

The study is based on measurements of the recent escape rate of gases to space measured over the last 15 years by Mars Express and the last four years by MAVEN. This can tell us how much effective , carbon dioxide and water are available at Mars. The measurements, combined with knowledge of the inventories of and water on Mars from recent space missions, show that greenhouses gases locked in the ice caps are not enough to provide the necessary heating.

More may be available deep within the planet but extracting that is well beyond today's technology. Also, the atmosphere is still being lost due to the lack of a magnetic field, so that would need to be somehow slowed to maintain any changes achieved by terraforming. This means that potential explorers would need to use heavy, airtight walls, roofs or buildings to provide the right atmosphere and the required screening from cosmic radiation.

While Musk may be disappointed by these new results, most Mars scientists are breathing a sigh of relief. There may be present or past life on Mars, and we can now focus on finding it.

We will be searching for signs of life with the ESA-Russian ExoMars 2020 rover, and the NASA Mars 2020 mission will gather samples for eventual return to Earthbound laboratories by around 2030. The results of all this may tell us if there was, is or could be life elsewhere. In our solar system, the best targets are Mars, Saturn's moons Enceladus and Titan, and Jupiter's moon Europa. And these just hint of the potential for life on the many planets beyond our own solar system.

Mars is bright in our skies this week, the brightest since 2003. The red planet is never far from our thoughts, whether as a potential cradle for life beyond Earth or as a target for humans in the future. We live in exciting times when it comes to space exploration. So let's not spoil one of the largest and most fundamental experiments for humankind by letting dreams of colonisation go too far – at least until we know whether there is life.

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isolate
2 / 5 (2) Aug 02, 2018
Hey, it's Project Orion redux!
Spacebaby2001
2.9 / 5 (10) Aug 02, 2018
Wow.. just wow.
1.Lets just assume there is biological life in this potential lake, and put on hold the possible danger it might present to life from earth and potentially too earth itself (which the author is already doing). Why would it be morally wrong to "contaminate" this planet with organisms from earth. And before you explain that to me, please explain to me what a moral is, and what it means to be acting morally.

2. Please point me to where Elon Musk planed on completing the process of terraforming Mars a) With existing technology and b) In any relevant time scale to us or the next several generations.

Every single point made under the subtitle "Terraforming plans crushed?" Has been well known and discuses for quite some time. One example being the book "A Case For Mars" by Robert Zubrin published in 1996.

We get that there are ethical and technical issues to consider and colonizing mars might be a bad move, but this expression of the issues is unproductive.
antialias_physorg
2.5 / 5 (8) Aug 02, 2018
Yah...that's sorta weird. Elon Musk has, to my knowledge, never talked of using terraforming.

AFAIK he's firmly in the (realistic) camp of setting things up either underground or in enclosed habitats.
SamB
4.3 / 5 (9) Aug 02, 2018
Yes, Mr. Musk. How dare you to dream! Andrew Coates will tell you what you are capable of so just stand down and quit this lunacy. Next thing you will be attempting other insanity like tunneling from city to city, building world class electric cars or landing rockets on their tail fins. Yes, stop this twaddle and be more like Andrew Coates. All talk and no action.
andyf
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 02, 2018
please explain to me what a moral is, and what it means to be acting morally.


For pity's sake Spacebaby, go back to school and pay attention this time.
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
3.5 / 5 (8) Aug 02, 2018
Coates are talking out of his nether orifice.

- Martian life will not prevent colonization, or even visits to try to confirm it first, on principle. There is a Planetary Protection Protocol, but whether or not it applies, will be enforced, will be uodated et cetera is an open question.
- Colonization is not dependent on terraforming. The timescales involved are widely different, and we do not know if the latter is possible or not. (Musk has voiced the idea of terraforming by nuking the poles. His twitter response to the research was to change plans and said 'given enough energy. liberate the CO2 from the ground' - even the research paper admit that there may be enough CO2 in buried carbonates.)
Mark Thomas
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 02, 2018
As a practical matter, Mars is the only chance we have at finding another planetary surface to live on for the foreseeable future. This pure opinion piece by Andrew Coates is simply more defeatist attitude that will get us nowhere. Plenty of narrow minded people said the difficulties with flight and travel to the moon would never be overcome either.

If Mars lacks the necessary gases to be terraformed, logic dictates we need to bring more gases to Mars. The outer solar system is loaded with frozen gases. Even partial terraforming of Mars, e.g., to the point where pressure suits are no longer required, would be a big step towards reducing risks from depressurization, micrometeorites and radiation.
rrwillsj
1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 02, 2018
Mars - the small red trashtip of the Solar System. A great big roach motel. The suckers check in and even in the low-gee ? Are unable to leave against the low-gee because the miserable low-gee will turn them into boneless slugs.

Defeatist? Eating plutonium is not good for you. I am sure I will be excoriated by Thorium Boy and all the other morons commenting for my "defeatist" attitude against the nutritional value of radioactive wastes.
Anonym588159
3 / 5 (4) Aug 02, 2018
How come the Atmosphere of Venus has not been blasted away? I was under the impression that Venus had a weak magnetic field, it seems to Me the solar flux would be much greater at the Venusian orbit.
danR
5 / 5 (2) Aug 02, 2018
Elon Musk has, to my knowledge, never talked of using terraforming.
Perhaps you either don't follow him very carefully, or don't understand how the word "terraforming" has quite clearly developed in meaning. What part of turning an (naturally-)uninhabitable planet into one that resembles our own Terra to the extent that you could walk around "without any clothes on" outside a dwelling not require "terraforming"?
danR
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 02, 2018
"without any clothes on"
Rather: "...eventually walk around outside without anything on."
--CBS NEWS September 21, 2012, 12:18 PM
Elon Musk on Mars: "It's a fixer-upper of a planet"
Mark Thomas
3 / 5 (5) Aug 02, 2018
Eating plutonium is not good for you.


If you (wrongly) conclude that volatiles cannot be brought to Mars, then the fastest terraforming approach is to vaporize the polar caps on Mars, and it is natural to think about doing that with nukes. Let me suggest that if all you want to do is vaporize Martian polar ice, an asteroid or comet impact can be far more effective, no plutonium required.

For example, the asteroid that hit the Earth 65 million years ago, "produced an explosion equivalent to 100 trillion tons of TNT, roughly seven billion times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb."

"http://www.bbc.co...-struck"
Mark Thomas
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 02, 2018
Have fun with this impact simulator.

https://www.purdu...actearth
peabody3000
5 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2018
i must nitpick.. the martian lake isn't "the first definitive detection of liquid water on Mars".. because it isn't definitive yet. the italian data suggests something that other probe data did not, and must be confirmed with further research
rubiks6
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 03, 2018
The whole idea of sending people to Mars is so idiotic, they (Musk, NASA, et al.) desperately needed a viable excuse not to go - an excuse that would allow them to save face. Now they have one - the possibility (uuuuu) that some kilometers deep lake might have life.

What a bunch of hogwash.
rubiks6
3 / 5 (2) Aug 03, 2018
How come the Atmosphere of Venus has not been blasted away? I was under the impression that Venus had a weak magnetic field, it seems to Me the solar flux would be much greater at the Venusian orbit.


Venus is ~7.5 times more massive than Mars and is able to hold on to its atmosphere.
snerdguy
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 03, 2018
It's always been a dumb idea to think that we can colonize Mars or put a base on the Moon. Humans are of this Earth, of this sun, this gravity, this air pressure and this ratio of chemicals in the air and soil. We evolved to live here only no matter what science 'visionaries' propose. You either have to have an nearly identical planet to the Earth of identical size and composition or you have to change the human biology to accommodate the differences. It's not as simple as people like Musk make it sound. It's not even close. It doesn't mean we can't explore other planets. It means that the only realistic means of exploring is by sending our machines that we can build to tolerate the conditions of other worlds and outer space. If any asteroid mining is ever done, it will done by machines, not men in spaceships.
Urgelt
5 / 5 (3) Aug 03, 2018
It sure makes my day when some clueless journalist struggles to opine about subjects they know nothing about.

Not.

It starts here, then goes downhill: "We have since learned that...it may be impossible to terraform (Mars') surface."

'We' have learned no such thing. What we learned is that there do not appear to be sufficient volatiles on the surface of Mars to establish a breathable, protective atmosphere.

Terraforming is the work of centuries or even thousands of years. Not even Elon Musk is optimistic enough to think otherwise. Colonization plans don't require terraforming.

Nor is terraforming out of reach. We can obtain plenty of volatiles from comets. Sure, it'll take centuries to tweak orbits and achieve impacts in the amounts required, but it's not infeasible at all. There are a *lot* of comets in the Oort Cloud.

Phys.org, could you *please* use some editorial discretion to weed out anti-science junk articles like this one?
Anonym588159
1 / 5 (3) Aug 03, 2018
Rubik, how can it be 7.5 times more massive than Mars and not quite have Earths gravity ?
pntaylor
1 / 5 (6) Aug 03, 2018
@rubics6: "The whole idea of sending people to Mars is so idiotic"

+1. Anyone who goes to Mars will die there, because they will need a constant stream of supplies, for a long time to survive and possibly (maybe) advance to self sufficiency. (Doubtful)
Not only that, as they each become injured, ill or just die outright, by accidents, there will be fewer people to perform the required jobs, necessary for survival.
Back to the supply issue, I doubt anyone, back here on Earth, will want to continue to pay for that constant stream of rockets, to supply them. (Or just the supplies, themselves)
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (6) Aug 03, 2018
"Sorry, Elon Musk, but it's now clear that colonising Mars is unlikely – and a bad idea
August 2, 2018 by Andrew Coates, The Conversation"

-Sorry Andrew - you're guilty of fake news. One more moron spewing ignorant clickbait for selfish purposes. This is what collective suicide looks like.

Musk and others will soon be sending fleets of BFR-style vehicles to mars carrying nuke-powered autonomous tunnelers that will begin carving out cubic miles of sealed, conditioned, habitable space UNDERGROUND.

And it will happen as quickly as the railroads were built, the air transportation industry was established, or the use of electricity was spread to every region on this planet.

Your disbelief and derision only shows how ignorant and myopic you are.
Spacebaby2001
2 / 5 (4) Aug 03, 2018
please explain to me what a moral is, and what it means to be acting morally.


For pity's sake Spacebaby, go back to school and pay attention this time.


"The unexamined life is not worth living" some believe a person named Socrates once said.

It's a pity you see a bit of skepticism towards someones understanding of the concepts they employ wile making a point, as a lack of education or a lack of paying attention in school. I hope for the worlds sake you are not a teacher of any kind.
holoman
3.3 / 5 (3) Aug 03, 2018
Anybody who believes NASA has the correct answer for everything has never work at NASA. Go Elon !

I am not a fan of Elon, but he pushes the boundaries and shakes the hell out of conservative scientist.
Valinorianlogic
4 / 5 (4) Aug 03, 2018
@rubics6: "The whole idea of sending people to Mars is so idiotic"

@pntaylor +1. Anyone who goes to Mars will die there, because they will need a constant stream of supplies, for a long time to survive and possibly (maybe) advance to self sufficiency. (Doubtful)
Not only that, as they each become injured, ill or just die outright, by accidents, there will be fewer people to perform the required jobs, necessary for survival.
Back to the supply issue, I doubt anyone, back here on Earth, will want to continue to pay for that constant stream of rockets, to supply them. (Or just the supplies, themselves)

Hmmm, it's not as if people will start making babies to eventually replenish the numbers. It's not as if they will be able to start synthesizing their own materials, grow their own crops, or do any of the things that a colony is eventually supposed to do on their own. It's not as if we should have a backup colony in case anything cataclysmic happens to our home planet.
cantdrive85
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 03, 2018
Venus is ~7.5 times more massive than Mars and is able to hold on to its atmosphere.

The presence of an atmosphere is not due to gravity.
blueskyboris
3 / 5 (2) Aug 03, 2018
This is Republican propaganda.
rubiks6
4 / 5 (4) Aug 04, 2018
Rubik, how can it be 7.5 times more massive than Mars and not quite have Earths gravity ?


mass of venus = 4.867 × 10^24 kg
google it.

mass of mars = 6.39 × 10^23 kg
google it.

(4.867 × 10^24) / (6.39 × 10^23) = 7.61658841941
google it!
rubiks6
3 / 5 (2) Aug 04, 2018
Venus is ~7.5 times more massive than Mars and is able to hold on to its atmosphere.

The presence of an atmosphere is not due to gravity.

No. But it sure does make holding on to one easier.
Jonseer
5 / 5 (2) Aug 04, 2018
Rubik, how can it be 7.5 times more massive than Mars and not quite have Earths gravity ?


Does the fact that Earth is approx. 9.34x whereas Venus is only 7.61 x the mass of Mars suddenly make a light bulb go off in your head?

Venus is referred to as "near twin" relatively speaking in the context that compared to all the other planets many of its measurements are far closer to Earth's than any other planet, however that does NOT mean we are anything close to being identical. When compared to Earth alone there are dramatic differences.

It is 85% of the mass of Earth, and 90% of the gravity. Venus lacks our water and is less dense Etc.,

It's only when you include planets like Jupiter and Saturn that the differences between Earth and Venus seem miniscule. It's within that context that the common expression that Venus and Earth are twins makes sense.
Anonym588159
1 / 5 (2) Aug 04, 2018
Oh,I see, mass and weight are not interchangeable and the CG is different, due to different densities.
eachus
5 / 5 (1) Aug 05, 2018
There are several areas on Mars that reach 7 km (4+ miles) below the aeriod (average surface level on Mars). These include Valles Marineris, an extremely long canyon, and the Hellas meteor crater, again huge. (The lowest point on Mars is actually a crater within the Hellas crater. ;-).

What has this got to do with settling Mars? The Martian atmosphere is not all that thick, so it doesn't protect very well against cosmic rays--and solar flares. Living in Valles Marineris would allow growing crops under fairly thin plastic domes on the canyon floor, and burrowing into the canyon walls so that settlers got even more protection from radiation.

Would farm equipment need to be completely automated? No tractor cabs and the like could be designed to protect from secondary radiation. Another advantage to living in Valles Marineris would be that roofing sections over would be a step toward terraforming. If you think about it, a one psi cover would add that pressure and float.
Ken_Fabian
2 / 5 (4) Aug 05, 2018
Colonising Mars has always been fantasy. Not that I think it's impossible to successfully send people there, at great cost and risk, but a colony would lack any viable means of paying for itself and would have to be a continuing exercise in charity by people on Earth. True self reliance, in an environment that's out to kill you, under circumstances where the most basic requirements for survival are high cost, high tech exercises, will be extremely difficult; it would require the equivalent of transplanting an entire, advanced industrial economy onto Mars - only it would much, much more difficult and expensive to establish.

The ongoing risks of extinction level disasters on Mars will far exceed those risks on Earth and it's far more likely that Earth civilisation will outlive any Mars colonies than the other way around - and 'lifeboat' scenarios are the least likely path to colonising space. It either pays it's own way as part of the greater Earth economy or it fails.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 05, 2018
So, eachus, what's the actual pressure in these low areas?
Colonising Mars has always been fantasy. Not that I think it's impossible to successfully send people there, at great cost and risk, but a colony would lack any viable means of paying for itself and would have to be a continuing exercise in charity by people on Earth
Mars has everything earth has including uranium. An independent colony would be just that - a self-supporting economy. A few million living in a few dozen cubic miles of tunnels and voids could supply all its own needs.

Your myopia is not unlike those at the beginning of the 20th century who could not imagine the world we live in today.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 05, 2018
My post from another thread

"Unlike the moon project, the building of the [transcontinental] railroad was undertaken by private interests, but only after Congress passed legislation to help finance the work."

"The leaders of both companies understood one guiding principle clearly: an unbuilt railroad through unsettled country would not do a profitable business for months, even years, after its completion. Money could be made on the venture not from the railroad itself but from its construction. To do the work, therefore, both groups formed separate construction companies..."

"The government bonds received for construction—the so-called subsidy—remained a bone of contention for another quarter century. Ultimately both railroads paid off their government debt in full. From the first, the government also received another payment in the form of reduced rates on its troops and freight carried by the roads."
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 05, 2018
One thing we cannot imagine, is what will happen when automation crosses a certain threshold and machines begin making and repairing themselves independent of human workers.

It will be a change in scope that will rival the industrial revolution. Imagine a fully automated supply chain from mining to finished product, that will be constructing 1000s of BFR ships and sending them to mars.

We build and fly 1000s of planes right now. People in 1900 would have used your same argument, 'For what reason would people be needing to fly on 1000s of commercial flights per day?' Is there yet a good answer to that question?

People in 2100 will have the same perspective on commercial flights around the inner system, as we do now on transcontinental flight.

And just as with the railroads, financing will be created out of thin air; the king will wave his scepter, the fed will print dollars, and they will be distributed to banks and meted out to the appropriate people.
Mark Thomas
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2018
rubiks6, NASA and Wikipedia have a slightly greater number for the mass of Mars.

mass of venus = 4.867 × 10^24 kg
mass of mars = 6.4171 × 10^23 kg
Ratio = 7.584

https://nssdc.gsf...act.html
https://en.wikipe...iki/Mars

Nothing here quantifies how important (or not) a magnetic field is to maintaining an atmosphere. If Venus maintains its atmosphere without a magnetic field, then surely Earth would retain its atmosphere without a magnetic field too because of its stronger gravity and reduced solar flux as compared to Venus.

The short answer is any atmosphere we deposit on Mars will probably leak over a few million years and have to be maintained, but so what? If we can establish an atmosphere, compensating for small percentage loss every 100,000 years or so does not seem unreasonable.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2018
So mark, whyd you 5/5 me? Have a change of heart perhaps on submartianean living?
Anonym588159
1 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2018
Good point on the atmosphere of Mars, if we had a matter transfer gate like in " The Forbin Project" we could zip our excess CO2 to Mars as soon as it was produced .
Ken_Fabian
1 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2018
TheGhostofOtto - The railways analogy falls apart on even cursory examination; railways were commercially viable enterprises before the US built them, with easy to see applications and potential for profitability when they did. The expectation of return was based on building railways where people already lived and where known, exploitable opportunities existed - exploitable using known, existing, economically viable methods.

"It will be a change in scope that will rival the industrial revolution. Imagine a fully automated supply chain from mining to finished product, that will be constructing 1000s of BFR ships and sending them to mars." -

This is more like the scales I think are needed, but, without a decent business plan - without readily exploitable opportunities leading rapidly to profitable trade with Earth's economy, without a way to pay it's way, which a frozen, airless desert at extreme distance will not readily provide, it remains, like I said, fantasy.
eachus
not rated yet Aug 07, 2018
What will Mars have to offer besides tourism? We need a colony on the Moon to determine if humans can live permanently in the low gravity there, but the Space Station seems to have answered that--there are issues with zero g that are solvable, so lunar gravity (about 1/6th g should be less of a problem--just get plenty of potassium in your food.

So Mars with about 3/8ths g should be fine, but it is a long haul. Believe it or not, in 100 years or so, Mars will probably be a net food exporter. Growing crops takes lots of trace elements--plus nitrogen fixing--plus water, CO2 and sunlight.

But to get to that point, we need space elevators. Building one on earth is going to be tough, and expensive, but elevators on the Moon and Mars are then almost trivial. Exporting mass from earth will drop to less than $100/kilo, the Moon and Mars will be closer to $1/kilo (current dollars of course). Need water in gigaton lots? Saturn's rings.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2018
Ken says
railways were commercially viable enterprises before the US built them, with easy to see applications and potential for profitability when they did
-But, spaceflight is already a commercially viable enterprise. Has been for decades.

No need to read the rest of your post but what the heck
but, without a decent business plan - without readily exploitable opportunities leading rapidly to profitable trade
-But, this was the whole point of the excerpt I posted...

"an unbuilt railroad through unsettled country would not do a profitable business for months, even years, after its completion."

-But,

"Money could be made on the venture not from the railroad itself but from its construction"

-which is why we will have a railroad between here and mars.

And once established, trade will miraculously emerge. Did Brits really need to drink tea? How'd THAT happen? What about all those spices euros never knew existed?

And then there's tobacco... WTF???
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2018
Thing is, there will very soon be no need for trade between independent colonies and earth, because that's what independent means. But there will be trade, and it will be cleverly contrived, because that's how an Empire maintains control.
Ken_Fabian
not rated yet Aug 07, 2018
TheGhostofOtto - there is nothing on Mars that can't be obtained easier and cheaper on Earth.

Instead of railways across North America, consider if people at the time had been calling for support for a railway across Antarctica; as an uninhabited, frozen desert, that is a lot more appropriate as an analogy for Mars than North America.

There are no readily exploitable economic opportunities there and adding a 'railway' doesn't create any. Fantasy, I say.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2018
"[The trans siberian railway] was built between 1891 and 1916 under the supervision of Russian government ministers personally appointed by Tsar Alexander III and his son, the Tsarevich Nicholas (later Tsar Nicholas II)."

"By 1880, there were a large number of rejected and upcoming applications for permission to construct railways to connect Siberia with the Pacific, but not Eastern Russia. This worried the government and made connecting Siberia with Central Russia a pressing concern..."

-ie like all these megaprojects the concern was strategic and not economic.

The govt in either case exerted its will. The funds were CREATED as conveyances of this will and the projects were built.

Another example

"The Alaska highway... Its 1931 report supported the idea for economic reasons, but both American and Canadian members recognized that a highway would benefit the American military in Alaska."
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2018
TheGhostofOtto - there is nothing on Mars that can't be obtained easier and cheaper on Earth
Initially mars will be an outpost and a bridgehead. Eventually it will be a waypoint.

The establishment of these early transcontinental trade routes was a matter of Imperial survival. The establishment of offworld colonies is more directly a matter of species survival.

But without the forced spread of civilization across this planet, the species might well have withered by now. So the imperative is the same.

Funds will be supplied, they will be built, and trade will be created to support them.

The proper perspective - there is a whole solar system full of resources beyond mars. Did the eastern states need commodities from the west coast? Did Moscow need anything from siberia?
Mark Thomas
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2018
So mark, whyd you 5/5 me? Have a change of heart perhaps on submartianean living?


Because IMHO, you get it right sometimes. You may be surprised to know we don't disagree about everything. People may live underground or in heavily reinforced above ground dwellings for a long time on Mars. But I still maintain that most people, if given the choice, prefer to live on the surface of whatever planet they happen to be on. For example, some people in Coober Pedy have made some nice underground homes for themselves there, but they were essentially forced underground by the heat and they were already digging holes in the ground for opals anyway. I would probably choose an underground home in Coober Pedy, but you know that is not my preference.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (4) Aug 07, 2018
Humans spend most of their lives inside structures.

You dont know what youre talking about.

5/5 that.
Ken_Fabian
1 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2018
TheGhostofOtto - No economic value and no strategic value either - the economics, trade ports, routes linking Pacific trade to Europe and Atlantic side of Nth America were what made the strategic value.The railway analogy does not work no matter how you frame it. Like asking the folk of Baltimore to invest in a railway across Antarctica rather than one linking Baltimore to known nearby sources of economic activity.

Space activities near Earth, for Earth based purposes are commercially viable but the economic potential of anything beyond that, that relies upon viable exploitation of space based resources, just isn't there. Not without extraordinary leaps in technology. With existing technology it's fantasy.
Mark Thomas
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2018
Humans spend most of their lives inside structures, but everyone except Otto and few trogs like to have an opportunity to go outside on occasion. For example, we have these things called parks, which Otto does not recommend.

You don't know what you're talking about.

5/5 that.
Mark Thomas
1 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2018
No economic value and no strategic value either - . . . With existing technology it's fantasy.


Then you should no problem at all agreeing that who gets there first owns that worthless celestial body. The U.S. already owns the moon and maybe SpaceX will get Mars.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2018
No economic value and no strategic value either
What makes you think that?
the economics, trade ports, routes linking Pacific trade to Europe and Atlantic side of Nth America were what made the strategic value
Except that, before they existed, nobody missed them.
The railway analogy does not work no matter how you frame it
It works in exactly the way I framed it.
Like asking the folk of Baltimore to invest in a railway across Antarctica rather than one linking Baltimore to known nearby sources of economic activity
No, the railways were not financed by ordinary citizens. They were financed by power brokers who WANTED them established.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2018
Humans spend most of their lives inside structures, but everyone except Otto and few trogs like to have an opportunity to go outside on occasion
And when they do they usually have to dress appropriately. Plenty of outside on mars. Martians will be spending plenty of time on the surface, appropriately attired.

What makes you think your personal vision of outside is preferred by most people? Right now its over 100 outside and I dont want to spend any time out there whatsoever.

When new yorkers go outside they walk on concrete pavement surrounded by masonry walls and motor vehicles. The size and environment of their parks can be duplicated on mars, sans muggers and poop piles.

For most people, outside is a backyard with mowed grass and a tree. All available on mars.

So explain how your outside is something that cant be provided on mars. Can you experience its beautiful barren landscapes? What makes YOU think martians wont prefer them?
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2018
This is what martians will be wearing on the surface
http://news.mit.e...its-0918

-with a century of technological improvement, probably super-oxygenated breathable fluid-filled. Im guessing.

Along with parkas, bibs, boots, you know - typical ski vacation attire. People in stowe and aspen seem perfectly comfortable in similar garb.
Mark Thomas
3 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2018
What makes you think your personal vision of outside is preferred by most people?


Experience. The places I love are beloved by millions, probably billions, if they had the chance to visit in a similar fashion. You must be out of your mind if you think you can convince anyone that I am the only person who enjoys beaches, mountains, beautiful rivers and lakes, etc. If that were true, they wouldn't be so crowded when I get there. I was at a beach this past weekend for the first time in 2 years and OMG were there a ton of people there who like the beach!

Right now its over 100 outside and I dont want to spend any time out there whatsoever.


I agree. Now if it were 75 degrees F, that would be a whole different story for me.

This is what martians will be wearing on the surface


At least you are acknowledging that people will want/need to go out on the surface. Even a lightly terraformed Mars would make that a lot easier.
Ken_Fabian
1 / 5 (2) Aug 08, 2018
TheGhostofOtto - Power brokers in Baltimore certainly did support the first US railroad, but everyone who had money at the time bought shares; it would use technolgy that was already reliably making money in England, and the Baltimore to Ohio railway was going to connect to the already rich trade on the Ohio river and compete with Great Lakes and canal shipping. Unlike Mars, everyone at the time could see it would make money, as it did - and they probably got to ride it personally at modest cost. The cross continent railways may have opened new opportunities along the way but they were built to link to existing commercial centers.

The railways analogy doesn't work. Possibly no analogy to great historical success stories works - because going to Mars lacks essential ingredients to be a success stories, like the existence of clear and demonstrable economic opportunity. Other space activities may have them but Mars colonies don't.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Aug 08, 2018
everyone who had money at the time bought shares
No they didnt.

"The government bonds received for construction—the so-called subsidy—remained a bone of contention for another quarter century. Ultimately both railroads paid off their government debt in full. From the first, the government also received another payment in the form of reduced rates on its troops and freight carried by the roads."
it would use technolgy that was already reliably making money in England
"SpaceX has vaulted to become one of the most valuable private companies in the world. ... Priced at $169 per share, the offering of 3 million new shares raises SpaceX's valuation to $27.5 billion, according to Equidate and two people familiar with the fundraising."
The railways analogy doesn't work
And of course you just declaring that something is or isnt so, isnt worth shit now is it?
Ken_Fabian
1 / 5 (1) Aug 08, 2018
No clear and demonstrable economic opportunities exist in going to Mars; that is the missing ingredient that makes it very different to railways, or any analogies to historical successful colonisations. Just declaring otherwise is worth...?
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Aug 08, 2018
No clear and demonstrable economic opportunities exist in going to Mars
So where are most of the resources in the solar system located - on earth or off it? And why was it necessary for russia to bring resources all the way from siberia? And was the reason for building the alaska highway and the autobahn economic or strategic? And was it always cheaper to travel by ship across the atlantic rather than by plane?

Again, you DECLARING that that there are no economic opportunities in going to mars doesnt make it so. So let me repost this a 3rd time...

"The leaders of both companies understood one guiding principle clearly: an unbuilt railroad through unsettled country would not do a profitable business for months, even years, after its completion. Money could be made on the venture not from the railroad itself but from its construction."

-How many more times until it makes sense to you?

These things dont get done to make a profit. Thats NOT what theyre FOR.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Aug 10, 2018
At least you are acknowledging that people will want/need to go out on the surface. Even a lightly terraformed Mars would make that a lot easier
Mark thinks that, just because there might be some Inuit who may want to spend a little time on the beach, we should force them all to move to Miami. AND we should pay for it. AND we should prevent them from moving back if they dont like it.
Mark Thomas
1 / 5 (1) Aug 15, 2018
Mark thinks that,. . .


Wrong, I think that Elon Musk is right about his desire to see Mars terraformed and you can't see the obvious advantages to having at least a partially terraformed Mars.
eachus
not rated yet Aug 18, 2018
So, eachus, what's the actual pressure in these low areas?


About 0.1675 psi; 11.55 mbar. This is nearly twice the average pressure of 6 mbar. My point was not that this pressure was sufficient for unprotected humans. You need about 3 psi or 200 mbar partial pressure of oxygen to breathe. "Mars suits" for these conditions could be simpler than Moon suits: Oxygen could be extracted from the CO2 in the atmosphere. Arms and legs would need heating elements but not cooling. (A neat trick would be to allow some sweat to evaporate if the wearer is exercising heavily. But then you need to clean the salt out.)

The big advantage to starting low is that some radiation would be blocked, and most dust grain sized meteors. Also, lots of small domes would work, but if you want a large dome with a shirtsleeve environment, you need the dome to weigh at least 3 psi, or 432 lb. per square foot, or about 2100 kilos per square meter to balance the atmospheric pressure.
eachus
not rated yet Aug 18, 2018
No clear and demonstrable economic opportunities exist in going to Mars; that is the missing ingredient that makes it very different to railways, or any analogies to historical successful colonisations. Just declaring otherwise is worth...?


The saleable resource is the gravity. O'Neill cylinders and Moon colonies are the obvious competitors for retirement homes. I suspect that even though transportation costs would be higher, living costs would be much lower.

Incidentally, the lowest cost transport to Mars is to put a mass driver and nuclear power plant on a small asteroid--Apophis will do--and navigate it to pass close to Earth and Mars. Living quarters would be built toward the center. Yes, you would build solar cells and batteries to back up the nuclear reactor, but they would be built from local resources. Grow food locally of course, but I suspect that chicken would cost a lot less than beef.

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