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Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species · 2123 HN points · 0 HN comments
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Sep 27, 2016 · 2123 points, 1046 comments · submitted by tilt
I'd really like to see us taking space seriously. While I'm still here.

One of my earliest strong memories was the last moon landing. This was followed by years of "Tomorrow's World" and "Horizon" telling us about the Moon bases, Mars bases and orbital platforms that would soon follow. We got Skylab and some very interesting probes. I'm a tiny bit disappointed in that. We were meant to be en route to Starfleet Command and global cooperation (which always seemed a big ask as we were at the height of the cold war).

However, I can't help thinking if we do become a multiplanetary species before resolving the issues of this one a few things are just a matter of time. That some politician claims we don't need to care about emissions as we now have a spare, so he's going to build loads of new coal. That Esso wants to know if there's oil. That we have an interplanetary falling out (OK that's probably a while away). That we start littering and buggering up the rest of the solar system.

I find it interesting that when watching old movies, few got the communications networks of the future right (edit: meaning that they are always behind the curve. We've advanced a lot more than expected). Other than perhaps "Ghost in The Shell".

But on the other end, we have lots of movies expecting much more from us on the 'space' end of things. Many movies that occur in space have us already having permanent moon bases in the timeline.

"Seveneves" by Neil Stephenson mentions our modern communications software at one point in the book, how it alters our brains, and how future civilizations avoided the same fate intentionally. However, I'm not about to make a causality assessment between our communications software and our lack of advancement in space (or any other scientific/technical endeavor for that matter).

>I find it interesting that when watching old movies, few got the communications networks of the future right

There's some old video made in the mid-1960s showing "a view of the future", which basically depicts every home as having a home computer connected to some kind of communications network, where people would be able to read news, send messages, and even do shopping.

While a lot of sci-fi really seemed to miss the bus as far as communications go, there were some people who really did see what was coming. For some odd reason, they never got involved with anyone who made movies. But the internet really is pretty simple and easy to understand to an intelligent person from before the internet: they had news programs and TV, they had newspapers, they had magazines, the had snail-mail, they had telephones, and they had mail-order (and telephone-order) shopping. All the internet did was tie it all together and make it easily accessible to everyone, which had gigantic network effects that were unexpected.

>But on the other end, we have lots of movies expecting much more from us on the 'space' end of things. Many movies that occur in space have us already having permanent moon bases in the timeline.

That's because those movies were all extrapolating, accurately many times (like with 2001: A Space Odyssey), based on then-current trends in aerospace technology. Just look at the progress of aerospace between ~1900 and 1970: we went from just figuring out the airfoil wing to making airplanes that decided a world war (II, they had a good part in I too), to making supersonic planes, to making rockets and then landing men on the Moon. That's pretty remarkable progress for 70 years. After that, what have we done for the last 45 years? We've sent out some neat deep-space probes and rovers, we've had a few rickety space stations in LEO, and we've made passenger aviation much more ubiquitous and inexpensive, and (related) improved fuel economy. We haven't progressed remotely as much. We've made huge strides in computers and electronic networking though... We've also made some big strides in medicine. If we had kept up our attention and funding in the space program like we had in the 1960s, we would have a rotating space station and a Moon base by now.

>"Seveneves" by Neil Stephenson mentions our modern communications software at one point in the book, how it alters our brains, and how future civilizations avoided the same fate intentionally. However, I'm not about to make a causality assessment between our communications software and our lack of advancement in space

I will.

We cut back our funding for space exploration long before the Internet became publicly known. The Internet was conceived in the early /mid1970s IIRC, and only become commonly-used in the 1980s in academia. It only became known to the general public in 1989 thanks to Robert Tappan Morris and his worm, and only become generally used by regular people in the mid/late 1990s after the invention of the WWW and the HTML browser. By contrast, the funding for space exploration was cut in the early 1970s, before the Apollo missions were even done. There were a bunch more Moon missions planned; they never happened because Congress cut their funding and redirected what was left to the bloated and ill-conceived STS (Space Shuttle). Things went downhill from there. In a nutshell, once the US landed men on the Moon, the "space race" was considered done and won by the Americans, so the Soviets mostly gave up on such highly-ambitious goals, and both space programs instead turned to much more practical matters, namely coming up with ways of more cheaply launching spy satellites, navigation systems (GPS, Glonass), etc., instead of giant national-prestige projects that served no military use whatsoever (but instead advanced science and civilian technology tremendously). The US had given up on things like a real space station or a Moon base long before the Internet was something people had any serious interest in using.

The space race, and lunar landings, along with Concorde were perhaps the last gasp of the post-war optimism and prestige science projects. It was still just possible to justify them for national pride rather than balance sheet.

Quite a change from the 40s and 50s and the transatlantic blur of experimental aircraft - X planes, VSTOL, supersonic, first jet airliner prototype in 1949, Concorde protoype in 1969. Nuclear power was meant to usher in an era of cheap, abundant, clean energy, and science had a pretty positive rep.

I've no doubt the effects of oil crisis and following recession put paid to an awful lot of NASA plans. As they'd proved they could do it, and did so first, I expect politicians saw less point in keep going back.

The arrival of market forces for everything with Reagan and Thatcher will have further limited, seeing plans for space stations and bases shelved and building small probes instead. This was the era of the artists impressions. Of things we'd never see.

Since then it's more about balance sheets and budgets if you want a large project. Military excepted.

> But on the other end, we have lots of movies expecting much more from us on the 'space' end of things.

"Expected" may be the wrong word. People that have the capacity to travel through space but basically interact in familiar ways may just be a better fit for the medium than people who interact in unfamiliar ways.

I was so inspired by Elon saying "people have this expectation that technology just continues to improve on it's own," before going on to talk about ancient civilizations reaching peak technology and backsliding hard.
if you dont try, you already failed
Where is this from? I'd really like to see this part. It's an idea that bugs me too.

It's like "well the others are going to cure cancer, fix the internet, make it so that machines can talk with us and make gold fall out of the sky".

This brings up a good point. Why mars first? Why not a moon colony first?
Some possible reasons; Mars has a c02 atmosphere, water ice, it has a ~24 hour day as opposed to the moons 28 day-day, Earth and Mars have similar sizes.
Dumb question: it can't be coincidence that our days are almost identical in length. Why are they?
I don't know why you got downvoted but I couldn't find anything helpful regarding your question. I found some references to the fact that mars and earth have ~24hr days but no explanation as to why they are so similar. Mars also rotates (on its axis) the opposite direction of Earth which I found interesting. So many questions about our little local solar neighborhood, so few answers!
I'm pretty sure everything about the particular properties of our solar system is, strictly speaking, a coincidental result of the initial conditions of the big bang. But to speculatively address the intent of your question, I'd guess it has to do their relatively similar size, solidity and distance from the sun.
I'm not sure the premise is correct. Why can't it be coincidence?
I suppose it could, but of all possible values, it seems exceedingly strange that they'd fall on essentially the same number. It seems much more likely that it has basic physics behind it, but I'm not sure what it is.
random chance is as good as physics. the earth was hit by a mars-sized impactor allegedly, so if not for the moon, we would have a completely different day length. (assuming there would be some 'us'.)
It is a coincidence. The rotational speeds of planets formed through a lot of chaotic events in the early solar system. E.g. Venus spins in the "wrong" (retrograde) direction, completely violating conservation of angular momentum, probably because of a planetary scale collision.

We can try to explain solar system formation through mathematical models and simulation (Phobos and Deimos would be clues) but we can't go back in time and find the real explanation. No law of physics mandates that Mars' rotational period should be similar in magnitude to Earth's.

Why does the Mars 24.5 hr day versus the Moons 28 day-day matter? What are the consequences of this big difference between Earth day and the moon/Mars day?
14 consecutive days of darkness in the moon creates issues with solar energy, heating, etc.
24.5 hours matches our circadian cycle. On the Moon extra power would be necessary for artificial lighting.
I don't think that lighting is going to be the difference between a viable and unviable non-terran colony.
I think you underestimate the importance and cost of the artificial lighting :P

On the moon it means you need enough solar power in batteries to power your gear, and to power appropriate spectrum lighting for plant growth.

If you can rely on solar power more reliably, then you can construct (significantly more complex than those required on earth) green houses which still benefit from natural light.

In all fairness, my parent poster was talking about human circadian rhythms, not greenhouses.

I actually agree that there are numerous challenges associated with very long days and nights. Artificial lighting per se is not among them. Solar power is a reasonable one.

The temperature swings on the moon are a major engineering challenge. 500f difference between noon and midnight.
For constant power on Mars you need 2 kg of batteries for every 1 kg of solar panels. On the moon you need 50+ kg.
Besides, it wouldn't exclude the possibility of an extinction level event that disables the earth-moon system. Moon seems more suited for the role of an outpost, re-fuelling station and the final flight to Mars/elsewhere.
Better yet, why not asteroids first? If we really want to be living in space, don't switch one gravity well for a much shittier one.
Well for one thing living in a gravity well is healthier for humans. We don't do very well long term in 0 gravity. Our systems work best when gravity is helping things along.
You spin up your station. You're not limited to whatever accidental value holds on the planetary surface. This was all studied back in the 1970s and 80s, and free-space development makes way more sense:
And this adds a whole new set of engineering challenges and project risk. Nobody's spun up anything bigger than a rocket stage to date.
Of course space settlement is many steps away; so is a permanent settlement on Mars. You need to analyze the payoffs and costs and intermediates and uncertainties for each.
To me the moon would be the obvious place to start, especially as the NASA plans I've seen for Mars have been based on using a space station at a Earth-Lunar Lagrange point, and associated moonbase, as ideal staging post. That and I might one day afford a ticket.

I guess direct to Mars is sexier. :)

(I'm behind live too.)

Go to the moon for its own rewards--a lunar base or whatever--but don't go there as a stepping stone. The challenges of landing on the two bodies are vastly different and you'd throw away half your effort reworking for Mars after you got some moon landings.
Not sure why you'd go out to the lagrange point? Or the moon? It's much farther away (a few days travel instead of a few minutes), it's way outside the limited shielding the earths magnetic field gives, and there's nothing there. Why's it better than LEO?
I agree --- Mars is a pit. It's a barren desert at the bottom of a great big hole.

Its biggest, and perhaps only, advantage is that it has an atmosphere, and gas is so much easier to deal with for ISRU than anything else, as you don't need to mine it: just open a valve and suck it in. I notice Musk's ISRU plan is to mine ice; I do wonder how he's going to do that, as it won't be easy.

But... you know what... if you can get to Mars, you can get anywhere.

If you can get to Mars, getting to the Moon is so trivial you might as well build and maintain a base there just to test the equipment.

If you can get to Mars, you can get to near-Earth asteroids with enough spare capacity to take a whole a mining plant in tow.

If you can get to Mars, Ceres is only 400 m/s further away. (And Ceres is interesting.)

If you can get to Mars, then the outer solar system is reachable (with preparation and some disposable boosters).

If you can get to Mars, anyone who can afford a IST ship can have a space station.

So, hell yes, let's go to Mars. (And I'll cheerfully wave goodbye to you from my ice-mining cometary habitat.)

Going to a body with atmosphere is easier than going to one without. You get free braking (~8500m/s of delta-v according to Elon, for Mars) thanks to the atmosphere.

Anything without an atmosphere you have to carry the fuel to stop after chasing it down, then land on it slow enough not to die. For robotic missions we can approach these objects in very favorable orbits with transit times measured in years, so the delta-v needed to slow down is manageable.

For human-based missions we have to get there fast. Going there fast means you have to dump alot of speed to stop once you get there. Without an atmosphere, that takes fuel. Not as much as it took you to reach that velocity, since you're lighter now, but still just about as much in terms of delta-v.

I learned this playing KSP. It will open your eyes to the real challenges of orbital mechanics. The hardest planet to land on in the entire game is the one with a mass/gravity approaching the game version of earth, except with no atmosphere. The in-game numbers aren't realistic, but the concepts are.

And hell yes, lets go to Mars. Where do I sign up?

> I notice Musk's ISRU plan is to mine ice; I do wonder how he's going to do that, as it won't be easy.

Load up the icy dirt into a chamber using a digger, heat it up and precipitate out the water vapor. The only potential problem is separating out other volatiles, but fractionation is pretty basic tech.

D'oh, I totally should have thought of that.

Provided you have a decent power source that's easy: the hardest part is getting your raw material into the chamber and disposing of the debris afterwards. Humans driving flat-pack bulldozers, most likely.

Would work on the Moon, too.

You could probably heat up the regolith while it's on a conveyor belt and use a negative pressure system to draw off the vapour through cooling tubes, so it could operate continuously.
I've nothing against Mars, more surprise that it's not via lunar orbit staging as the last several explanations of how we'd get there that I've seen. Like it was a big obvious advantage.

Mars first has the enormous advantage that it's tangibly in progress, however early, rather than being a great NASA idea that isn't getting funded. So I don't actually care which if only one is having rockets built. I saw enough artist impressions in the 80s. ;)

My recollection of the NASA idea was a Mars voyage would reconfigure/refuel at the space station but never land on the moon. The moonbase is the warehouse, fuel and whatever else would be needed to keep space station fed, and gets developed into manufacturing.

Lower G meaning larger vehicles, lower launch cost and so forth. The station at L2 was supposed to be a good jumping off point for anywhere - Mars, asteroids, rest of solar system - supposedly the most fuel efficient way to all(?) of them from here.

It's a while since I last read about that, so I may be mistaken on details.

Mars is sexy and looks like a place --- people can see the pictures from the Mars rovers and imagine themselves being there. It's got weather and wind and interesting landscapes. It's featured in myths and legends for so long that it has a special place in people's heart. I can totally see it being used as the end goal of a fairly long plan.

The Moon's not very sexy. It's all dusty blacks and greys. Everyone knows it's a dead rock, we've already been there, and public consciousness is dominated by the Apollo program pictures of astronauts in gigantic, bulky spacesuits.

(This is mostly perpetrated by NASA unaccountably not sending any decent rovers to the Moon. Even the most recent lander, China's Chang'e, deliberately landed in the most boring place they could find. There aren't any interesting pictures of the moon because we haven't been anywhere interesting.)

ISRU's hard there, too. There's water ice you can mine, but carbon? I don't know where you'd get that.

But... if I were building a water ice mining plant destined for Mars, I'd want to test it somewhere. The Moon's a good place. So now I've landed an ITP ship with a mining rig. I'm going to load it with scientific instruments, too. And scientists. In fact, I might as well land two; it's good practice for Mars. And we're mining water, so we might as well use it, and help test the recycling systems. After all, the Moon's close enough that you can dash back to Earth in an emergency; it's the ideal place. We've got two ships; let's use one to recycle the crew on the other, and leave it there long term; there's plenty of interesting science to do, and it's all excellent practice.

So I'd be really surprised if a long-term presence on the Moon didn't sneak into this plan by the back door. And then if a carbon source were to be discovered in large enough quantities for meaningful ISRU, then sourcing methane from the moon would slot neatly in.

Landing on the moon is just as difficult as la to mars. Operating on the moon is much much harder. Getting back is hard because there is no easy ISRU way to do it. Nobody will go to the moon to test stuff.

Getting water on the moon is a completely different problem then getting water on mars. Testing these things on the moon is totally insane anyway.The moon has some water, we don't know how much, and not exactly were it is. Mining it would be extremely difficult, specially without a nuclear reactor.

As for recycling systems, we are already good at them. We can and do test them on earth. We do test them on ISS. There is no need to go to mars, to these systems.

On Mars the most important resources for ISRU is easily and everywhere available, on the moon that is not the case.

The Science on Mars could answer fundamental questions about live, that is almost impossible on mars. Mars is clearly far more interesting from a scientific perspective. That is not even a point worth debating.

I am all for going back to the moon eventually, but mars is far more important. If you want to go to mars, go to mars.

I wonder if silicosis is a major concern on Mars (as it is for lunar colony considerations).
The moon is high ground from anywhere on Earth, which makes state action involving colonization efforts very likely. It's easy to point out that there will be no bombardment or invasion from Mars in the next half century, regardless of how things go for settlements there.
Musk just addressed this. Mars has an atmosphere of CO2 and Nitrogen, so we can grow plants, a day length similar to Earth's (24.5 hours), and is larger.
To me, the 2 day vs 6 months commute outweigh that. Then again I haven't done the math.

In the long run, there should of course be settlements on both bodies.

The commute may be long, but at least there is an abundance of lanes.
Once you get there, what do you do? Just go back?
What do people do on Earth? Live, thrive, expand, explore. All that stuff.
I assume different people do different things...

Tourism would be an obvious sustainable Moon industry. That does fit your description :)

Will it really be sustainable? How many people will want to go twice?
highest hike in our solar system - Olympus Mons!
How many tourists visit Admundsen-Scott, and what percentage of its operating costs do you think it covers?
When the pilgrims originally sailed to North America from England, it took on the order of two or three months. A six month trip to Mars seems reasonable in that context.
The pilgrims didn't have to worry about being subjected to deadly cosmic radiation. They could also bring various tools with them and build habitats in their new home using readily-available materials, and grow food there from seeds (though they should have picked a more southerly landing spot...). They also didn't have to worry about having pressurized environmental suits just to walk around outside once they made landfall.
No, they just had to worry about weird diseases, storms destroying their boat en-route, not having any clue where they'd land or what the territory would be like, and being attacked and killed by angry natives. Oh and they were doing it all with pretty basic "science".

None of those problems exist on Mars. Others exist, but you can't just directly say it was easier.

Yeah, but they went to fertile land.

A space colony would have much more need to get supplies from Earth.

Once we've learned how to run a space colony on the Moon, building a second one on Mars would be much easier.

There are other important reasons for this that don't make such a great subject for a public presentation, such as getting away from Earth's political and military sphere of influence and achieving greater redundancy in case a large asteroid impact event happens on the Earth/Moon system.
> and is larger

I see this as a disadvantage; the major difficulty of space exploration is getting out of the Earth's gravity well. I don't think it's wise to fall back into another one.

What if that gravity well has the resources you need to get out of it?

The moon also has a small gravity well, but no real resources to help you escape it. Mars has a bit of a gravity well, but has many more resources to help you escape that gravity well.

Once you've solved dealing with Earth's gravity, Mars will be a cakewalk by comparison.
Elon actually addressed this, you only need the booster from Earth. For all interesting targets the spacecraft can launch by itself and get back to Earth.

The point of the booster for Earth is both to get out of Earth's gravity well and through its atmosphere (both of which are far less of a problem on Mars).

Mars has no magnetic field so you get cooked with radiation.

Mars' soil contains tons of perchlorate at levels which are very toxic to humans.

TBH Venus seems like a better candidate for long term terraforming.

You can build floating complexes in it's upper atmosphere, and it has enough oxygen and water locked in it's atmosphere and we might be able to fix the rotation and the density of the atmosphere in one go by using the atmosphere to speed up the rotation of Venus. While both of these are quite "far fetched" technically, as far as terraforming goes we aren't any closer to terraforming mars than Venus, and at least for Venus we don't need to figure out how to give it a magnetic field.

Venus also has no magnetic field. It has much stronger gravity as well, requiring larger rockets to take off from it, and it is quite difficult to mine resources from due to the high temperatures and pressures at the surface, meaning all materials for a colony would need to be sent from Earth.
Venus has an induced magnetic field which while isn't as good as what we got on Earth, is better than what you have on Mars.

Additionally the current theory is that if Venus will be sped up to below 56h per rotation it would regenerate it's intrinsic magnetic field which should be near earth levels.

And while Venus does have higher gravity than Mars, it's still lower than Earth's, and overall the delta V for venus insertion orbit is slightly lower than what you need for Mars.

Easier to live in Mars with some radiation and lower temperatures (and pressure) as opposed to 400C and acid rains of Venus
No one is suggesting living on the surface until it's terraformed, the dense atmosphere allows for easy construction of floating platforms.

As far as terraforming goes, Venus is just a better candidate for long term colonization.

"Additionally the current theory is that if Venus will be sped up to below 56h per rotation it would regenerate it's intrinsic magnetic field which should be near earth levels."

That's great and all, but how exactly do we realistically speed up the rotation of a _planet_?

A fleet of masses attached to solar sails imparting a little bit of momentum as each one passes by.

This is planetary engineering. It's not supposed to be fast.

Unless, of course, you are a Kardashev II civilization.

same way it actually slowed down: mess with the atmo.
One of the more "probable" and more or less energy sane suggestions would be using mass drivers to eject the atmosphere at high speeds to induce spin.

The mass of the venusian atmosphere is high enough for this to actually work and still leave you a lot of atmosphere to work with, it will take 20-30 years but it still doable.

And pointing those canisters at Mars or the moon. Once you've hit Venusian escape velocity you might as well move that atmosphere somewhere else that needs it.

But compressing acidic gasses makes the corrosion problem worse, doesn't it? How do you deal with that?

Nothing says "I love you" like super-compressed canisters of acid hurtling through space at interplanetary speeds :)
I think you have a good candidate for the Portal 3 story line there.
oh ok, i'm 30 mins behind live.
> and is larger

Mars is much smaller than Earth. From Wikipedia: "Mars is less dense than Earth, having about 15% of Earth's volume and 11% of Earth's mass, resulting in about 38% of Earth's surface gravity."


Parent was making a size comparison to the moon.
It's still much larger than the moon.
I wonder if the 1-way ticket to mars would appeal to older folks who can survive the trip, but don't have the physical strength for much adventure on earth.

Ref: Old man's war.

Nice idea, but I assume anyone recruiting for space travel is going to insist on people who are very fit and in 100% good health, which usually means fairly young people. Certainly there could be some older people, but probably not a majority.
Which is why the ISS is populated by PhDs in their 40s?

Of course you want the first colonists to not be sickly, but they won't need to be Olympic decathletes in their 20s. Equipment for lifting heavy objects can be sent more cheaply than people (it can go slowly and doesn't need life support).

I think for a venture like this maturity and patience is going to be more important than physical strength. There will be a lot of tedious tasks with long checklists that need to be followed near exactly to succeed. There will be a lot of disappointment and frustration when things fail or timelines slip. There will be the irritations of being stuck in a small social circle with a few people you intensely dislike but have to depend on for survival.

Add in the fact that your sperm or eggs will probably get exposed to large doses of radiation until they figure out how to get to Mars faster, and it will be far less attractive to anyone who is planning to have kids someday.

> There will be the irritations of being stuck in a small social circle

in my own personal experience, this thing works worse for older folks, who get territorial, grumpy and so on. But we aren't discussing folks in their 40s, rather 50s and 60s

With substantially less gravity, you can lift 2.6x the weight as you can on earth. People in their 40-50s in good health with moderate strength, good maturity, advanced skills, and already-grown children are good candidates. And yes, with the radiation they'll get hit with, it's better than kids burning away their lives.
And 97% of the land mass:
Larger than the moon.
It has an "atmosphere" It's 0.00628 atm according to Wikipedia. That's effectively a vacuum. You can't have liquid water on Mars.

So you can grow plants in some kind of transparent pressurized place... Just like on the Moon.. or on a space station

But it's still much easier to grab even a thin gas than it is to mine anything. An extremely convenient source of both carbon and nitrogen is going to be a huge benefit in terms of trying for long term sustainability. The Moon does have plenty of oxygen in various minerals and hydrogen in the polar ice but you need more than that.
>That's effectively a vacuum.

That depends entirely on the effect in question.

You'd have a hard time pressurizing the moon's atmosphere to harvest it for propellent.

this effective vacuum gives a 10m column of water equivalent of radiation protection. you'll really like it compared to the moon.
You can pressurize a chamber using the thin atmosphere, rather than being restricted to the gasses you bring with you.

You can use ISRU and atmosphere resource extraction to generate rocket fuel on the surface of mars, rather than being restricted to the rocket fuel you bring with you.

Ultimately, the answer is Mars has the necessary resources and when you look into the details just makes more sense and is easier.

You can produce fuel from lunar regolith as well.

> One of my earliest strong memories was the last moon landing.

One of my earliest memories was the challenger explosion. I've basically missed out on any of the truly revolutionary space accomplishments.

You were told the moon landing was about human progress and exploring frontiers. In reality it was just about beating the Russians in the cold war.


Can't it be all of the above?
It's expensive, so you have to give reasons or spending the money. The money was spent because beating the Russians was deemed worth it.

I guess it won't necessarily be spent for a handwavy "but it is progress", needs more realistic goals.

>I'd really like to see us taking space seriously. While I'm still here

You can help make it happen. The Planetary society is actively lobbying Congress to increase funding for space research.

Pardon the cynicism, I'm a bit tired of tomorrows. It's the same story over and over. I believe we don't need a new "next". So much is unused or wasted here.. I can't stop thinking we're just gonna spread human absurdity further.

ps: I heard Musk incentive to research interplanetary escape as a safety measure. But this is not what's sold here IMO, it smells too much of space travel tech infused greener (sic) heaven.

With so much that happens on this planet I agree. We're doing an appalling job of keeping our only planet viable or leaving a better place for our children. Our species is not fit to be let out. But...

On space and Mars we must agree to disagree. Apart from the exploration and new discoveries that may arise from another planet, like the space race of the 60s many new technologies will arise. By introducing research on other planets (as we have done on ISS) there'll be a lot of basic and blue sky research that's hard to fund down here as it's not thought commercial. Some will be commercial, some might help save the planet. We don't know what we might discover, but it'll be vastly more than staying here arguing about fracking.

That commerce is getting us there and NASA hasn't in 50 years is telling. But it's as telling that there's a willingness to fund ridiculous wars on drugs and terror, and ill-conceived adventures in many places than develop the species with global missions to our home system, or alleviating hunger. I suspect for a fraction of the cost. If Mars were a threat we'd have been there decades ago.

Having an escape route, or at least the start of viable interplanetary travel, even if most wont get to use it might be handy too.

There is a line in the film “Interstellar” that stuck with me: “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.” Now the film plays in a dystopian future, but I think the quote is still appropriate for us as a civilization. If Elon can change that, all the better.
Honestly, the quote is a reflection of a distorted understanding of reality transposed over from utopian science fiction. The stars are incredibly far away, and are overwhelmingly utterly hostile to human life. The 'dirt' is one of the very few places in the galaxy, perhaps the only place, actually well suited to human life, and the ecosystems that support it.

If our understanding of fundamental physics is correct, there will never be an interstellar civilization of the sort that sci fi depicts. Only balkanized civilizations separated by many decades of travel. Within a solar system, no doubt interplanetary colonies will happen, but the conditions for life on other planets within our solar system are overwhelmingly harsh, difficult, and expensive.

Most of the work that needs to go into making either of those things happen will occur here on Earth. Although a Mars colony could help, if there was some economic imperative which could sustain and drive it.

it's rather about dreaming beyond our current situation rather than trying to just get over this day to get to tomorrow and repeat.

as for physics - we don't have even standard unifying theory that would work in all situations, so there is some room to grow our knowledge. we observe a lot of powerful and strange stuff happening in cosmos, but these are natural things - matter seems to be doing couple of variations of same cycle - group by gravity till planet/star is born, exist for some time, explode/die slowly/collapse/go exotic. who can say what will happen when we literally take matter, energy and spacetime into our hands?

But before we will reach these situations, our society will change completely, probably many times. implants, prolonging life endlessly, going completely into digital existence and who knows what. why would inter-galaxy travel matter if we would exist in endless sea of some data banks?

Someone's been reading Gary Egan
honestly never heard that name, short googling incoming
It's a childish dreaming that imagines we can must our home to find somewhere better. Powerful visionaries dream of making our home better.
Where do you live? Is it Odluvai Gorge? The reason humans don't all live in Africa and in fact have colonized almost every inhabitable corner of the planet is because as a species overall we don't think like that. In fact it's the reason we as a species still exist. Life naturally expands to colonize new environments. That's essential because environmental change is inevitable whether it's climate change, volcanic activity, excessive predation or disease. Diversity of location, genetics and culture are essential tools of species survival.

Diversity in every way possible is in our Genes. Even within our own cultures, if it's possible for people to live a certain way you're highly likely to find at least some people living that way. Some of these ways of living seem pathalogical. Travelling people, isolationist survivalists, even homeless people but if civilization were to collapse, as it has many times in many places in the past, some of these people would be superbly adapted to survive it or even thrive.

For any given place, eventually catastrophe is almost inevitable. We are all the descendants of people who survived some catastrophe or other by moving out before it struck. All of us. In fact that's true of every surviving species on Earth. It's a strategy that works. Let's keep doing it.

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the Moon! ...We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.

- President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962

John F. Kennedy Moon Speech - Rice Stadium

I'm finding this quotations without referencing the source or using quotes a real annoying trend on HN atm.

It's a form of in-joke/group which is very Reddit and is used to get upvotes because everyone loves being in with the cool kids.

But not everyone has read or watched every classic and knows every famous person of countries X speeches, hence why you attribute the source or even just the speaker, fictional or not.

I didn't know who produced this quote but I was able to tell from context that it was a speech (or press release) regarding the moon landing. I feel like I got more out of it then someone who's familiar with it.

Is it really that hard to Google the source?

Watching live the announcement and presentation by Elon on

Where the hell did they get this audience from? Is this hosted on a frat house with some academic invites?

There's a dude jokingly saying that burning man felt like mars with a lot of shit and no water, there's a guy plugging his comic book, there's a guy making a joke on how we should send Michael Cera to Mars, a girl complaining about Space X not hiring people from other countries, a girl asking to go on stage and give him a kiss, a guy that identified himself as a local idiot that I'm pretty sure is completely drunk, ....

There are some good questions too, but I just can't understand it.

Elon just went on stage and delivered a plan so ambitious you couldn't even imagine. I have thousands of questions, and astonished these people couldn't think of anything else.

Yeah, that aspect was cringeworthy.

Lesson learned: if you're running a big event with Q&A, always always either restrict it to qualified people or vet the questions before they're asked.

Don't allow a general audience to just form a line in front of a microphone.


If you're an organizer hosting Elon Musk, the heads of the major national space agencies, and the leadership of all major aerospace companies, you don't want to give some assclown 60 seconds of microphone time to ask whether there will be enough Portapotties on Mars.


Thought experiment: I'm sure that this video will get over 1m views on Youtube. 1m * 60s = about two years of people's time

I agree man, but "assclown" is unnecessarily rude.
I agree, if this turns out to be a historic announcement, this Q&A will definitely not make humanity look very intelligent to future viewers.

I guess the reason for inviting non-technical press (and being so patient with their silly questions) is to get access to a non-technical audience. Like he said, part of the challenge is to get more people to want to go to Mars (maybe not personally, but as a species), so appealing to people of all sorts, not just people to who read science & engineering reporting, would contribute to that. My best guess, but still, wow, at those questions.

The guy who identified himself as the "local idiot" was Zach Anner, who has cerebral palsy. He definitely wasn't drunk, palsy makes him sound like that.

Not your fault, they didn't show him on the stream.

Was going to add this. Such an awesome guy and his question was valid albeit goofy.
Where the hell did they get this audience from? Is this hosted on a frat house with some academic invites?

The announcement was held at the "International Astronautical Congress". "The IAC is attended by the agency heads and senior executives of the world's space agencies." [1]



Yes, but to be fair a lot of people came to the confrence, only to see this speech.

Source: Me, I was there.

I hate to say it but this is what SpaceX fandom often looks like. I don't think this invalidates Musk's approach, but even on these forums the SpaceX hype is unbelievable and the worst of the worst are usually low information fanboys who aren't really serious about space exploration or space science but like to jump on a bandwagon, as this video illustrates. I also imagine SpaceX marketing wants to surround Musk with young people to make him seem hip enough to constantly go viral in the largely millennial dominated social networks. It'll be millennials riding these rockets, not baby boomers or even gen-x'ers, who be in their 50's by then. Space exploration is a young person's game and SpaceX knows it. The party boy and academically mediocre fratboy won't get a cush job at Goldman Sachs, he'll be the guy mining rocks on Mars. Winning over this demographic is probably seen as important. The first group of colonists will not have cushy lives.

Thankfully, as SpaceX matures and become mainstream, the weirdo element gets diluted. The same way the early web was little more than tribute pages to baby boomer rockstars and endless pages and commentary about the illuminati and the new world order.

He's doing a great job of only looking a little bit uncomfortable with the questions.

Seriously this Q&A is incredibly odd.

> that burning man felt like mars with a lot of shit and no water

It was one of the dumbest things I've heard in a while. Do these people not realise that these comments will go down in history. Also the "like, I was, like, thinking, like" valley girl talk was very odd (I'm from the UK) to hear as I didn't think people, like, talked like that in real life.

I don't think that person's first language is American-English, which might be why her word choices don't sound like normal American-English.
I've heard plenty of teenagers with strong american accent talk like that in Europe. It hurts your ears, amplifies the insecurity feeling radiating from them tremendously and is overall appalling to experience... and I'm like, you know, , quite a tolerant person
Yes, I was extremely irritated by the questions.

I was actually there in the audience. Trust me, all the experts in the room, from all over the aerospace industry, were very irritated too. Many folks walked out of the room when people started asking silly questions.

I cringed on his behalf, it feels like he's preaching to ants.
Don't forget the electric bus entrepreneur trying to get a meet with Musk. Unreal.
It's super weird, also that refueling question:

People have to wait weeks in space to just get refueled?

Why not send 4-5 tankers (supposedly reusable) up first and then refuel almost instantly? That thing seems really low scale/budget.

I'd guess that maybe they have a limited supply of tankers and if they're only sending ships to Mars during a narrow window of time (due to planetary orbits), then it's helpful not to have a bunch of tankers sitting idle when they could be busy making trips back and forth from Earth to Leo.

There might be practical considerations, too, like if someone is on the ship for a couple days and then realizes that spending months on a ship or living on Mars is just not for them, they can get transferred to the next convenient ferry back to the surface.

We're probably overthinking this, though; what order the passengers, fuel, and cargo load is a pretty minor detail that could easily be revised when the plan is closer to completion.

The goal is to maximize re-use in order to minimize cost, for a tanker to fuel a tanker in orbit you'd need two tankers. So 1 booster + 1 transporter + 1 tanker, vs. 1 booster + 1 transporter + 2 tankers. If the trip takes 100 days, adding 3 weeks is 20% longer, and you might get it 20% cheaper by saving one spacecraft ... I can see it going either way.
Why not just save a bunch of time and use new boosters? Then reuse those boosters for other missions? Reusing rockets is great for saving money, but that doesn't mean you need to reuse the same rocket for this one mission; if you have a business going with, say, 30 missions over the next year, you're probably going to need a lot more than one booster in stock anyway. Or, instead of new boosters, use a bunch of reused boosters for the Mars mission, letting other commercial customer who insist on brand-new boosters help subsidize your Mars mission.
I personally think it makes sense for SpaceX to offer to take over Tiangong I, the Chinese space station that's going to be deorbited soon. It's older and not suitable for safe habitation anymore. If SpaceX could use their launch capacity to bring up fuel tanks and to boost the orbit, it could do well as an orbiting fueling station.

Just launch tankers and fill up tanks on Tiangong and then the space craft with passengers would just have one trip to the space station to fuel up and then go to Mars.

China is going to throw away the station anyway, so might as well give it (or lease it) to SpaceX for a good price in exchange for at-cost refueling for their own ambitions.

What would they use it for?

If you're going to Mars, your vessel has a reasonable crew habitat, so you don't need Tiangong I for that.

Tiangong I is more payload than spaceship. Its tanks can only hold about 1000kg of propellant. Mr. Musk's proposed transfer stage has a propellant budget that's nearly 2,000,000kg.

Having to maintain compatibility with it may be hard (comms, docking, etc). There might be some hardware you could loot off it, but it's not worth flying a mission just for that, and launch windows mean visiting on a trip somewhere else would be prohibitively expensive.

With only one tanker, you can launch the tanker first and then launch the transporter, so it isn't any faster than launching a tanker and transporter simultaneously.

To go any faster you'd need more tankers as well. I don't forsee the tanker having commercial value short-term, so this would still increase the cost. With two tankers though, you can just have a full tanker waiting in orbit which is the fastest possibility, so there is no need of extra boosters in that case.

I agree with the premise of multiple boosters though. I wonder if a spacecraft could be made that could do both commercial earth orbit satellite missions, and serve as a tanker. This could finance a larger number of tankers. I think you'd need a 3rd stage on top of the tanker in this case to get the satellite in position. [EDIT: I mean either carry the extra fuel, or carry a 3rd stage + satellite, not both at the same time.]

I have an electric bus in the parking lot.........
Let's hope some of the people from the Q&A session will be banned from getting a ticket to Mars, or soon we'll make humans a specie of multiplanetary idiots.
I started cringing and stopped watching as soon as the guy started talking about himself at burning man, like Elon Musk gives a shit.
Honestly? Get over it. This sort of attitude smacks of elitism. You probably would have had a bunch of more technically interesting questions to ask.

However, Musk knows that in order for his vision to succeed, he needs support and engagement from more than just rocket scientists. He needs the engagement of the kind of people who ask these sorts of questions. He needs the interest of people who see something (of self interest) to gain from being associated with this project.

I'm really glad that Musk did a good job of taking some of the lower brow questions and turning them into informative and interesting answers.

Although to be fair Elon also talked about the infinite improbability drive and hhgttg
Musk has a, let's say, assorted fan base. Lots of, let's say, unusual personalities tend to come to his shindigs.
Thank you, yes - utterly! And, dare I say it, half of them sounded stoned too (and I'm a smoker)

He says mid-way through he'd gloss over detail and leave technical questions until the end, and what did we get..?

I feel so bad for the guy in that regard.

Let's hope the seed is planted - that's all that Musk has fundamentally wanted anyway.

Came here to say the same thing, I was really hoping for some better questions like the ones in the "How to build the future" [1] interview...


> Where the hell did they get this audience from?

Same place that made a reality show from the election of one of the most powerful political positions on the planet.

The 21st century.

It's comedy night at the time traveller's agency.

Where were they that his talk was so unimportant that they cut him off? :O
Elon starts talking 22:05
I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that... That was ridiculous.

It actually made me realize that I may not want to go with others if the average person is like that.

I bet/hope that next time he has his staff vet the questioners. Those publicity stunts wasted valuable time.
Bike shedding.
You're so right. I had to stop watching after they started the Q&A. That was impossible to watch without self-harming.
Well, this is coming from a guy who apparently thinks the height of subversive humor is naming cars to spell SEX and sending people into fits of giggles that it's called the BFR. A frat house environment does not seem all that out of place in this context.
Isn't that just a part of having a personality? In the planning stages you give something a silly name and it kinda sticks, especially when it's the big boss who came up with the name.

Kinda like the "heart of gold" -- it tickles Elon.

There's nothing wrong with any of that, but you can't complain if your audience follows your lead. Not that Musk was complaining (to the best of my knowledge) but others on his behalf.

If I chair a board meeting wearing a clown nose, I can't complain when the members pull out squirt guns.

I actually think this underscores the importance of doing what he is doing. If he were delivering some address about optimizing mobile websites for mobile, you wouldn't have had those questions. That market is incredibly saturated, with lots of expertise, a well-defined pecking order of companies and celebrities, and filling a packed house just with very competent and technical people would be a breeze.

But how many people do you know ACTUALLY working in Aerospace tech? For better or worse, that constituency is what today probably makes up a good chunk of people caring about this space, which just goes to show how little it is compared to what it probably SHOULD be.

I had some of the same reaction when I went to a lecture at NYU Law on interplanetary legal issues. There was the same mix of people with genuinely interesting and thoughtful questions, and people who I'm pretty sure did not know what Apollo was.

This kind of outreach is one of the many things to admire about Elon's work. Yes, he's kinda dorky and often touts timelines that are woefully inaccurate, but boy, does he get people fired up!

Just a pretty clear example: Yes, the audience there had some pretty awful questions, but think about the debate that the SpaceX telecast alone helped spur on HN!!! Yes, a lot of that audience was pretty unhelpful, but I think that especially by doing things like this, Elon is helping the proportion of those people diminish significantly.

> But how many people do you know ACTUALLY working in Aerospace tech?

A lot.

This is pretty standard work for many schools which offer a mix of Computer Science and Electronics. Alumni finish their degree and go into Aerospace.

If you ignore the Silicon Valley area which is dominated by trendy web startups, there is a lot of work in old school aircraft/aerospace/military/defence companies and contracts.

I could argue that there are actually more [decent and stable] jobs in Aerospace than in web startups.

Excellent point! If more people would get interested in this field - and this mission/vission, we should be able to endure a little (a lot actually) cringe-worthy questions. That burning man guy though...
This is so pleasant to see after being bombarded with US presidential politics. Science, hope and progress!
What about going to a different planet makes you think we won't just be taking those same problems with us?

The earth isn't the problem - The problem is the human brain. We aren't genetically capable of processing the world we have built.

Expect there to be Trump IV vs Clinton IV 2117 hosted live on Mars if we haven't made significant improvements in human engineering.

The problems we take with us aren't the problem this project addresses---there is one problem we unequivocally leave behind if we successfully colonize Mars.

For all our accomplishments, the human species is one unavoidable planet-scale disaster away from total extinction. We know this class of disaster has happened in Earth's past, and we know we lack the capability to stop it. Colonizing Mars gives the species that much more chance to extend its survival past the terrestrial-impact threshold.

There are myriad other ways we could wipe ourselves out that myriad people are working on. None of them matter if something kills Earth's biosphere (much like this project doesn't matter if something like war kills us off before we succeed). They aren't mutually exclusive.

All of this is true.

Going to Mars fixes none of these problems however and wastes a lot of energy in the process.

I'm talking about asteroid impact. It fixes asteroid impact.
Wouldn't it be cheaper to defend against an asteroid impact? We only need detect and deflect in time.
No it doesn't. Mars today is likely less habitable than post-asteroid earth. Also, Asteroids can hit Mars with the same likelihood - but with less protection from an existing dense atmosphere.


The probability of a civilization-ending asteroid impact on Earth and Mars at approximately the same time is a lot less than the probability of a civilization-ending asteroid impact just on Earth.
There is no disaster that has ever happened to Earth that could wipe out a species that can survive on Mars. A giant asteroid colliding with Earth would probably leave more humans here than the whole of Mars could even support.
Sure. But if the technology needed to survive ecological catastrophic failure on Earth and to live on Mars is similar, wouldn't you rather test a colony on Mars before being required to resort to similar measures on Earth?
Doesn't that imply that solving the problem of surviving on Mars increases the chances of our survivability in another Late Devonian mass-extinction scenario?
Maybe I'm misunderstanding but you seem to be saying "Let's not be excited about colonizing another planet-- life will be just as depressing there."
I think anytime someone plays to the deeply held hopes and dreams of a given community, especially ones that are related to long-term survival, "destiny" and the like... be very very careful and very very skeptical. That's not to say you should be depressive and cynical, but you should ask questions and seek motives.

We're really not close to being a "multiplanetary species", and the major bottlenecks have nothing to do with the rockets to get us out there. A lot of smart people are aware of just how much trouble our species is in over the next century or so, and there's an element of understandable misery and panic. That really is no excuse however for cheering and weeping with joy when the guy selling the rockets points to the stars and says, "Humanity's future!"

> We're really not close to being a "multiplanetary species", and the major bottlenecks have nothing to do with the rockets to get us out there.

They're not? If getting stuff from Earth's surface to low earth orbit and beyond weren't prohibitively expensive, we'd be doing a lot more of it.

Sure, there are many other technical (and some social and political) challenges inherent in sending people to Mars but if we don't solve the launch cost problem it'll be difficult to make rapid progress on the other problems that would suddenly become more pressing if launch costs weren't an issue.

That really is no excuse however for cheering and weeping with joy when the guy selling the rockets points to the stars and says, "Humanity's future!"

Why not? Just because he's selling something doesn't mean his actions aren't useful.

I said a lot of other things in that post which answers that question, before the one sentence you decided to reply to.
My reply is to your whole comment. I am still not convinced that it is inappropriate to celebrate SpaceX, if for no other reason than to encourage others to join in the vision of a multiplanetary society.
Celebrate SpaceX for what they're actually doing, which is impressive as hell, not for empty talk.
I think attitudes are worth celebrating to an extent, as well as actions.
Attitudes are cheap and easy, if you want to celebrate a positive attitude pick a religion.
What they are actually doing is making progress is fulfilling the plan to colonize Mars. Everything they've done since the founding of the company has been toward that goal. This presentation was just to fill the public in on more details of the near future of achieving that. I think celebrating their progress so far is also celebrating their attitude and ambition toward the future they are projecting. It's definitely not empty talk if the previous goals they've set in their plan have been successful. That's a good indicator that the goals they set for the future is something they really are working toward achieving.
It's more like unless we are conscientious about what dependencies we include, we will have the same headaches with bloat using python as we have using ruby. And if the environment change is going to cost a very large amount, it would be prudent to see if any improvements can be made locally first as a form of low hanging fruit.
Alternatively, those are orthogonal problems, and we can pursue improvements and achievements in both.
I think the point being made is life will be just as depressing in Mars if we are running behind things in Mars like we do here.
You misunderstood. Nowhere was it implied that we shouldn't be excited about anything.
it's a fair point.
That's actually not a bad way to put it!

Think about it this way. What if there was an uninhabited island out in the Pacific that was hard to get to. What makes it worth trying to get to? There isn't anything any more special there than here. In fact from all we've seen so far it's much less special. Same goes for Mars.

What is the value in being "multi-planetary?" I mean the idea that this is a hedge against some existential threat to humanity is silly. Mars is more hostile to human life TODAY than earth would be after a massive ELE asteroid - and the likelihood of an ELE asteroid is actually higher for Mars as it does not have a stable barrier atmosphere as good as Earth's - meteorites are more frequent as a result.

So best case scenario is that we have a group of people who put 75% of their time into just surviving because there is no atmosphere or biome to support them. On top of that these people have the same biological makeup - including cognitive limits, biases the rest of us on earth so even if they sorted everything out, tribalism and the rest of our hardwired heuristics would just make them behave like the rest of us.

The better approach is to start engineering our faults out using data to make us better, more resilient processors of information and discovery. Improve humanity and everything is easier.

I bet the first people that landed on Hawaii were pretty excited about it.

The technical challenges on Mars will probably only compound the political problems. Double plus fun.

Hawaii has an extremely productive ecosystem. When your primary needs are food, shelter, and warmth, it's an absolute paradise.

The first people who landed on the Galapagos islands were also pretty excited about it. Once they realized that there is no fresh water there, they got the hell out.

My understanding is that there is some concern that as a civilization reaches a certain amount of technological capability, they run a higher risk of wiping themselves out. We've only had nuclear weapons for a few decades. Who knows what will happen in the next century. Similar threats may come from biological or AI arenas.

So, the advantage is that you build a completely separate civilization that is relatively immune to all these problems.

I would imagine that, after reaching the point of self-support, Mars inhabitants would focus more on securing their own existence, such as building underground.

If humanity lasts, in about a billion years the Earth will be no longer be in the Sun's habitable zone. Might as well start preparing from now.
Better (probably easier too) to start transitioning humans to a different being. Make the merge with AGI and move out of traditional biology.
I don't believe that AGI and transhumanism is any easier (or better, but I accept your opinion) than making a spacecraft that can carry people to Mars. The task is well understood, unlike artifical intelligence.
Getting people to Mars is the easy part. Making Mars sustainable is a lot more difficult.
AGI solves the existential problem better than just moving people. If you can bundle intelligence on an SSD (metaphorically) you can send that outside of the solar system.
We have, to a good approximation, no clue how human biology achieves intelligence. I'd say it is far more realizable to go to Mars than to put a brain in a flash drive. Even if we achieve AGI, that isn't (necessarily) a human intelligence.
We have lots of brains in this planet. We can work in both efforts or even more than these two.

There is no point in arguing which one is easier. Feasibility and difficulty shouldn't be reasons for discarding long term efforts. Many current ideas were seen as impossible or extremely difficult.

I agree. I also noted in another comment that these things aren't mutually exclusive. Rather than "why try any of these things?", we should ask "why not try all?"
There we go, we've now gone full sci-fi
For the last few years, I've been telling people I believe I'd live forever, and they always ask me why I'd want to. I don't have a great reason (lets not make this about that). Point of story, entropy in our universe will eventually cause its end, and I don't want to die then either.

Ideally, before the cold death of the universe, I want to transition my body into a higher dimensional body. So I'm entirely in support of your argument.

However, digitizing our brains, or any other transition away from the status quo right now is not only not currently possible, it is currently unimaginable. There have been no prototypes, no significant research, not even any real theories on how to accomplish such a task. Even repairing/repurposing parts of our current bodies is a giant challenge. Hell, we can't even appropriately map our biology or understand how they actually work.

Transitioning away from biology will take time. However, until that day, we need to stay alive and we need more resources. Becoming multi-planetary is just one "safe"(predictable) step towards the future you would prefer.

I've often thought about this... is it really possible to live forever? Or does entropy (along with other factors like the accelerating rate of expansion of the universe) demand that at some point it'll all come to an end, regardless of how smart our AI offspring eventually become?
You're right that our universe will come to an end. However, for me, entropy isn't a show stopper. Its just a resource time bomb waiting to be diffused, or run away from.

At a "smaller" scale,

- Previously, our rivers have dried, and our crops turned to dust.

- Our planet will eventually run out of resources.

- Our solar system will eventually get consumed by the sun.

- Our galaxy will eventually shrink into its central singularity.

Whenever we come across a resource time bomb, the final option has always been and will always been to migrate away. The only question has been, "where should we go?".

But aren't there potentially:

- infinite parallel universes?

- infinite higher dimensions?

- infinite recursive simulations?

However, infinite sounds like a lot, and maybe there are only a finite number of each of the above, but I don't think it'll matter. We can't keep beating time. Eventually the entropy time bomb will go off before we are able to solve its riddle. The only thing I want, is that before that day comes, I want to have beaten it a few times. Shown entropy who its master is. Because on that day, I want to be happy for my long time advisory and proud to have been the master of time, even if the student finally surpassed the master and has gotten its long deserved win.

> the final option has always been and will always been to migrate away

That's why I brought up the accelerating rate of expansion of space ... everything will be moving away from us so quickly that eventually we'll run out of places to migrate to.

Well, no time like the present to start working on it then! So maybe instead of sinking billions into a dead-end. We put billions into AGI.

I know that's what I'm doing.

Lets survive the next few hundred years a species first, eh? We have a long way to go to make that happen, and a big part of it definitely involves mastering travel around and mining of our solar system. It probably doesn't involve the expense and resources of major colonization efforts though, barring truly enormous breakthroughs in materials science, energy production and storage.

Lets focus on that, since without those factors a billion years will just find the raccoons or squid that replaced us facing the same problem.

You're underestimating humanity. You're talking about a species that walked from Ethiopia to Tierra Del Fuego, and then a blink of time later landed on the Moon. We're the top predator in the planet, and we got there in less than 20,000 years.

We'll be fine.

That attitude is an enormous part of why we won't be fine, and haven't been for a while
Is your financial portfolio diversified?

Owning one stock that has previously grown at 10% yoy is the same as owning ten stocks which have previously grown at 10% yoy right?

That's a nice analogy but doesn't really apply in this case.

The cost of buying a stock is generally same between assets (within one or two stdv). Using your example it's crazy expensive just to "buy the stock." So its not really an option.

Equating Mars to "an uninhabited island in the Pacific" is disingenuous at least. Mars is the largest unexplored area of land potentially available to humans since we left Africa.

Ditto for saying we haven't seen anything special out there, considering that we've barely even started looking (and every time someone proposes looking, a whole bunch of boring people show up to go, "why bother?").

A massive ELE asteroid is capable of doing enough traumatic damage to civilizations on Earth to entirely reset hundreds of years of technological development on this planet. Having another technologically-advanced civilization on another world just makes sense from a species survival perspective. And an ELE asteroid isn't even the most plausible traumatic human disaster we can imagine on Earth; war, politics, disease are all far more plausible.

It seems you also need a reminder that so much of the technological advancements we're enjoying now were developed, at least in some part, by a country that started out as an unexplored frontier (and, I'm sure there were people in 1450 that would have insisted Spain solve its own problems first before sending ships out to find a new route around the world). We have no way of predicting what kind of technology (environmental? energy?) or politics will be developed on a new world so isolated from Earth and populated by, presumably, many of the best and brightest from Earth.

I'm also a big believer in the general effects that zeitgeist has on societal development (and think everyone should be: advertising, democracy and raising awareness of issues is all about manipulating it).

Recontextualizing 21st century issues is key to us actually solving them, but that means we do in fact need to do things which has emotional impact on large populations. The moon-landings captured the imagination of, conservatively, half the planet, if only briefly. Mars-landings are likely to be similar. And an ongoing Martian colonization would be another one.

A Martian colonization effort is kind of interesting in this regard: because once you send enough people (and ideally, bring enough of them back as well) then 6 degrees of separation starts to take hold if they're distributed within the population. Start building up the quorum of people who've been, have gone, are there now and suddenly that context is leaking back into your general population. People know people who know a returned Martian colonizer. Projects and processes are compared to "this works on Mars, it'll work here" in the same way that everyone on this site who doesn't work at Google probably has said something like "well Google do ...".

Yep. There's a great video of Dr. Robert Zubrin (author of "The Case For Mars") answering the why question of going to Mars:

One of his points is the effect that space exploration has on kids. It excites them. It makes them want to be explorers too. Kids are full of imagination, they hear about people on another world and they imagine themselves doing it too. It happened with the moon landings, and it inspired kids to become scientists and technologists and to follow their own paths to exploration.

edit: despite being born too late to be mesmerized by the moon landings in real-time, I was one of those kids. I started playing with computers and writing my first programs when I was 8. I watched a lot of Star Trek and James Doohan's Scotty was my favorite character. There was a picture of Neil Armstrong on my wall. I got "Odyssey" magazines and had a book that artistically imagined what life might be like elsewhere in the solar system that I read until, literally, the cover fell off. I had an audio cassette that took you on a wild ride through the solar system.

The hope of exploring space someday is what drew me into technology.

So many years later, and I only use that technology to have arguments with other people over whether exploration is "worth it" at all. How's that for some weltschmerz?

That's fine. The goal isn't to escape our problems, it's to explore new places, live there, and set up humanity so one big asteroid won't kill it.
Let's expand that from "humanity" to "a minimally viable Earth ecosystem" and not pretend that our species would be just fine without some of our favorite plants, animals, and microorganisms.
Is anybody actually pretending that?
Hollywood, usually. They're really good at pretending, but not always so great on putting the science in science fiction.
> What about going to a different planet makes you think we won't just be taking those same problems with us?

It'll just be wealthy people for a long time. Wealth is strongly correlated with intelligence, peace, and other desirable factors. Perhaps the social baseline will be a lot higher. This is hard to predict given that we don't really know what the psychological and epigenetic effects of going to mars will be.

>>The earth isn't the problem

It is. If you are yet not convinced, you might want to take a look at how many species go extinct every day.

There are a many threats to human existence beyond human behavior and preparing for them is a good move forward.

Even from that point of view, Mars is even more hostile to life (as we know it) than Earth.
Mars is just a placeholder for an alternate home to earth.

Most technologies developed for these missions will be reused or new ones will built on top of them.

Yes, I understand Mars is a placeholder. But I life in a new planet that must be terraformed is even worse and more hostile to human life than, say, colonizing a new continent. Or building undersea colonies, like someone else said. Even the colonization of an Earth-like planet would be almost impossible, and we aren't aware of any nearby.

We would be going to a less inhabitable place, while taking all the problems of mankind with us. I must echo the grandparent post: Earth is not the problem -- we are.

Or you know...discovered [1]

Also, show me the species on other planets. Far as we know there aren't any and none of the planets seem to be habitable. Stop living in fantasy land.


>>Also, show me the species on other planets.

Exactly, lets go there and see for ourselves.

Send robots.
i lol'd
> and none of the planets seem to be habitable.

You surely don't mean that no other planets could be used to sustain life with technological assistance?

Mars has water, accessible nitrogen (HNO3), carbon (CO2), hydrogen (H2O), oxygen (all of the above)... technologically assisted humans could absolutely inhabit mars.

No don't expect that, if Clinton wins there won't be a United States left by then! :)
Throughout human history, there has always been a new/unexplored land to emigrate to for new opportunities or to escape political persecution. Nowdays there is nowhere left for someone in the West to emigrate to that is not substantially the same or worse. Mars and the stars could potentially offer that opportunity, which might be why some people are excited.
IIUC you're saying someone would have a better chance escaping to Mars to enjoy their political freedom rather than, say, a mountain community in the U.S.

I don't think that follows. The forces that exert a stranglehold on terrestrial freedom-seekers will exert 10x the grip on territories where the resources required to contain dissidence are greater than terrestrially. If they won't let people run around in the Ozarks with machine guns, they sure won't let them on spacecraft in a fragile space colony.

The simple fact that an extraterrestrial colony requires more resources than a terrestrial one implies there will be limited freedom there. At least until the planet is somehow liberated from excessive control. But I don't see how that will happen until thousands of planets are available to the point that Authority can abandon a planet...

...or until a "Space-Columbus" is able to colonize another planet without the control of a terrestrial force or until another planet is able to liberate itself from Earthlings. That will take a while, but I guess you have to start somewhere and maybe SpaceX is it. :)

One of the things that makes frontier colonies interesting is they can be selective in who they bring along. This can make control moot, since everyone in the colony agrees on most things anyway. But it can also, conceivably, be problematic.
Why not the oceans? Much easier to populate than Mars.
Does that protect people from the event of a major nuclear war?

Would it be immune to accelerated climate change on Earth?

availability of land isnt the only factor here.

(i dont actually know the answer to these questions, and obviously it would likely depend on the details of this water habitat)

I'd take living on an Earth ravaged by nuclear war and global warming over Mars any day, to be honest.
The answer to your first question is yes. Water is incredibly effective at shielding radiation -
>Does that protect people from the event of a major nuclear war?

In the distant future, Mars may not necessarily afford protection either.

It's going to be sad if the doctrine of mutually-assured destruction some day applies within a multi-planetary context.

Most likely this would take the form of national territories being established on Mars by existing nuclear powers, the weapons either being imported or fabricated on-site.

Of course, the wierder scenario is one where advancements in propulsion technology allow for faster and cheaper delivery of payloads to Mars, resulting in some sort of Earth-to-Mars nuclear strike capability. Transit may remain quite latent, but it could still do the job. Imagine having weeks or months to contemplate an incoming nuclear attack.

What makes you think Mars would be more liveable than Antartica after a nuclear war or accelerated climate change?
In the event of a major nuclear war, living in Antarctica won't protect you from environmental radiation, which will be at highly elevated levels for decades throughout the entire planet.
And how do you protect yourself from radiation on Mars, given its thin atmosphere and lack of magnetic field?
Mars's thin atmosphere does provide significant levels of radiation shielding, such that surface radiation levels are comparable to those in low-Earth orbit:

The Moon, on the other hand, is baldly exposed:

If you're trying to escape climate change making a place uninhabitable for humans, you probably don't want to aim for Mars.
Earth's oceans span twice Mars's entire surface, too. Lots of room!
He did kind of address this by saying "being multi-planetary is good in case of apocalyptic event"... it's about having an offsite backup.
This video (wanderers) does not give a reason, but it sums up quite nicely the way I feel it:
What if the goal is actually to get away from the rest of humanity (in particular the part of it that would be likely think that colonising Mars is a ridiculous waste of money)? The circumstance that people of most political persuasions except for a very narrow set tend to find moving to Mars ridiculous but moving under the sea realistic itself seems to be pretty good evidence that if you wanted to get away from everyone outside of the narrow set, going to Mars would be good enough but going undersea would not.
You would enjoy this game:
I think that is taking an overly optimistic view of the past. No other time in history has it been easier or cheaper to pick up your life and move and the truth is that almost anywhere in the "west" provides better living conditions and less persecution than anyone from even a few generations back could hope to receive.
These debates always end up with people talking past each other. One side will say that present living conditions are better than they ever were in the past. The other will say that past frontiers provided freedoms and opportunities that aren't available today. Both these things are true -- you are talking about different things.
I think you're forgetting that there are dreamers, crazies and malcontents that historically have been more than willing to risk everything to make a go somewhere new or get away from their civilized peers.

Persecution is certainly one motivator, but hardly the only one. Some people are driven to explore, some are religious nuts looking for whatever they look for, some just hate civilization or people or their family or whatever, some can't explain their motives.

Civilization isn't for everyone.

Just because there are people willing to risk more doesn't change the fact that you can do almost the same thing today and risk less. All most westerners would need is a few thousand dollars, a passport, and a few weeks time and they can make it to almost any land in the world. There might not be any free land to claim and start your own country, but even in the US there are still large swaths of ungoverned land that an off the grid type could set up to live their life in peace with little interference from civilization.
Agree. I watched my first and last presidential debate yesterday, they raised no relevant solutions. I'm so giddy, what a better way than to spend such historical date with my fellow HN users!
The whole process is kind of built against showing any solid plans until as late as possible. It's hard to argue against the nebulous idea of 'create more jobs' other than 'that's not an actual plan'. Once your opponent provides a solid plan you get all sorts of new ways to attack it like cost (especially cost). Another reason to not put out a detailed plan is that the actual bills/regulations you can get in office are going to look pretty different than what the base of $PARTY would like to see because you have to actually get it passed, but then you're not delivering on the promises and no one likes to hear 'we knew the proposal was ambitious and impractical to get passed but we told you we would to get your vote'.
The second reason is the correct one.

Downvoters, tell me why I'm wrong?

I have big problems with US foreign policy and the treatment of blacks. But stuff like this makes me want to move to LA and work at SpaceX. I guess I'd essentially be living at work, so ...
...and then you get to the Q/A section and start to understand how we ended with a self-aggrandizing anti-intellectual presidential candidate
and also Donald J Trump.
This new launch vehicle has a realistic chance of getting people and materials to Mars in sufficient quantities to build an outpost. I'd like to hear more about how they plan to build a self-sustaining colony on Mars though. There are some pretty big challenges to overcome, such as the relative lack of Nitrogen. A colony is going to have to grow plants but, to do that on Mars, we're going to need a way of fixing Nitrogen for those plants from an Atmosphere where it's just not very plentiful.

Please note that this isn't an argument against going to Mars now. There's a lot we can learn by building an outpost on Mars that is supported heavily by Earth, including how to build a self-supporting Mars colony. I'm just asking what the current state-of-the-art opinion is on the challenges of building a self-supporting Mars colony.

I noticed Musk tentatively mention nuclear - I think that's because it will be the only logical way to generate enough power to support a city in such an inhospitable climate. There is going to be a huge and ongoing energy need just to survive.

Unless we build a battery/solar panel factory there is no way solar is going to cut it.

Sadly - but it just tells you that he is acutely aware of the public opinion aspect of his vision. Nuclear - especially a firm grasp and experience in Thorium reactors - would be a perfect energy solution for all industrial processes on Mars. One can only hope that a massive project as the one he is proposing here will lead to a renaissance in thinking big - colonial in its ambition - and with it in challenging the Unenlightened modern anti-nuclear phobia.
Nitrogen is extremely common. Curiosity rover found nitrogen that can be used in farming:

The problem is more like 96% CO2 in the air. Yes, plants need CO2. But I read that if the CO2 concentration is too high, plants stop being able to perform photosynthesis well.
Mars has plenty of Nitrogen, it's in the atmosphere (2% of it). That may be at low pressure, but once you have a few hundred tonnes of industrial equipment on Mars you can start doing things like fractional distillation of the atmosphere, and then you're just pumping Nitrogen out of the atmosphere and using it for whatever you want.

2% of a very low pressure may not seem like much but in total that's about half a trillion tonnes, or half a million cubic kilometers of Nitrogen. It'll be a very long time before that resource is depleted. Additionally, Mars has nitrates, which can be mined and exploited.

I created an account just to post this.

The Q&A was the worst Q&A I have ever seen. Truly awful. I usually am a pretty calm person but watching that made my blood boil. This venture could well be one of the most important things to happen to humanity, and those were the questions that people asked. The questions were awful at all levels. Featured self promotion, ignorance and plain stupidity.

I just needed to get this out there. Seriously, what the actual f.

Yes I was there. Trust me, you're not the only one that felt that way. Almost everyone in the audience are very smart, respected people in the aerospace industry. Scientists, engineers, you name it. Many walked out very irritated.

Lot's of people from outside of the industry went to the event, just to see this talk.

Absolutely. I was watching it live and couldn't believe how bad that Q&A section was. Felt bad for Musk standing there, having to somehow respond politely to all that stupidity.
I thought Musk did a great job at salvaging the lower brow questions.

> Send Michael Sera to mars because we don't want him back >> Elon talks about the importance of offering return trips

> Where do we put the shit on mars with no water >> Elon talks about how the critical shortage is power, not water.

> Are you thinking about interstellar travel >> Creating a colony on mars creates the incentives to spur us to create the dramatic improvements in space travel that will one day give rise to interplanetary travel

While I understand the frustration, including the general public in this discussion in critical to build the support and good will needed for this project to succeed. We need more people to be willing to address questions like this.

The only time I felt bad for Musk was when that girl asked him if she could take him upstairs and give him a kiss. He mumbled something like "I don't have that here" and moved on.

This is why I think the Tesla brand will be much stronger than bmw or Audi. They are the new Apple who are thinking different.
"I was at burning man. Blah blah blah. And where do we put all the shit on Mars?"

Sorry, please? That is the best question you can come up with? I stopped watching after this.

SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System:
"The video appears to show SpaceX's new rocket — the BFR, or "Big Fucking Rocket" — as well as the company's interplanetary spaceship — the BFS, or "Big Fucking Spaceship.""
I prefer the Big Friendly Rocket interpretation. :)
SpaceX refer to it as Big Falcon Rocket
28 million pounds of thrust is 4 times what the Saturn V was capable of.
Why do they launch the passengers first? Passengers eat and shit and breathe while they wait. They're also liable to be more upset if their mission is aborted, due to a failed tanker launch, while they're in orbit.
I believe his answer in the QA was that you would launch an empty rocket first, and once that rocket is fueled, a 2nd rocket with passengers would launch and transfer to the fueled rocket, and then the new passenger-empty rocket would be in orbit to be fueled for the next trip.
In the QA he clarifies that they are unsure about refueling time, it might be that they launch a vehicle, refuel it, and then launch another vehicle with passengers, then transfer those passengers to the refueled vehicle. It depends on refueling time.
If they do, I assume because it's easier to transfer fuel than passengers.
In the Q&A part he addresses this. I think they showed passengers first for the video just for stylistic purposes. He said he thinks you'd probably be launching spaceships and begin fueling between trips (26 months), keeping them parked in orbit, and then passengers would go up last before the trip and board fully fuled ships. I think it's a detail that's not determined yet. Watch the video.
My reaction, after thinking about this for a bit, is more "This is going to be everything the Shuttle was supposed to be!" than anything to do with getting people to Mars. That's all, of course, predicated on getting the turnaround for this thing fast and cheap. With orbital refueling I wonder how much one of these could land on the Moon?
Unconventional design.

The rocket looks very large and they mention 120 million newtons takeoff thrust so the weight is about 10 million kg, 3 times Saturn V size.

The first stage lands back on launch stool, the tanker stage is put on top of it and it launches again. This implies a relatively fast turnaround.

Both the second stage and the tanker seem to have complete heat shields and stub wings and ability to re-enter either Mars or Earth.

So all parts

  1) big
  2) landable and 
  3) short turnaround time 
This would imply they will launch them a lot, so they're really ramping up the traffic to Mars, not just a few missions?

I don't understand the 100 000 km/h which is 30 km/s speed for the Mars cruise. Would be really hard to achieve with chemical propulsion. With 4 km/s exhaust velocity and delta vee of say 20 km/s you get a required mass ratio of e^(20/4) which is 150. And they lug the upper stage engines all the way, and there's heatshield and wings. Impossible.

Also the 200 kW electrical power advertised is puny for electrical propulsion. With an ISP of 1000 (exhaust 10 km/s) you get an 20 Newtons of thrust [correction from 200N], which is nothing for their ship size. If they only have ten tons of mass, then it takes 200 days to accelerate to full speed.

Typically you might need 10 to 20 km/s speed for Mars.

Their plan does not compute for me.

EDIT: So it can work if they only go for 10 km/s.

The 30 km/s is speed relative to the Sun, at a half-way point between Earth and Mars.

Most of it, you would get for free, since the ship is launched from the Earth, which is already moving at ~30 km/s. The delta-v cost is much less then that.

Speed to Mars though is really relative speed along whatever orbit (Hohmann transfer or the moral equivalent) that you choose. Only in SF stories do we have fully powered propulsion to Mars.

I am very curious what the selected family of orbits is, and even more importantly how long & how much life support for the large passenger number.

Yeah, transit time & payload mass seem to be the major missing numbers in a video that wasn't shy about including them.
There's a slide with all the numbers and even a graph:

Average 115 days, payload to Mars 450 tonnes. 100 people he reckons.
> I am very curious what the selected family of orbits is ...

There's not much leeway, it's going to be something close to a Hohmann transfer, with the aphelion ahead of and above Mars to get to a hyperbolic capture orbit with the periareion deep in the atmosphere for (almost) direct re-entry.

This kind of orbits can be solved for arbitrary departure date and time of flight using a Lambert's problem solver and numerical optimization. Not a particularly difficult problem by modern standards.

Pure Hohmann transfer to another planet will result in inevitable collision due to relative velocity, but it's useful for lower bound estimates.

Another alternative for recurring Mars intercept is is the "Aldrin cycler" (after Buzz Aldrin) which is a free return trajectory but that is difficult when the goal is to land and take off again.

There are lots of possibilities for lower energy transfers but most of them are out of question when life support is required for humans on board.

I don't think they would stick to pure ION drive or pure chemical rocks. Mixing them seems like a great option depending on how cheap they can get fuel to orbit. The could also refuel in mars orbit.

A pure ion drive for all the equipment even if this means it takes 4x as long to get there, then a 'small' capsule back and forth for people.

The amount of power is a few orders of magnitude too low to propel these kind of masses electrically.

Basically you need at least 10 kW per Newton.

The other problem is that you need to slow down, with ION drives you'll have to start you slow down burn about mid way increasing the travel time considerably.

With traditional rockets you can accelerate, get a gravity assist boost and save enough fuel to slow down quickly when you are at the orbital insertion point.

If you do a direct re-entry you don't need to slow down with propulsion at either end. :)
You aren't going to be doing direct reentry, mars' mean orbital velocity is about 25km/s, your space craft would be traveling at probably 15-20km/s. MOI requires a slow down burn there isn't any way around it, this isn't KSP.
SpaceX is not going to first enter Mars orbit, looks like they're landing the whole craft on the surface.

For example, Mars Science Laboratory did the same, and it didn't need to spend fuel trying to enter orbit.

The closing velocity of spacecraft and Mars is nowhere near 25 km/s.

As another example, Apollo did a direct entry to Earth as well.

Even when entering orbit, you can sometimes use aerobraking or aerocapture, though it's either limited in delta vee or dangerous if you go lower.

If it only saves 2 weeks that's still useful. Don't forget if your using solar power you have much less power the closer you get to mars. So, you effectively get a free surplus at the start of your journey.

The other option, is to have a pure transit vehicle from earth orbit to mars orbit and then a 3rd vehicle to land with. This, would work really well if we wanted to really colonize mars. But, if your only sending say 10 people the R&D is not worth the fuel savings.

PS: Let's say it's a 20,000 lbs craft or ~1/10th of the shuttle and your getting ~8.8 N or 1 lbs of thrust for 120 days. That's 9.8 m/s / 20,000 * 60 * 60 * 24 * 120 = 5k m/s. If you already need the panels while in mars orbit, that seems like a no brainier. Finally, If that's 200kw in mars orbit then the numbers seem even more reasonable as that's 460 kw near earth and the extra 260kw ~= 26 newtons which could add ~5km/s to a 60,000 lb spacecraft.

The craft's mass seems to be 15x that.

Maybe for course corrections where you need to fine tune the orbit a couple of mm/s here and there?

For unmanned missions it does make good sense as the mass doesn't grow so strongly if the trip time gets longer.

Thanks, I agree ION drives are not going to work well on a 150+ton craft without a lot more power.

Thinking about that I think I figured it out. The earth is going 30 km/sec around the sun, so that's probably where the 30 km/sec comes from. 30 km/sec is well past single stage to orbit and they would not need a booster if they could get into that range.

Mars is doing 50km/sec around the sun, but you can cheat in a few places as your earth orbit can add ~8km /sec from orbiting around earth. That's 50 - 30 - 8 ~= 12km/s plus delta V get out of suns and earths gravity well. But you can also play with orbital mechanics to save some energy and you can also subtract the orbital velocity around mars.

Anyway, I am not sure how much delta V you need, but it's well under 30km/sec.

PS: Video had refueling in what looked like LEO, but if your in a higher orbit the craft needs less fuel to get to Mars from that orbit.

PPS: And not surprisingly I messed up the math but here are some real numbers:
Ok, now it's starting to make a little bit more sense to me.

They massively oversize the second stage and launch it almost empty, so it can just do the 5 km/s or whatever is needed for orbit. Then they launch multiple tankers to refuel it.

They don't need lots of engines on the second stage because it's launched light.

So it's pure chemical propulsion.

But still with only 4 km/s exhaust velocity, no matter how you slice it, the mass ratios required from a single stage get impossible, ie even if the rocket tanks and engines didn't have any mass, payload sets an upper limit to the mass ratio.

EDIT: So looks like it has 10 km/s delta vee. Not 30.

We won't really be an interplanetary species until we can get back from Mars.

Imagine being colonists on Mars without the ability to be totally self-sustaining without technology and supplies from Earth and nuclear war breaks out. It's going to be a long time before any Mars colony can survive on its own.

Getting back is actually much easier, and we won't send anyone until there's a return ship ready for them on the ground.

Mars escape velocity is ~5 km/s compared to 11 km/s for Earth, so right off the bat it takes half as much delta-v to get off Mars. The numbers get even more attractive when you consider that Mars's atmosphere is so thin you can use vacuum-optimized engines on the surface.

It's a near-certainty that the second stage of ITS will be able to launch fully fueled from the Martian surface and return to Earth orbit, and possibly Earth's surface, without any refueling on the way.

What I meant is, until Mars is self-sustaining and eventually capable of recolonizing Earth. Colonists rocketing back to a nuclear wasteland or planet infected with super-viruses won't protect us from extinction.

And it's much easier and cheaper just to have underground bunkers than to bring a few people back from Mars on a rocket right after some disaster.

This is a limited line of thinking. Eventually humans who are capable of living in a self-sustained colony on Mars will also be able to live anywhere. In space using asteroidal/cometary resources, for example. On the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, etc. The jump between being able to live on Earth and then Mars is actually much greater than the jump between being able to live on Mars and anywhere. At that point humanity no longer would be planet bound. We'll be building cities that house billions of people in, say, the Earth-Sun L4/L5 lagrange points, or wherever we feel like it.
Civilization isn't the human species, it's a higher level and far more fragile thing.

If a small fraction of civilization survived a global disaster in bunkers, it's very possible they would regress during the aftermath and never achieve a global society like ours again.

A self sustaining civilization on Mars guarantees not just our survival in the Darwin sense, but our continued technological advancement and expansion.

Musk just answered a question that said you can come back if you want to.

"The spaceship is coming back anyway, you can get on if you want. Free"

And if the company goes belly-up while you're there?
If you can accept the risk of unpredictable, potentially-horrible death, you can accept the risk of getting stranded. There would probably be suicide measures for a scenario where life support runs out.
>There would probably be suicide measures for a scenario where life support runs out.

That's a problem that really just takes care of itself.

> And if the company goes belly-up while you're there?

The same thing that would have happened to anyone on the moon if they had lander failure, or to anyone on the ISS if they have catastrophic failure.

For that matter, the same thing that would have happened to the First Fleet if they had landed on Australia and been slaughtered in 10 minutes.

Of course it's dangerous. Of course there is a real risk you won't come back. That's not a reason to not go, and each individual can make that choice on their own.

Elon has been clear in the past that this is a fully reusable architecture. i.e. he needs his spaceship back! Bringing some passengers is (relatively!) trivial.
The point of being multiplanetary is if there is an extinction event on Earth, people survive on Mars. You don't need to _immediately_ be able to come back, although you need to be able to move off Mars at some point.
The first colonists will most likely not come back. Make no mistake, people are going to die in the first several runs. This will be one of the most dangerous endeavors mankind can attempt.

As far as war breaking out, we're not going to make it to Mars in our current state. I don't think Mars is viable until we enter a post scarcity world. I find it unlikely we can even attempt it if we're still in a money based economy.

I highly recommend The Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. It's one of the most believable and well thought out sci-fi novel about what populating Mars would be like conceptually.

> Make no mistake, people are going to die in the first several runs.

I agree, and I would even say this is the main challenge of the project long term - whether we have the stomach for seeing hundreds of people blow up on the launch pad, suffocating in interplanetary space, or dying from exposure on Mars when a hab block fails (and all of that possibly repeatedly). For some reason we don't have problem sending millions of people to their deaths where they don't happen publicly, but that's where we are right now.

You have to weigh these risks (and PR impacts) against the severe drawbacks of civilization-wide stagnation, of which a potential mass extinction event on Earth is just one example.

Personally, I would choose to go even if there was a 50% chance of blowing up on the launchpad.

> The first colonists will most likely not come back.

If they survive for a few years, there will be return opportunities. There is no downside to offering people a ride on returning transports. I would say establishing a reasonable transfer rate between Mars and Earth is vital to the program on several levels. Update: just made it through the QA and Musk seems to agree with me, he says having the option of going back is vital, and they'll be offering free return trips on their transports.

> I don't think Mars is viable until we enter a post scarcity world

That amounts to never. As a transhumanist and futurist myself, I have grown far less optimistic about the political will to even work towards such a state in recent years. People are violently opposed to switching away from capitalism, for many irrational and even some rational reasons. I allege that technologically speaking the industrial nations of the world could switch to a post-scarcity scenario for the everyday needs of citizens pretty much right away if they wanted to.

There is also no compelling reason in my mind why colonizing another planet is something we just can't do using our current means. Some people say there is not enough money to do it, but in reality money is a malleable entity, and we're not batting an eyelash at wasting literally trillions on it. But for some reason investing mere billions into technologically progressive ideas suddenly brings up fundamental questions about the scalability of our economy?

Lastly, I also believe starting self-sustaining colonies elsewhere might be the only way of rebooting into a post-scarcity system. Not saying that's what will happen, but at least there is a chance.

"Personally, I would choose to go even if there was a 50% chance of blowing up on the launchpad."

Do you really mean that? In the real world, knowing there's a 50/50 chance your life would end, you would take that risk for the chance to be a frontier colonist on Mars?

I'd do it too.

I'd do it with a 1/4 survival chance, and I'm far from suicidal. Some things are worth more than my life. Cynically, just the personal adventure would be enough for me to risk my life to land on Mars.

Yes, I mean it.

There are not a lot of things I would take such risks for, but this is definitely one. And don't get me wrong, I'm a big proponent of life extension and anti-aging research, and an atheist and a transhumanist to boot, so it's not like I enjoy the prospect of staring down the barrel of death. But looking at the impact my life is having right now, and the potential impact I could have by being a frontier colonist, that's not even a comparison.

Yup, Re: the danger. Later on:

Q: Who should be the first humans on Mars? Q: Who should be the first humans on Mars?

A: The first journeys will be very dangerous, the risk of fatalities will be high. Likely no children - must be prepared to die. A: The first journeys will be very dangerous, the risk of fatalities will be high. Likely no children - must be prepared to die.

If some people on earth can find other people that will make themselves explode in airport or train stations, I'm pretty sure we will find people to die on Mars as heroes.
I finished Red Mars two days ago. A+, hardest scifi I've ever read.
Why can't we be money based and have relatively high redistribution and taxes?
See Republicans, red pill people, etc.
Something something socialism /s.
> I don't think Mars is viable until we enter a post scarcity world.

Why? Moving a few thousand humans to mars really isn't that expensive, in money or energy.

One reasonable definition of 'colonizing' as distinct form 'exploring' is that colonists plan to die there.
This Q&A is painful... it's a combination of people shamelessly plugging their own products (Funny or Die you just lost a viewer with that stunt) and people who sound like they may be (literally) mentally unstable.

There are scattered in somewhat normal questions... but not by anyone I would consider qualified to even be asking questions.

>and people who sound like they may be (literally) mentally unstable

I wonder what kind of people accompanied Columbus and other explorers on their ships. If you also noticed there was one woman questioner, who wanted to kiss Elon Musk. Perhaps that's the kind who would take such risks, to be the first crew. So I didn't mind those questions so much. By and large the crowd was very excited - thunderous applause several times.

I wrote a brief blog post on some of the major challenges to get this going. Musk's hesitancy to a deadline is great. :) It makes sense, hard to predict the future.

There's a ton of cool problems lurking around the corner. I hope humanity backs the public part of this public-private partnership.

1. Cargo Capacity — Scaling is Hard.

2. Proper Maintenance — Accessibility is Important

3. MTBF Expectations are too high.

4. Jet Fuel is Corrosive and Methalox engines are a tough design proposition.

5. Cosmic Radiation — Impedes human interoperability.

6. Solar Panels —Mars Dust Storms impede sunlight.

7. Living Module — 7 month duration for a living module.

8. Microbial Realities — We rely on microbes to live.

9. Parachute Design — Size vs. Thrust vs. Jettisoning Fuel

10. Electronic Protection — Shielding is Resource/Weight Intensive.

11. Eye Sight — Your ability to see diminishes in space and we don’t quite know how this works fully. (This one is huge)

12. Muscle Loss- you lose muscle mass as you stay longer in space.

To give some context around how difficult it is to build mega engineering projects in the hey day of innovation, just think about Steel. There's over 3K different types of steel and 70%+ were invented in the last 20 years.

Timing, sequence, funding, and focus are going to be such a huge part of this.

5,8,11,12 are really tough. I think the other ones are solvable in some way right now, but will take some configuration/tinkering/experimentation for sure. Plenty of engineers are motivated to work on this kind of thing though, so that's a good signal.

Seems like SpaceX agrees with you on the difficulties with the fuel tank, with Musk calling that the single hardest part. Rather cool that they've already made progress on that though!
All of these problems can be worked on in parallel, so I'm not sure why you think it would be "impossible" to do before 2030. Unlikely, sure.

Also, Musk specifically mentioned that they weren't planning to use parachutes with this architecture, so you can scratch #9.

It looks like SpaceX is choosing a high delta-v trajectory specifically to reduce the danger of 5, 11, and 12. Particularly muscle, bone, and eyesight loss would be a big problem on a Hohmann tranfer orbit to Mars but not on the trajectory SpaceX is proposing. 8 is silly since nowhere people live is going to be microbe free but the long term health effects of Mars gravity are still utterly unknown and that's something we need to get a hold on.
I agree about the long term health effects of Mars gravity. I think with adults you'll probably see some bone density loss, similar to what happens to astronauts on long space missions. But arguably that will be offset by gravity at 39% of Earth's.

The bigger concern I have is for children that are born on Mars -- if you want to have a self-sustaining population there, you're going to be raising children there, and physical growth in a low-g environment isn't something we can test in the timeframe Musk has in mind.

I'd like to see humans establish self-sustaining colonies in the Gobi Desert, the Laurentian Plateau, and the equatorial Pacific first. All much easier environments.
That would have none of the advantages of a Mars colony.
what are the advantages of a Mars colony? It's not like we'll be shipping things back to Earth.

I'm for exploration and all that but there's a pretty good point. Figuring out how to make the desert habitable on this planet is a pretty good test run for the Real Deal.

> what are the advantages of a Mars colony?

Survival of our species. Protection from an extinction event on Earth. Stepping stone to further expansion (interstellar).

Hey underwater would check two of those boxes

EDIT: or moon surface

It wouldn't check any in the event of a large asteroid impact.

It's a lot harder to build a self-sustaining colony on the moon than on Mars. Mars is rich in carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen. The moon is not.

Asteroids don't cause extinctions by coming in and blowing everything to smithereens. Rather, the ejecta causes firestorms, and an impact winter can wreck the biosphere and prevent sunlight from reaching the surface. But even during the worst of this, Earth will remain more hospitable than Mars.

There's no reason for a self-sufficient (nuclear?) underground or underwater habitat to notice global firestorms or impact winters. They would notice a direct hit, but you can hedge against that by building them in multiples around the globe.

This argument about Mars protecting us from an extinction event on Earth any time in the next 250 years seems like baloney. If that's an actual concern I would invest in something Earth-based first (e.g. underground bunkers).
Pretty hard to imagine that there will be anything actually "self-sustaining" on Mars anytime soon.
Thats simply not the point.

We went to the moon. That was not an easy thing to do. We developed nuclear weapons, which was certainly more difficult than establishing a colony in the Gobi desert.

See the excerpt of the JFK moon speech from above. "we choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

Hell, even underwater is an easier environment.
They really need to screen people for the Q/A. Half these people are idiots just trying to promote their own BS and trying to tell stupid irrelevant stories.
So I was at Burning Man ... shit, shit, shit.
I might be wrong, but I expect Elon Musk to become one of the most exceptional hero's of our times. No other billionaire is creating sustainable businesses like Tesla and Power Wall for the good of as many people as possible. He risks pretty much all he has for his ultimate dream to enable humans to start exploring the universe, and by doing so preventing the looming extinction of our species.

The amount of talent and power this guy has while being so humble is just very rare. As soon as I can afford a Tesla I will definitely buy one, not only because it's a great car, but even more to support these kind of people.

God, my lifetime would be so boring if it wasn't for people like Elon.
I second that!
OMG; he says is going to build it, exactly like his demo. As a youth I received a brand new Matt Mason for birthday; it has been a very, very long time.
Oh, wow! I put the video in my watch-later-list, until then: What's the time frame, roughly? Are we talking 5 years or 20?
Take any estimate from Musk with a pound of salt, but his ideal estimate was 2023.
"The argument [for building a civilization on Mars] that I actually find most compelling is that it would be an incredible adventure. I think it would be the most inspiring thing that I can possibly imagine. And life needs to be more than just solving problems every day. You need to wakeup and be excited about the future, and be inspired, and want to live." -- Elon Musk

(1 hour 31 minutes)

Required reading:
fwiw I found Red Mars to be a pretty boring, badly-written space soap opera (and murder mystery for who-knows-what-reason) with caricatured ethnicities.
Having read the trilogy (as well as "2312"), I must agree that it was poorly written, with some very poorly constructed characters. Having said that, and despite my distaste for and disagreement about the political outcomes, the technical vision was very interesting.
Any recommendations? I am about to finish Red Mars
Left field suggestion: The Honor Series. Start with "On Basilisk Station".
In terms of expansive universes, I would recommend the "Revelation Space" series, though it is much higher-level than the Mars trilogy. I am also a big fan of the action-oriented "Expanse" series (by James S.A. Corey), as well as the crowd favorites: "The Martian" and the "Foundation" series.
I just finished reading these books for what seems like the millionth time, and Mr. Musk hasn't even begun to answer the questions they raise. What is the legal structure going to be on the 1MM person colony? Who gets to go? What are the transplants allowed to do there? Who rules? Who do the rulers answer to? Are we going to Terraform Mars? If yes, under whose auspices and with what restrictions?

FTR: this is Elon Musk's show and I don't trust his ability to keep his pet project from turning into a corporate dystopia.

Edited to add: Guys, I'm not against Mars exploration and colonization at scale -- I just want us to put our best foot forward. That means not rushing the process, and doing it in a democratic and non-chaotic manner.

> Who gets to go?

According to Musk, whoever pays.

> Who rules?

Not to be flippant, but who cares? The worst case scenario is that we repeat British colonialism and the martians overthrow the despotic earth government in a few generations. Same as always, the colony is too far away for the motherland to effectively maintain control. The important thing is getting humans to Mars; all the short-term stuff is important, but it's just small beans in the long run.

> Are we going to Terraform Mars?

Musk clearly wants to. It is not clear how feasible this is with current tech.

> Whoever pays

So Mars is going to be a colony of the developed world elite.

> Who cares

A million people generate is not short term or small scale. Property rights, criminal law and all of these other things that make civilization civilization will need to be hashed before we get out there.

> Musk clearly wants to

This is pristine, unspoiled nature we're talking about. There are immense ecological concerns here that aren't simply mitigated by Musk throwing cash at the problem.

> So Mars is going to be a colony of the developed world elite.

Sounds awesome! Decreases the chances of them being politically abused.

> will need to be hashed before we get out there.

They probably will be for the most part, but why do you say "need" to? Should we screw around here on earth until we figure out some utopian system that's going to make everyone happy (good luck), or should we accept that it's OK to be adaptive and figure some things out as we go?

> This is pristine, unspoiled nature we're talking about.

That's one way of putting it. Another is "lifeless, barren, frozen, useless desert".

> Decreases the chances of them being politically abused.

Isolation and distance do terrible things even to supposedly well educated people. I wouldn't count on people to not drop straight into barbarity after prolonged exposure to the truly alien environment on Mars.

> Why do you say "need" to?

Because the first time someone murders another person in a tent city of a million people with no air, you want to have some way of prosecuting and punishing that doesn't involve sectarian violence and lynching.

You vastly underestimate the social aspect of this endeavor.

> lifeless, barren, frozen, useless desert

I'm impressed: in this short internet exchange, we have pretty much rehashed the entirety of the conflict Kim Stanley Robinson sees playing out on Mars.

I imagine Musk understands the likely timescale realities of terraforming and is looking to 'light the fuse'.
While I wouldn't personally mind a "corporate dystopia" (or at least a sci-fi version of such) on Mars at all, it seems exceedingly unlikely, even conditional on the success of the whole enterprise -- for one, there wouldn't be any actual profits to be made there for a very long time :)

BTW, I haven't read these particular books, and perhaps they are different from other KSR stuff that I've seen, but at this point I would honestly take pretty much anything over what he would consider an ideal or even a good society. It kinda puzzles me why people who value things like caution, leasure, and social cohesion above actual progress so insist on calling themselves 'progressives' -- they certainly have a right to their opinions, but couldn't they have picked a term that was less of a misnomer?

Not all progress is technological.
Does Mars colonisation increase the chances of Earth becoming (more of) a corporate dystopia? If not, then if there is a chance of a Mars colony which supports your values what are you losing by the attempt? [edit: this is awkwardly phrased ... it is like a free roulette shot, it may or may not pay off, but if it's "free" the net value is positive.]

And I also think if colonisation ever was big enough to absorb a significant (i.e. 5%+) portion of Earth gross product (i.e. the sum of GDPs) then it could also improve life on Earth by improving the effective ROI of the capital deployed elsewhere.

The scenario in which the bet does not pay off results in 1 million people and their descendants being stuck in a terrible situation, with distance making aid or relief impossible at scale. This is something that could be mitigated by making sure that the first planet we colonize isn't some kind of unregulated fief belonging to the first person who threw enough cash at the problem of getting people to Mars.

Which is a long way of saying that I may not be one of them, but I sure as hell will feel sorry for them.

> The scenario in which the bet does not pay off results in 1 million people and their descendants being stuck in a terrible situation, with distance making aid or relief impossible at scale.

We accept that in Syria already, and the potential upside's a lot bigger for Mars (survival of the species if Earth gets clobbered).

That is true, if it succeeded for a while and then failed it could produce a casualty count on the order of Gulf War 1. Not doing it could result in civilisation extinction via nuclear war or asteroid strike. I still favour doing it, but I see how reasonable people could disagree.

I believe Elon said it would take 40-100 years for the population to reach that point, and he is saying that there will be a return mechanism, and a probably an extreme labour shortage which favours a strong bargaining position for both the entrees and the Mars local population. Ideally I'd like to see the return ticket + life support until the next return flight provided as part of the entrance fee to minimise risk, but there is still the problem of enforcing the contract.

[EDIT: I don't consider this a "fair" argument so I left it out, but as an aside, if minimising pain is your goal then mass sterilisation is the optimal strategy IMO -- there is no reason to continue the human race which will certainly produce millions of people in pain -- and if you have another goal which requires human existence to fulfil, then decreasing our extinction probability should be a huge priority]

> I just finished reading these books for what seems like the millionth time, and Mr. Musk hasn't even begun to answer the questions they raise. What is the legal structure going to be on the 1MM person colony? Who gets to go? What are the transplants allowed to do there? Who rules? Who do the rulers answer to? Are we going to Terraform Mars? If yes, under whose auspices and with what restrictions?

Musk has basically stated that he has no interest in being involved at that end. He has said SpaceX is making the transport, it's other peoples' job to figure out what to do what we get there. He likens this to building a railroad into a new frontier. California was barely populated when the Union Pacific was built, and yet it was not the railway's job to govern the colonies that popped up alongside it.

Now it'll obviously be more nuanced than that, but if there is a viable sustained transportation strategy to Mars, you can bet a lot of people

> Musk has basically stated that he has no interest in being involved at that end.

I don't think you get to control all transport to an isolated colony and disclaim all responsibility for the social cohesion of said colony.

Disclaim all responsibility, or decline to unilaterally impose your own?
Seems great for all the basic research it will require.

But I'm unsure about the morality of it. I think the drive to expand and discover new things is perhaps a direct cause of the deeper problems we have on Earth. Would humanity be better off just becoming a sustainable population of monks? Or are we morally equivalent to a virus, reduced to survival of the fittest and always seeking out the next host to reap?

I think from a morality standpoint it is an excellent reality T.V. show at best.

But we are in such a critical moment right now in terms of our ability to really destroy the ecology we depend on. It's like there a small fire started in the bathroom and some of us have chosen this moment to start planning a new vacation home.

For Elon Musk personally, he's so involved in the shift away from carbon through his work at Tesla that it feels like it balances out. He's a leader in fighting the fire and also spending half of his time on the new house. But in general I can't really commend the aerospace engineers working on problems like this when we are so close to being able to fix so many age old problems on Earth.

This is such a critical couple of decades for Earth technology.

Fires burn too fast for this analogy to work. Even in the worst climate change cases, we have a very long time to work out how to get off the planet.

It would be great to avoid, but moving people out of coastal cities certainly has a precedence, and there's plenty of land in Kansas, the Taiga, etc. Life would be tougher than today, but it's not an existential thread.

I think there's a pretty high probability that such a migration would be accompanied by quite a lot of genocide and war.
What, NYC vs Rockland county? That wouldn't be a genocide, it would be a zoning argument. Same as Miami vs Georgia.

If waves lap up against my place in Queens, I'm not going to start killing my neighbors. I'm going to move to a Minnesota with better weather.

You and how many other millions of people?

Would the Minnesotans be happy with that?

They'd probably be thrilled with all the new tax revenue and industry.
> He's a leader in fighting the fire and also spending half of his time on the new house.

Why not both? It's not too hard to see how in the long-term, Tesla and Solarcity's progress are relevant to the needs of living on Mars as well (ground vehicle propulsion, electric power generation and storage...)

It sounds like we're hedging our bets not a moment too soon. The extinction even Musk alludes to is not just the natural expiry of the planet. The end of human civilization could come from a natural freak cause or just a series of bad judgements. Nuclear war or other conflicts making basic food/water inaccessible to most/all humans may just be the tipping point for our civilization's demise. Every other planet or location we can inhabit is another option for civilization to survive on.
Does it really matter? I mean honestly... until we discover other life out there, nothing we do matters one little bit as long as we stay alive. We owe it to the future of our species to diversify as much as possible. Even if we go green and save the planet, our planet will end anyway. Accidents, asteroids, etc. Something will get the planet, it will.

But even if we go farm out every other planet and make it barren and even if we mined every ounce of every other planet in our galaxy... if we're the only life in the area, or the only life in the universe, it doesn't matter one bit. We could blow up every single other planet and it wouldn't hurt us at all, because we can't live there.

So the only thing that makes sense is to keep living like we are the only life in the universe, all the while trying to figure out if that's true or not. Mars isn't alive. Venus isn't alive. The moon isn't alive. It's not "reaping" a "host" any more than me painting the walls of my house is. It doesn't make one lick of difference. There's nothing immoral about spreading to other lifeless planets.

> the only thing that makes sense is to keep living like we are the only life in the universe

uh...we aren't.

Prove it, with actual hard evidence. Show me real, actual, living life that exists right now. Until then, it's hypothetical and it would be insane to put our species at risk of extinction if there is the possibility that we're the only life in the universe.
Maybe we're speaking past each other or using terms with different definitions. Either that or you're arguing from a sort of Cartesian standpoint. Because you're question has obvious answers: dolphins, trees, literally everything underneath the umbrella term of "biosphere"...

And if you only mean conscious life, (1) I'm not sure why that is a special consideration, but I am familiar with the discussions around this point; (2) it is more than possible that certain animals, like other primates, dolphins, whales, etc., have some degree of conscious experience, and it is also more than possible that we won't find anything more obvious than that on another planet.

Edit: Ah, I see. You were saying there is no life in space. I was thinking more along the lines of, "what about all the environmental damage we will do in order to travel to outer space." I just didn't realize that I should have included that concern in my initial comment, since for some reason I thought it would be obvious.

Yep, by life I meant "life on Earth". I guess I should have clarified. What I mean is, if Earth gets destroyed, all life everywhere (as far as we know it) gets destroyed. So we should do our best, whatever it takes, to make sure we spread life to other planets to mitigate that.

Sure we may cause environmental damage to get there, but I think that is far outweighed by the benefit of being a multi-planet species.

Paraphrasing: "I see two paths for the human species, extinction event or multi-planetary species." Then Elon shows the picture of the O2 tank: "and this is the size of the payload we could deliver to anywhere on Earth in 45 minutes, please fund us." Well played Musk, well played.
Fill it with Marines and the DoD will buy it.
While this remains a paper rocket for now, its engine (which looks to be a pretty big deal in its own right) was test-fired for the first time yesterday:
A scale model of the engine. It's not full-size yet.
It's full size they just use 27+ of them on the heavy lift version of their rocket, and 40+ on the proposed rocket for lifting the Mars ships off of Earth.
Falcon Heavy will use 27 Merlin engines, not Raptors. The Merlin is already being flown in Falcon 9, and they're producing dozens per year. The Heavy is basically a Falcon 9 with two more Falcon 9 first stage cores strapped on the side as boosters.

Though I think there is talk of moving all Falcon to the Raptors eventually.

> The Merlin is already being flown in Falcon 9, and they're producing dozens per year

Musk said they're already building more than 500 Merlins per year, so they are not at all worried about being able to build Raptors fast enough.

You're right. Although Musk did make the point that the Raptor and the Merlin are essentially the same size. The scale is the same.
With the ~3 times of thrust from the Raptor engines, do you think they will move to a "Falcon-3" design with 3 Raptor engines?

Because that would decrease the redundancy, right? With Falcon-9 you would lose 2/9 of thrust if you turn off the mirrored engine in the best case. In a Falcon-3 scenario, you would lose at least 1/3 for middle engine failure or 2/3 for a side engine failure.

Interesting question. I really don't know what their plan would be, but it's worth noting that even with the Merlins, they land with only one of nine Merlins at its lowest thrust. And even then, it delivers more thrust than its weight, meaning it can't hover. That's why landings are so difficult for them. They have to fire the engine at the exact right time, or else they'll just blast off again (or land too hard).

The numbers I could find said minimum thrust of Merlin is 360 kN. The stat sheet for Raptor showed minimum thrust of 20%, which works out to 610 kN. So with a single engine at minimum thrust, they'd need to either come in even harder than the Falcon 9 currently does, or find a new method of propulsive landing.

More relevant to your question, a 3 engine configuration doesn't allow firing a single engine because there'd be no middle engine like the Falcon 9 has. You'd need at least 4 to have symmetry and a centre engine.

Are you certain of that? It's mentioned in a few places (including Wikipedia), but I've not seen any SpaceX sources saying this was a sub-scale test article. On the contrary, we've heard Elon say that because of the very high chamber pressure, you can get the thrust they're looking for out of an engine about the size of a Merlin. And while it's hard to be 100% sure, from the pictures I've seen the unit tested at the weekend looks kind-of Merlin sized. Not conclusive, of course, but likewise I've not yet seen any hard evidence to support the idea that it is sub-scale.
Admittedly, I was going by Wikipedia and r/SpaceX. The latter tended to imply that the source was conversations with employees, but I don't know of a quotable source either. So might in fact be wrong. Elon tweeting something that might imply the same size of the engine, albeit with a qualifier (»Chamber pressure is almost 3X Merlin, so engine is about the same size for a given area ratio«). Naïvely dividing booster diameter by the number of engines across the diameter yields 1.2 m for Merlin 1D and 1.7 m for Raptor (although the ITS seems to have a bit of space around the center cluster since only those gimbal).
I'm not sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing that Elon's presentation ends with requests to throw comics onto the stage and ask him to allow receiving a good luck kiss from a girl in the audience.

To be honest I think it's a really bad fit to have these kind of questions during such an event; but hey, because of them I'm pretty sure this is all really honest and not at all orchestrated... Which is good, I suppose.

A number of years ago, around or shortly after the time I read the Mars Trilogy, I remember seeing an article about how the three largest populations of high altitude humans (Peru, Nepal, Ethiopia) all use a different biological process to deal with the effects of hypoxia.

The lower the pressure, the safer the structure, so one imagines you could have a colony where many of the workers from these three population groups, nature taking its course and we end up with legitimate Martians. People who could live in cheap structures or deep canyons with no suits for generations before the rest of us.

Someone more knowledgeable then me can probably answer this, but under ITAR, can SpaceX contract a Mars launch with another nation on friendly terms with the USA?
SpaceX can buy an off the self launch from someone. They are prohibited from giving them any rocket tech or anything else that falls under ITAR (quite a few things).

As far as ITAR is concerned there are no friendly nations (there are a few that have reduced paperwork needs, but still fall under ITAR).

The quality of the Q&A seems grossly sub-par compared to the incredible quality of the vision / content / presentation.
If you are interested there is an article series on Wait but Why here: about Elon Musk and his goals with SpaceX (and much more).
Due to a lower atmospheric pressure (0.087 psi compared to Earth's 14.69 psi), water in mars begins to boil at 10 degrees Celsius, or 50 Fahrenheit.

Gravity in Mars is 3.7 m/s², compared to 9.8 m/s². In a way, it's convenient since it would take less effort to reach Martian escape velocity.

Mars does not have a magnetosphere, and therefore little protection from radiation. The technology to induce a planetary magnetosphere does not exist. If Mars does form an atmosphere, it can be lost to space during increased solar activity.

What I think is that our best chance is to send robots to prepare an habitat for the first manned visits.

All that says to me is underground living. Hydroponic gardens with artificial light (powered by the solar panels on the surface).

We would absolutely need to start designing and testing prototype colonies on Earth first. Probably in old mineshafts. The only similar experiment I can remember is the two attempts at Biodome, and they were both failures. There is a lot we don't know about making a self sustaining sealed habitat.

Hope! To be honest I don't think it matters if mars will be any better but at least it's progress.

and in a totalitarian sort of way, which would be better for the human race, getting off this rock or having the world upgrade from an iphone 11 to an iphone 12?

If everyone in the world could afford an iPhone 12, that would be a net gain dwarfing anything we'd get from a Martian colony.

It would also imply a world economy that could easily support the development of such a colony. It's not an either/or.

Can someone with expertise to compare Musk's plan vs. Robert Zubrin's Mars Direct plan proposed in the early 90s?
The biggest similarity I see is given away by the Methane/Oxygen engine. This means he's aiming at generating fuel on Mars.

The biggest difference is the emphasis on reusable craft.

I'll post something more in depth once I watch the whole video (or some rocket-head will beat me to it).

I hope Musk gets together with Robert Zubrin, Zubrin would make a great ambassador.
Musk defiantly knows about the Mars Direct and he has ideas from it in his presentation.

Mars Direct did not do any refiling in orbit, but rather does multible direct launches. That allows them to use smaller rockets. Zubrin worked under the assumption that the best he could get was a modified version of Shuttle (pretty similar to SLS actually).

Mars Direct assumed a rocket with a normal upper stage that then deployed its payload to mars.SpaceX makes the spaceship itself the 2nd stage.

Mars direct leaves large the hab behind and does a direct fly back with the MAV. In the SpaceX plan you fly back with the hole ship, this gives you the same comforts in both directions.

Mars Direct assumes continually new HABs, MAVs and rockets to be built to keep up the exploration or base building. Its a very good plan if you have a space agency that has a budget every years and wants to continue doing what they are doing.

The SpaceX plan want to massively decrease price and thus makes more extrem choices such as re-usability to not waste anything.

Basically, SpaceX makes a spacetruck that can transport a lot for cheap. Mars Direct aims to deliver what you need for long exploration in the simplest way.

Both are great plans.

Watched the video finally and I think this is a good explanation.

Mars Direct is all about the cheapest, simplest way for a state-sponsored space agency to send 4 people at a time to Mars, with a slow build up towards permanent settlement via increasingly concurrent missions.

SpaceX is trying to start a permanent settlement within the first 5 or so missions, with the first few hundred people being uber-qualified astronauts, and everyone thereafter being whoever can put up $200k for a trip, potentially one-way.

It's like a fusion of Mars Direct and the very plans Zubrin was opposed to (Elon acknowledged this by making a reference to "Battlestar Galactica", which Zubrin used many times as a pejorative in The Case for Mars). The only reason the multiple in-orbit refuelings and re-usable rockets makes sense is the ridiculous scale (100 people per trip) and the ultimate goal (Mars Trips for anyone who wants to go).

Why is the plan to start off with so many fragile, resource-greedy people before the planet is improved? Wouldn't it be better to send a robot factory capable of building more robot factories using materials available on Mars and minimal operating oversight (possibly combined with some plants and bacteria)? People could possibly move there much later after we've mastered the really complicated mining, geoengineering and farming problems needed to sustain people there.
Did anyone else notice the title of the presentation PDF [0]? It is:

    NINA_5_ FINAL_draft_MarsTalkRevised_v4_17_nm_112716 copy 12
I just thought that was an interesting bit of meta information. Looks like they're not using VCS for it, hehe.

That actually gives a neat amateur-ish impression. ^^
I wish someone would have screened these people asking questions for personal/commercial interests.
I wonder what would be people's daily routine on mars. How colony with of thousands people will be organised? Would they have as much freedom as we have on earth, or the whole colony needs to be organized from bottom to top as the anthill colony.
Social structure will not spontaneously form as soon as people arrive on Mars. It will be organized ahead of time where inhabitants will need to exhibit certain skills to provide value. People will need to specialize in order to maximize their value. Free time could be an existential crisis or something that pushes leisure to a whole new level.
Bootstrapping the local infrastructure.

Think of it like a game. You start off with a lathe and a CNC mill and some 3D printers and a bunch of other stuff. You now need to grow crops on Mars. You need to refine Iron ore and produce high quality steel. You need to manufacture plastics, glass, concrete. You need to mine water ice to make water. You need to use electrolysis to make Hydrogen to feed the Sabatier reactor that makes Oxygen/Methane from the atmosphere. You need to explore, you need to maintain and expand the habitat, you need to facilitate future flights to make them as easy as possible and to build capacity for offloading passengers and equipment smoothly and quickly. And then you need to figure out how to use locally produced steel, aluminum, concrete, glass, plastics, etc. to build more machine tools, to build more habitats, to build more farms, more life support equipment, etc. How would you build a backup generator system that ran on LOX/Methane using local machine tools and locally produced materials, for example? How would you build high pressure gas containers for life support systems in habitats using the same?

All of this is like The Martian times a million. It'll be go-go-go every day, because the amount of work remaining will basically be infinite for your entire life. Once you "solve" one "problem", once you advance the state of Martian industry, agriculture, technology, etc. by one step, you're really just opening up the problem space further. The kind of people who will do best in this environment and those who are extremely capable, self-reliant, inventive, goal oriented people (basically workaholics).

They could have plenty of freedom, but if you're not 100% dedicated to working to build and advance the colony you probably won't get along with the rest of the colonists. If you don't obviously bring something valuable to the table (which doesn't need to be industrial/technological/agricultural elbow grease, and could easily be things like being a musician, artist, reporter, chef, even a poet, etc.) you'll probably have a bad time. But on the plus side, if you are a very results-oriented, goal oriented person, you'll likely have a lot of freedom. You'll be able to build, experiment, "hack", and explore to your heart's content. For the most part you'll be able to have your pick of interesting problems from day to day, you'll be immersed in a sea of experts in various technologies, all of them eager for apprentices to come learn and help. And at the end of the day (well, years anyway) you'll be able to look back and say "I built that, and that, and that, and that" for values of "that" equal to significant parts of the local industry and ecosystem. Imagine being part of the team of people who built the first structures to house the first Martian forests. Imagine having your name stamped in the side of the first iron foundry or steel mill on Mars. Imagine having your hand prints in the concrete of the first habitat built using local materials on Mars. That's what being a colonist will be like. It'll be some of the toughest work, but also the most rewarding.

> even a poet

since there is a ~10 minute delay when accessing the internet, I think any form of entertainers would be quite sought after :)

Likely they'd have some local "LAN" with lots of cached materials (like all of netflix, for example). However, the delay would be closer to 30 minutes most of the time (round-trip travel), so definitely local entertainment would be desirable.
I wish there was local groups or meetups with people to talk about and maybe even potentially contribute to this effort. I kind of feel this way in general about science. I'd love to go somewhere after work and experiment in labs.
Start it!
That's part of how SpceX started.

Tom Muelller, SpaceX employee number 1 and current VP of propulsion was part of a liquid fueled rocket club and was building what became the Merlin engine in a garage. Elon came by and asked if he wanted to start a rocket company.

OMFG. I guess that mr Musk won't have any problems in finding manpower to execute his plans. HN is full of experienced deep space and terraforming specialists. =)
Elon mentioned that there is no physical frontier left to explore on Earth, what about deep water exploration?
If exploration is the goal, wouldn't you get a lot more bang for your buck with a swarm of robots and probes around and on Mars? Sending people is very expensive in contrast.
Have a look at the end of the video presentation when they open the cabin and look out on Mars. Two of 'people' in the shot are not wearing any sort of helmet or suit and appear to be humanoid robots.
Reading a NOAA report about Hawaii's weather is much cheaper than going there, yet people still go.

A total waste, I say.

I think he meant places that are potentially habitable.
Underwater colonies are more viable and habitable than mars.
His goal is to make our species multi-planetary.
I think he meant that you can go anywhere physically on earth, if you want to.

You can go to deep water. That doesn't mean we've been everywhere in deep water, or even on land.

I'm all for colonizing Mars, but is it possible to do large-scale terraforming of the surface without a magnetosphere to protect it?
Musk tried to steer his presentation back to the mission of SpaceX which is focused on transportation and space. The scope of travel is already too big so terraforming and the questions regarding what/how life will develop is begging for another organization to tackle.
Zubrin and McKay seem to think so ...

Technological Requirements for Terraforming Mars

I was thinking about this the other day, and the best solution that I came up with was to hit Mars with Ceres in hopes that the collision will be sufficient to restart geological activity on Mars. Sure we have to wait a while for things to cool down again and coalesce, but it seems a much more feasible solution than living in bubbles or trying to create an artificial magnetosphere.
Wonder if a nuclear bomb "The Core"-style would work? (Yes, I realize this is a shittt sci-fi movie, but if you are taking about smashing a dwarf planet into mars to generate a huge explosion it doesn't sound too out of the realm of workable.)
Musk has already considered this:
He briefly mentioned about creating artificial magnetic poles to shield the Mars city from radiation. No details though. Maybe we could have learned about it the Q&A session was a little better.
I've never listened/watched the Q/A session from any of his talks, are the questions from the audience usually better?
Yes. Far better. Usually it seems to by mostly journalists.

This is conference everybody can go to, and it seems the people who really wanted to ask questions were not the space nerds.

To compensate he made a Q&A with journalist right after, he answered some great questions that the community was already wildly speculating about, I don't have a very good link, see:

"Waiting for everyone to reach their seats and get settled. Starting in 5 to 10."

It looks from the videos that the boosters return to land using strictly thrust from the rocket. Can someone explain why it's done that way and a parachute isn't used for at least part of the descent? Seems like an awful waste of fuel.
> SpaceX experimented with using parachutes in the past (mainly for their Falcon 1 vehicles), but parachutes are poorly suited to this application, as extreme speeds and loads cause them to shred. Parachutes large enough to recover the stage are also quite heavy, a weight which could be used for fuel for a propulsive landing and for primary mission assurance. Parachutes also cannot be steered.

> Essentially, this becomes a problem of people overestimating the amount of fuel required to bring the stage back, underestimating the weight of the parachute system (which would be in the hundreds of kilograms at least), and underestimating the fragility and controllability of a parachute system.

Because Mars doesn't have a thick enough atmosphere to parachute-land a big spacecraft. The atmosphere is thin not only in density but in altitude.

It wasn't until about 15 years ago that it was realized that we had no clue how to land a large craft on Mars. "Plainly put, with our current capabilities, a large, heavy vehicle, streaking through Mars’ thin, volatile atmosphere only has about ninety seconds to slow from Mach 5 to under Mach 1, change and re-orient itself from being a spacecraft to a lander, deploy parachutes to slow down further, then use thrusters to translate to the landing site and finally, gently touch down." - JPL.[1]

The approaches used for the small landers don't scale. Giant supersonic parachutes a hundred meters across don't look workable. There are some exotic parachute/heat shield concepts such as "hypercones" which have never been tried. Deceleration outside the atmosphere with rockets takes huge amounts of fuel, but should work.

The refueling in orbit plan makes sense. (Sending the fuel tank up first would be simpler, if less impressive visually. Build up fuel storage in orbit with multiple launches. This was von Braun's original lunar plan.)


Fuel is cheap, and the parachutes you'd need to soft-land a rocket like this would be gigantic. The weight and cost of the two systems are more similar than you might realize. Propulsive landing gives you much more control over where you end up.
Musk answered that in the talk.

Using parachutes limits you to only landing on places that have a thick(ish) atmosphere.

Being propulsive, they can land this thing anywhere in the entire solar system. (Then he said Venus would be tricky, and it must be solid, not liquid)

Part of it is that there's not a good middle area for them to work. F9 has to use rockets at the beginning for the boost back burn in space and would need to use it again around landing because parachutes aren't gentle or controlled/precise enough for a landing on land or a barge.
Parachutes put large loads on the structure when opening and don't have much precision in choosing a landing site.
The answer is the same as why the Falcon 9 uses propulsive landing. Parachutes are heavy, and generally require a water landing which seriously damages the booster (not to mention requires a recovery operation). The vast majority of the weight in these spacecraft is fuel, so when it's time for it to return to the pad it requires a comparatively small amount of fuel (as most of the weight has been burnt up). The fuel itself is also a tiny percentage of the total cost of the craft, at interplanetary scale $10k for a little extra fuel is nothing.
Impressive. I just wished some engineers could take at least a single day off to regenerate - - especially when they are on a world changing mission.
I think Musk must be a founding member of the Human Admiration Society. He's so positive on the achievements, adventures, survival of our species. And, he's on the watch too, warning us about possible looming threats like extinction events or AI run amok.

I want to join Musk's society! Let's keep humankind going!

Finally, colonization without genocide. Maybe humanity is making progress after all?
It's really starting to feel like we "live in the future" more and more everyday. The stuff we used to dream about as kids is becoming reality. Amid all the doom and gloom that seems to pervade the news cycle, stories like this are so refreshing. Simply amazing.

It seems like in the longer term, it would be more efficient to take a shuttle to orbit, and then dock with at a space station to get on the interplanetary ship. Cruise ships and military ships use this method in places where docking is infeasible. It would be a much higher initial cost, however.

Six months on ship isn't so bad. Six months is the length of a WESTPAC, though you get to leave the ship periodically. I think the longest we went without docking was a month, and the guys in the submarines often go for even longer stretches.

What's a WESTPAC? Googling it only finds the Australian bank for the first three pages.
Yeah, that wasn't clear at all. I should have just said "deployment on Navy ship".

If you are curious:

I love the "questions, not essays" shut-down. It's not rude, but it quashes this tendency people have to try and impress rather than to ask a question.

Next time I'm giving a talk: one question per person (want to ask more, go to end of line), and ask your damn question.

The SpaceXes of the age of colonization, such as the East India Company, used to sell shares to fund their voyages. I was a bit surprised not to hear Musk mention this as a funding option, since he just delivered the greatest Kickstarter pitch of all time...
His plans are unprecedented and complex and investors are notoriously short sighted. If he IPO'd, people would be demanding instant profits even though SpaceX is operating under a different kind of timeline.
Lol - me too, that's when I thought of
SpaceX has raised quite a bit of money from private investors with long time horizons, so that option definitely hasn't escaped their notice.
The various * Companies weren't exactly going into uninhabited areas, they were calling at ports that had been involved in global sea trade for many centuries albeit at a slightly lower volume. Despite this there were still a series of disastrous bubbles due to speculation on the various * Companies [0].


Any reason why you couldn't put a tanker in geo-sync orbit connected to a very (very) long fuel pipe somewhere on earth? The idea being you can pump fuel up instead of launching it?

Kind of like a space elevator for fuel! :)

Probably the same reason we can't build a space elevator :)
In didnt say it would be easy, but neither is sending 100 people to mars.

I'm not engineer, but wouldn't a pipe be easier to build than an elevator?

The problem with space elevators is that the cable (or the pipe, as you propose) needs to be able to hold itself together. Imagine taking a 4000 km long elevator cable and holding it up by one end: it would snap under its own weight instantly. That's about what your cable material needs to be able to take. The weight of the car is trivial in comparison.
Does it have to support its entire weight? At some point, won't the pipe have enough centrifugal force that would be supporting it?
The uppermost parts of the pipe (up past GEO) would; that's why it doesn't fall down. However, unless your pipe is strong enough, it'll rip in two, and the part above GEO would fly away and the part below will fall down.
45:25 Elon says he will leave detailed technical questions to QA after his presentation. Lol. His presentation was far more technical than any of the questions.

I think I would prefer more presentation from him than any QA.

Maybe next time they won't invite burnt out stoners for the QA?
I'm incredibly excited about this.

I would actually like to hear more about what happens on Mars: the steps to generate oxygen, food, energy, water, and the fuel for the return trip. What are the various ways that Mars could be terraformed, and what are the ethical and practical considerations?

I know that this comes on the heels of an unfortunate accident, but I'm in the camp that accidents and mistakes can lead to better process with less risk, and sometimes simpler solutions.

And, I'd like to invest in SpaceX. Whether it's in stocks or bonds, I just want to help.

The Mars colonial fleet would depart en-masse - about 1000 ships
If Hans Zimmer doesn't provide ambient music at that juncture then there is a sense in which we will have totally failed.

All glory to the Empire!

> As of 17 September 2016, there have been 310 manned spaceflights [...] 8 of which were sub-orbital [1]

There have been 302 manned orbital launches according to [1] and from adding up the successful launches in [2] there seem to have been a total of 5057 orbital launches so far, in the 70 or so years of spaceflight.

Apparently the Mars fleet needs from 3 to 5 tanker launches per manned craft, so this program will require between 4000 and 6000 orbital launches, so around 5000 - which is about the same number as the total number of (successful) human rocket launches to date!

Looking at the table in [2] we can see that the best success rates for manned launch systems are 97% for both Soyuz and the Space Shuttle. using this as a worst-case estimate, out of those 5000 launches we can expect 150 to fail. Assuming one in five are crewed, with 100 crew per vehicle, that means 3000 deaths over the life of the program.

I guess that we can expect improvements in reliability with a program this size, and using a mass-produced vehicle which is re-usable is not something we have safety data for in the space-flight arena yet. You would hopefully expect reliability and safety to improve, getting towards the standards of modern aircraft, or at least experimental aircraft or military systems perhaps. But even three nines (99.9%, or one failure per 1000 lanches) is still multiple orders of magnitude better than we can achieve with spaceflight right now, so SpaceX are setting a pretty tough goal for themselves here. Still, I really do hope they succeed, and it will be exciting to watch them try...

[1] [2]

> Assuming one in five are crewed, with 100 crew per vehicle, that means 3000 deaths over the life of the program.

A failure in the rocket does not mean everybody dies. There is a launch abort system for that. Musk has confirmed this after the presentation.

Launch abort should provide a safety margin on launch. It does less well in other segments of the mission, such as deep space, reentry, or landing. If you're looking at deep space missions, there've been issues at all of these.

There are also the instances of missions (Japan fairly recently in a Venus probe) where issues affecting an unmanned flight but not causing failure of the mission, would result in failure of a manned flight (expenditure of all life support resources).

The estimates here do suggest some significant loss of life will be expected. That's not unheard of in voyages of discovery, colonisation, and exploration.

I agree, I just wanted to say that during the actual launch, two major systems need to fail before you start losing lives.

That makes it different from the Shuttle for example.

Enjoyed Elon's presentation.

The Q&A, however, seemed to be straight from a second-rate Comic-Con panel.

Clearly, we've already identified some of the folks who should be left on Earth.

After having read all several trillion comments in this, I can summarize: everyone shits on Elon because he's doing new shit, and they either misunderstand the gravity (ha ha) of the situation or are just salty as fuck, and almost everyone here in the HN community is essentially repeating this ad infinium.

In short, King Elon for World Emperor 2016.

The name 'Elon' already comes from a book in which it was the title for the Leader of Mars. It was written by Wernher von Braun...

Here is evidence:

I wouldn't have believed it if I had not seen it.

That is amazing.
My greatest fear is that space will become the playground for the rich and powerful where the rest of humankind is left to suffer on an overpopulated, polluted Earth. We as a society can't live on the kindness of individuals to achieve a better future and that goes double for leaning on SpaceX and Elon Musk. They are a for profit venture and that means unless you're rich enough to pay your way then you have to pay with labor which may or may not be pleasant. I know it seems silly to imagine the future like that but the way the rich and powerful have been running the world so far I can't see them giving a flip when they can have safe, sanitary habitats in space which separate them from the existential threats on Earth. At that point they could just say "fuck it" and cut the rest of humankind off from space easily with threats of asteroid bombardments or worse.
I imagine we'll initially have the working class inhabit non-Earth places such as the moon, Mars, etc. Once the risk of the frontier is mitigated, we'll have a gentrification of sorts where the working class is pushed back to Earth and the upper class take the non-Earth areas back over. People with the means will work remotely from a different planet, companies with the profits will gravitate towards sexier places, and governments will hope to colonize other areas.
Too risky for the rich en masse at first. If they do go will be like the blandest suburb.
Don't worry. If anything, space will become the graveyard for the rich and powerful once they realize how poorly the human body fares in high-radiation, low gravity environments.
Oh, at last, a bit of reality... I'm sad that maybe we'll have to watch hundreds of people die for a completely unrealistic endeavor, and they'll never have a grave for their loving ones to visit.
Reality check. EVERYONE who signs up to this will know the very real risks involved.
Did he talk about the future land ownership/governmentship of his colony?

Will it be a personal dictatorship of Elon?

Unlike Earth, once you're there, there's nowhere to go without his blessing.

You can't just "move next door".

And knowing how "locked down" his Tesla cars are, it'll be interesting to see how he'll deal with a rebellious colony.

Hey if you pay for the research and development, equipment, transportation, construction, and deal with the myriad of other problems that come with living on another planet I'm sure you'd be free to make your own rules. You make it sound like Elon owes us something already.
He doesn't.

But that doesn't mean that I'm comfortable with potential dictatorships like that.

It doesn't have to be a dictatorship if you already control who gets on the planet.
He didn't, but the outer space treaty would make any claim to ownership of land invalid.

In the past he's discussed direct democracy as a preferred form of governance for smaller colonies with all/most laws having sunset provisions requiring them to be debated/voted upon on renewal.

The Outer Space treaty doesn't prevent one from owning property in space.

But that's not the main issue. The main issue is that until another company opens up shop on Mars, you literally have nowhere to go, and the colony will be dependent on earth for quite some time.

What will happen if Elon doesn't like what they're doing and threatens to withhold supplies? rockets? Internet?

I'd expect the first rocket, or several rockets to actually stay on Mars at least for a while.

1. It means you have somewhere to live and even if you set up habitats it acts as a fallback habitat.

2. You'll need a return to Earth option if things go potato shaped.

3. It can manufacture fuel in advance for future visiting ships so acts as a backup to their Sabatier reactor and other important systems.

4. Once you have several, you can afford to risk using one to travel to other parts of Mars and back to get science from other biome... er.. I mean prospect for resources.

I wonder if these will be capable of operating automatically. It would be nice to be able to prove out the system by sending an automated cargo only mission there and back, or maybe with a skeleton crew. It's fascinating that they're aiming to go directly to this without any less ambitious manned vehicles and missions first.

> I wonder if these will be capable of operating automatically

They have said many times the F9 lands itself completely autonomously, because when it's happening on Mars the signal delay will be too great for them to do anything from Earth anyway.

Given that, I'm going to take the leap and say the whole thing will be autonomous. I also think it makes sense so you don't need trained "pilots". You can pack the thing with 100 people that have no clue.

I'm thinking about things like operation of the Sabatier reactor, refueling operations, inspection and cleaning of the engines prior to re-launch from Mars? There's an awful lot more to a round-trip mission that just automated launch and landing.
All of those things for a modern airliner used to require humans all the time, then as we got better at it, humans are used less and less in the loop.

Refueling is an easy autonomous one.

Eventually you'd only need to inspect and clean the engine every x flights, etc. and maybe you just do that each time it's back on Earth.

Sounds good, thanks.

I wonder if a scale model test launched on Falcon Heavy would be viable or useful?

I thought the plans might include a Mars-Earth cycler [1] but possibly that's a science-fiction pipedream for the near future?


He actually talk about this in the Q&A. Filed under possible "future optimisation".

They didnt think it'll add that much in practise.

I don't mean to nitpick but is Elon always this bad of a presenter? He sounds sickly and hungover and unpracticed. A strange performance for probably one of the most important ventures in recent human history.
Sounding sickly and unpracticed might be a problem in a high school speech contest but here he still gave an engaging talk that clearly a lot of people enjoyed listening to. So it wasn't bad. Just an unconventional style. Try listening to political speeches from half a century ago and see how offensively arrogant they sound, or Chinese speeches today. Fashions change and it's not bad as long as people enjoy it.
Quote from

"I think its kind of encouraging to see that you don't have to be a great public speaker to get people to listen to you, as long as you are able to accomplish things off the stage."

Does anyone know what the music is during the first 20 minutes?
Looks like it's made in-house. The tracks they use for webcast intros are apparently collectively known as Spacex FM. I like it. It reminds me of the Eve Online soundtrack.
I call it "space elevator music" :)
Thanks! Looks like there's an entire site dedicated to the soundtrack:
I've considered the question before, and I considered it again while watching this - would I go? I've decided that I would, if given the opportunity. I'm an engineer. I'm in excellent physical health. I have a family, but they are at a point where they can get along without me. But then I consider that there are or will be hundreds of thousands of others who are in the same situation and also wish to join the queue.
To the US Federal Government:


Loan the money to SpaceX, or partner with private investors, or increase NASA's budget and have NASA pay for it. Just make it happen.

Even if this project fails, the benefits from having a lot of smart people trying to get to and establish a colony on Mars will pay dividends for a long time.

Please make it happen!

If I recall correctly Elon said they have the money. That the project is costing them <5% of SpaceX.
The 5% of SpaceX was what they're willing to put into the project, but that only covers a few million of the tens of billions this project needs.

I wouldn't look to the Public sector for funding this. Governments have grown increasingly hostile to long term projects. Just ask NASA how much fun it is to have senators constantly threaten to cut your funding and the need to build things in an incredibly inefficient (expensive) way just to keep Congress happy. Plus you get all sorts of curveballs as administrations come and go and want to juggle the priorities. As a government project this would just be an endless money pit and if it ever got off of the ground it would be decades late and severely cut back in scope.

Since I've read more about Elon Musk I'm not sure any more that he really is the person who will bring humankind one step further. However, I really like that slogan "making humans a multiplanetary species". It really hits the spot for me. Something I also want to work towards.
I expect the "no children" rule to apply for roughly 9.25 months. What then I wonder?
Mandatory vasectomies?
What is the "no children" rule? (Didn't watch the whole video)
No children bc you must be willing and able to face death.
Witnessing the future, chill bumps!
One Race the human Race,We all have the same origin ,last I checked it was 2016, I abhor those who play the race card and more so theSHEEPLE who feel that"I DOHAVE SOME PART AND SHAMEON ME.WE THE PEOPLE.
While it would be good fun going to Mars you wonder if we want to concrete over a fair portion, ship 1000s of people over and change the climate a opposed to preserving it as it is.
Elon needs to build this first
I'm excited with Musk's grand vision. However I want to know why this can't happen even sooner. Here's a breakdown of what was discussed that may lead to a faster timeline:

1) Funding: Current SpaceX resources are tied up in creating the basic infrastructure that will lead to interplanetary travel. SpaceX is still private leading to Musk prioritizing these awesome ventures but still tied to revenue from contracts and limited funding. Going public will destroy the vision but give him the cash reserves to pull in the timeline.

2) Competition: NASA, other government space organization, and the private sector have or will have plans for interplanetary travel. Healthy competition often leads to more innovation and constant motivation. At the same time, it leads to competition for shared resources such as...

3) Talent: Musk mentioned in the Q&A that he can only hire green cards and up. The international talent pool is and will remain untapped unless something drastic changes. Assuming this talent goes to the competition and capitalizes into the positive effects, then it will be worth it. Unfortunately, we have yet to see another private sector company like SpaceX push the envelope as much so I'm not as hopeful that someone has the ability to utilize talent like Musk has. At the same time, SpaceX is known to drive employees into the ground. 7 days a week, tough hours, and impossible timelines is not sustainable for employees. The allure of SpaceX, similar to gaming, keeps talented individuals in line to get a shot at working for SpaceX. As mentioned due to the limited talent due to immigration issues, SpaceX may run into the talent shortage sooner than later.

4) Non-Transport Issues: Transportation is necessary but not sufficient for interplanetary travel & habitation. We don't have a SpaceX/Musk for the other non-transportation related issues. The political/cultural/international issues will be big and then there's terraforming and everything involved with that. Musk may get ahead of schedule but these other issues may push the timeline further and further out.

5) Public Interest: Space travel is not as sexy as it used to be for the public as compared to the Moon landing with the backdrop of the Cold War and arms race. Yes, this is not using direct public funding (if/until NASA decides to pitch in) but the public needs to make this objective be top of mind for it to become a reality. Musk and the science enthusiasts will not be enough. We need to develop a few "X Prize" equivalents for the non-science community to progress on the non-transport issues and show why it matters for the rest of the world.

For #1: he could sell a minority share publicly. I think a lot of people could see a successful spacex make quite a bit of money on the current plan.

For #2: We'll see about that. Mars has sat there for a long time, and nobody else has done much about it. By the time others get interested because of (a) SpaceX showing that it can be done (b) Popular interest due to SpaceX's work, SpaceX may be too far ahead for anyone else to help (outside of being customers).

For #3: Agreed. I think this may naturally occur as the company stabilizes a bit and the "living on the razor's edge" feeling dissipates. At some point they'll focus more on getting it right then meeting deadlines.

For #4: You can control political/cultural/international issues on mars by controlling who gets on the ship from earth.

For #5: a bit of hero worship for the future marstronaughts will do plenty, I think. There's a lot of innate interest in whoever becomes the first human to step foot on another planet.

Just a minor mention for the novel use of a ? in the URL, amused me at least.

Elon's Simpsons episode

Musk for President! Make Mars great again! :D ... (sorry)
If you are going to have a gigantic ship able to carry a hundred people there will be exponential costs. And 90% of the cost would be getting it into orbit. And then there will be maintenance costs.

I think it would be better to just launch many small and cheap ships, then just leave them in space or let them crash into mars after dropping cargo by parachute with some air cushions. They could be carried into low orbit by a jet airplane, then use "dumb" rockets like water under high pressure in cheap lightweight tanks. And heat it up to vapor temperature using then sun.

Can we start again here, please.

How has this announcement and Elon's dream in general excited or inspired you?

Any ideas for how the plan could be developed, improved, augmented?

The exciting part is going from science fiction to a feasible path of reality. A path filled with milestones that I can experience, learn about, and continuously be filled with wonder.
I really like the thought of looking back at the end of my life and saying "what did my generation achieve?" And one of the answers being "Mars" will make me very happy, even if only to congratulate those in my cohort who made a difference.
I'm skeptical for two reasons. Living on Mars won't be like living in California at all. And two, building a colony there will be very, very, even catastrophically costly, so yes it will hurt everyone else who chooses not to participate. There are only so many platinum mines. Resources should be focused here. Think about it: how much water and air have left Earth to date? A miniscule amount, all due to space exploration. This project would change that, and for the worse.
A statistic I've run across recently is that up to 1/4 of all of Earth's original endowment of water has boiled off into space, as dissociated hydrogen.

Earth has been through a lot, it turns out.

>Earth Loses 50,000 Tonnes of Mass Every Year. According to some calculations, the Earth is losing 50,000 tonnes of mass every single year, even though an extra 40,000 tonnes of space dust converge onto the Earth's gravity well, it's still losing weight.

10 tons lost a year. Point taken, and very interesting. But it's still small compared to 100 tons of cargo going to Mars 1000 times to build a new civilization on an uninhabitable planet.
Is SpaceX trying to simulate the long, tedious trip to Mars with this scheduling delay and "endless space" intro graphic?
People are still filling in the seats. There's a reddit live thread that's gathering some of the tweets from people there.

The sociological difficulty is as big as technical one. He hired one of the best engineers available to solve technical problems. Probably the same work should be done on the sociological part of the project. Otherwise, we may see bad events unfolding on mars. Would be interesting to see open source project taking sociological issues as target.
Talk about going on Mars, Can't get proper light for the conference...
"We can put a man on Mars, but ..."
i was wondering if we want to permanently inhabit mars, can we create an magnetic field to reduce radiation? Can they be scaled down to a local one just spanning the habitat?
Cost of a medium sized house? I see Red Faction happening here.
For what it is worth, his costs look outrageously low to me. We don't even know what we don't know on building manned interplanetary reusable spacecraft and making indefinite term extra-planetary habitats.

Musk's promises that they'll travel in comfort sounds too close to what the Jamestown colony residents were promised. Life on Mars is going to be a hardscrabble existence where you have to solve problems that you don't have on Earth. Probably a mostly subterranean existence.

Musk's video seemed to imply that people would terraform Mars, but we aren't even close to attempting that yet. We can't even keep the atmosphere of Earth in balance. Elon Musk's biggest problem may be that he was born 100 years too early.

Elon Musk is clearly the greatest man in my lifetime. What he does and has done for the world is insane. I really admire him for his work and sacrifices.

I really wish him to succeed and if he asked me to donate money I would.

Great video. Is the plan really a one-way trip?
No, the spaceships will be coming back. If somebody wants to come back they can hop in any of the returning spaceships. Elon doesn't want Mars to be graveyard of spaceships.
I missed most of the livestream. Why did they just close it? I thought it was possible to simply go back on it. Did they not want people to do that before editing it first?
Better get the popcorn out for this thread...
He can have Mars. I want Ceries.

Mars will be nothing more then a research station for 500 years. Ceries and the space stations at L1-5 will be economic powerhouses before 2100.

1000 comments! Is that a record?
The Brexit thread broke 2500.

Hm. It either hasn't started yet or its not working for me. I just see the logo and hear music.
cool part starts at about 31m:30s from the end of the clip
elon musk debuts his foray into electronic music
Miserable sods are not an exception in the human history but, until now, doers have always had the last laugh. Steps may be faster without them but, you know, the higher the target, the more substantial the effort to get rid of miserable sods. It must be noted that it often happened that miserable sods' arguments helped improve the process overall, so I'm pretty sure SpaceX is taking note of the most intelligent arguments over here to improve their products.
Jeez, they should have done some vetting of the people asking questions. Some of these are horrible and a waste of time.
Seriously. "My question is if I can give you this gift!"
Yeah, the guy who said he was at Burning Man and wondered how we would deal with human shit on Mars made me cringe.
My thought exactly. Seems like 90% of the people in the audience trolls.
Have to admit, I laughed my ass off at:

"Hey Elon, I've got my electric bus parked outside. Want to take a look?"

Elon/team deserved much better.

yeah, some made me cringe.
Yeah, all questions should've gone into a queue for review as the talk was going on. I had to shut off the Q&A; this was just cringeworthy.
"Livestream starting soon". Does anyone know what time they're starting? (And please use a numeric timezone, I'm not a walking timezone database.)
I've never watched an Elon Musk livestream that started on time. Not sure if I'm spoiled by Apple keynotes always starting on time, or if live stream start times at SpaceX are just as loose as the company's other timelines
I would guess he's pretty busy actually running his companies, hence the delays for the PR events.
I guess time is hard to measure when you deal with fast things???? (Terrible, non-sensical joke)
On the ArsTechnica liveblog, they said the talks a few minutes late but should be starting soon.
"Waiting for everyone to reach their seats and get settled. Starting in 5 to 10." Elon said that about ~3 minutes ago on twitter.
Should be any moment now. Earlier, a countdown was being held on the page. We're about 5 minutes late.
Mars launch is delayed waiting for rocket passengers to fasten their seatbelts
Finally introducing Musk at about 18.59 UTC (i.e. +00:00)
It was supposed to start at 1:30PM CST [0], but it sounds like it is delayed [1] a few minutes [2].






Central standard time I'm guessing, so mid-US I guess "central" and "standard" mean here, so I'm guesstimating GMT-7. That would put it around 8:30 GMT.

You're too lazy to look up the start time so you ask some one to tell you, then when they tell you, you're too lazy to convert the time zone they used. You're acting like a child. Use Google if it's so damn inconvenient for you.

You're an adult with the Internet right in front of you, act like it.

> Use Google if it's so damn inconvenient for you.

Having to look it up is the inconvenience.

Central time is currently UTC-0500, so right now.
Google "1:30pm CST". It shows it in your local time.
Yet if we'd just use GMT+/-x nobody would have to look up anything.
Has anyone written a Chrome plugin that does this yet?
This seems close to what I want:
While I know what you meant in the parent, "numeric timezone" isn't a thing. When it's in a numeric format the correct term is "offset". It cannot be referred to as a timezone as it's timezone will remain constant, but offset may change depending on the time of year (and the impact daylight savings has on the correct offset).

For what it's worth, i too hate when people say things like "EST","CST" etc. Not only are they difficult to remember, but they're ambiguous. i.e. AEST is Australian Eastern Standard Time, but no one includes the A when it's spoken and rarely when its written, which often means when two people over email say "lets talk at 9am EST", hopefully they're on the same continent, or they will miss each other by around ~14 hours.

Well that's some interesting pedantry, but I think it was fairly clear what they meant, and I was sighing along with them when I had no idea what time the answer actually referred to.
It is a thing. UTC-5:00, or Z-5, or the specific times 1830Z / 18:30UTC, for some examples.

Also, for the rest of the thread, central time zone is currently observing daylight saving time, so the correct abbreviation is CDT.

Sorry to jump in with such pedantry. Datetime math is hard! :)

Good point! I didn't consider numeric offsets from UTC / Zulu time, but they certainly are valid. Thanks for adding that comment.
I'm not convinced there's some urgent need to be multiplanetary in 6 years. There's so much we can do to make this planet better and it is by far the best planet in our solar system.
Can't believe we're in that moment here.
Well, technically its a one-way ticket, right? And no FRS is going to check your spendings in outer space, right? I'd like to see whether this guy has some vested interest in VR. Just paranoid.
I'm surprised Elon has not improved his public speaking abilities.
He is likely very efficient with his time. Improving public speaking skills is not an efficient use of his time for someone in his position.
So maybe hire someone to fill in the 'set pieces' of the talk, that he could go back and forth with? As much as I think what he's doing is amazingly cool, it's kind of painful to watch.
Since his "position" involves advocating for a whole bunch of literal and figurative moon shots, investing in public speaking skills is a HIGHLY efficient use of his time.
And yet there are two companies that live stream product launches and get lots of media attention. Apple and Tesla/SpaceX. So I would say his public speaking skills don't matter to the crowd of engineers and geeks. Maybe, just maybe the product speaks louder than the words?
I totally agree. The first couple of times I heard him speak, I was like "get some skills". But now I can filter out the stutters and delays. And the payoff is huge - the guy is totally brilliant and inspirational. I can see why his employees give it 150%.
Seems significantly better than his earlier works. His talks feel genuine since they don't appear to be rehearsed and he's not exactly a smooth talker. In my opinion anyway.
What makes you think I'm trolling? I like the idea of space travel as much as the next person; I just remain unconvinced that colonizing Mars or even deep space really solves any existential problems for humanity beyond... providing more space. There's nothing radical about not believing that space travel is an answer to anything in and of itself. Apparently there's something deeply wrong for not agreeing with Elon Musk, yet nobody has stepped up to say anything except "troll".

Seriously now, what's troll-like about thinking that there's more promise in improving the human being than in colonizing Mars? If anything, diverting resources to improving the human hardware might get us to Mars faster. Granted, I'm not sure I'd want to go there, but something like Mars could become much more like visiting a national park once you don't have to worry about things like oxygen, radiation, extreme temperatures, etc.

No one cares what you think about space travel or world priorities. That's why you are a troll.
Please stop posting like this. We ask that you comment civilly and substantively or not at all.
Colonizing Mars (and/or humanity leaving the planet in general) does solve 1 existential problem. We have no reason to believe this planet is exempt from further mass extinctions. We are hard-wired to preserve our own existence and this is a step in assuring that.
We detached this subthread from and marked it off-topic.
In this case, it's pretty clearly not just a rocket. Both Bezos and Musk admit that this is their fantasy from when they were boys. We're never going to live on mars, this is entirely about mythological projection. The phallus is central to the purpose of this endeavor.
You know, Carl Sagan dreamed of Mars when he was a kid[1], and he went on to do some great things for science and science education. Who cares what Elon's dream is if he only manages to dramatically reduce launch prices?


People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.
Doing what, blowing up rockets? Shipping goods to LEO like people have been doing for literally decades?

Mars has no atmosphere. Who is going to solve that niggling issue to being a multiplanetary species? Who's even close? Musk is not "doing it".

1,258 people currently live at the McMurdo research station on the South Pole. The record high temperature there is still well below freezing. Humans would not be able to survive there _except_ we have invented ways of keeping them alive using housing and clothing technology.
That's not even remotely comparable. McMurdo is not self-sufficient by any measure. People do not live their life there either. (Oh, and they can breath outside. A minor detail.)
What is the part you think is impossible? The part where they live in big atmosphere-filled domes? The part where they grow crops in a similar situation? What part of creating a way for people to live on Mars is outside the capability of our technology and imagination?
Imagination is cheap. I can imagine a unicorn that shits gold, and cures all diseases with a touch of its horn, but that doesn't mean it exists. It's only useful to talk about practicalities, and the fact is that everything you listed is outside of our technology today.


Every. Thing.

We have never made a self-contained human supporting ecosystem in a box. Seriously. It has never been made, and not for lack of trying. It is really difficult. Case in point: Biosphere 2[0]

There is no breathable air on Mars. You go outside. You die. There's no magnetic field, and so the surface radiation is a lot higher there. You stay on the surface for a martian year, your chance of terminal cancer goes up 5%[1] And we haven't even discussed what the people are going to do once they get there. Seriously, there's no resources to make it pay.

As Bruce Sterling put it[2]:

> I'll believe in people settling Mars at about the same time I see people setting the Gobi Desert. The Gobi Desert is about a thousand times as hospitable as Mars and five hundred times cheaper and easier to reach. Nobody ever writes "Gobi Desert Opera" because, well, it's just kind of plonkingly obvious that there's no good reason to go there and live. It's ugly, it's inhospitable and there's no way to make it pay. Mars is just the same, really. We just romanticize it because it's so hard to reach.




is anyone doing it? is anyone interrupting those who are trying to do it?
Yes. We should all just go back to working on SaaS products and optimizing ad impressions.
You're right, there's no other work to be done except ad impressions and colonizing Mars.
No? If it becomes affordable enough, why can't we do it?

And why are you being a armchair psycho-analyst? Have you examined/talked to them personally?

so pass a law, and outlaw space travel.
We detached this subthread from and marked it off-topic.
As much as I love everything about what Elon is doing I wish there was a way to remove all the "um"s and "eh"s from his diction.
I think its kind of encouraging to see that you don't have to be a great public speaker to get people to listen to you, as long as you are able to accomplish things off the stage.
String transportation system to move people into already built Ekotehnoparke in Belarus. This is also the project of the century. you can manage to become an investor, if desired. Read more about the project here:
String transportation system to move people on Earth already built in Ekotehnoparke in Belarus. Travel speed of 500 km / h. The project is implemented through equity crowdfunding. Shares in the project are sold cheaper by 100 times. Read more about the project here:
String transportation system to move people into already built Ekotehnoparke in Belarus. This is also the project of the century. you can manage to become an investor, if desired. Read more about the project here:
The phallic imagery is so overpowering.

I also like this:

In case it's not clear, I hate this "multiplanetary species" garbage.

Sometimes a rocket is just a rocket.
Your comments reveal a lot more about you than they do about Elon Musk
What's your point?
I wrote a long essay about this that I have yet to publish, but my basic point is this:

1. Mars is a fucking desert. There is no air, water or life.

2. Venus is covered in CO2 clouds and sulfuric acid rain. Metal melts on its surface.

We are not going to live in space. To even WANT to live in space is an absurd fantasy that is in violent conflict with the reality of space as an airless, inhospitable, largely resourceless wasteland that requires enormous effort to travel through and survive in.

Why, then, does Musk insist we need to live in space? I think this is simply an update of our previous desire for an afterlife or a heaven. Since we are no longer willing to fantasize and organize around the Kingdom of Heaven, we've turned space into the Kingdom of Heaven, despite the fact that it has very few actual heavenly qualities.

You might want to go read up on Mars before you publish that essay... Mars has an atmosphere and lots of water ice. You can grow plants on Mars by compressing the atmosphere. You can use the atmosphere plus water to make methane rocket fuel, and water to make LOX.

For Venus, the way to build a colony is to place it way up in the atmosphere, at Earth pressure.

I know plenty about Mars. The atmospheric pressure at the surface is 600 pascals; the water is almost entirely polar. This is not a habitable planet, as evidenced by the fact that it is totally devoid of life.

Venus is even worse; it has a day longer than its orbital period.

If your idea of a good life is floating above a pool of noxious gases, there are plenty of places on Earth you could accomplish the same for much less money and effort.

Why'd you say Mars has no water or air, if you know it has water and air? You also don't know if it has life or not. If these are examples of how you're going to argue in your essay, I don't think you're going to convince many people.
When we were climbing down from the trees a million years ago, similar doubts were surely being raised as to the inhospitality of the ground environment. Not as educated doubts, of course.
Redundancy. A bad backup is better than none at all.

In addition, because I believe it is worthwhile to attempt difficult things to see what we can achieve. Inspiration is a valid goal.

Inspiration is a tautological goal. "Why do we do X? Because it is inspiring!" only works if we find X worthy for some reason. How about: real goals that substantively improve life on Earth?
Do you think our space exploration efforts so far haven't improved life on Earth?
People who try to study the evolution of well-being (for various definitions of it) show that it stagnated (best case) or started dropping with the generations born in the 60's and 70's. So obviously nothing improved life in those years and decades which follow space exploration.
[citation needed]
I'm okay with that. You don't have to be inspired by it. I am, and I think many other people are as well.

Human civilization has a lot of problems. I don't know how to solve them. I believe that demonstrations of human ingenuity, capability, and technological aptitude have the potential to cause people to aspire to achieve something, maybe to solve "real problems".

The best part is that they aren't mutually exclusive. I'm all in favor of improving life on Earth too, and I'm interested in hearing some of your ideas of ways to solve the problems we have here.

Because we are a migrant species... and because of this:

All those nice dots are potentially dangerous asteroids :)

And also, to prove we can.

So, are you saying that us as humans need to quit trying to get off this rock and get back to extincting ourselves here?
[deleted on request :)]
Please don't reply to trollish comments by making the thread even worse, and please don't make it personal.
We need to live in space because having all human life on one planet is intrinsically unreliable. However lucky we get, every year there is a tiny chance that we are all killed by anything from an asteroid impact to global climate change. No matter how small that chance is, what it means is given enough time, eventually this planet will no longer be host to humans. We need to branch out to other planets before that happens if our civilization is to survive.

Yes, it requires a lot of effort to do it. It required a lot of effort to build the first airplanes (I can find you many, many quotes similar to yours about how 'man was not meant to fly though the air like a bird'). That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to do it.

I will also remind you that at many points in history (for the vast majority of its existence in fact) the Earth was an inhospitable wasteland. Given time and innovation we can make space a more welcoming environment.

> It required a lot of effort to build the first airplanes

This is a false equivalence. Birds fly; they do not live on Mars.

>the Earth was an inhospitable wasteland.

The Earth did not become hospitable through human effort, as is required if we are supposed to live on Mars.

Birds also don't launch satellites in space, but every time I fire up my GPS our effort on that front is appreciated. Your argument is that we can only do things other living things do?

There is no doubt we would be doing something novel here, I don't think anyone is saying any different. The question is if it's A. possible and B. worth the effort.

Ok... relax, you can stay here if some comet decides to pay a visit :)
> I hate this "multiplanetary species" garbage.

It's one thing to offer a contrary view, but please don't fulminate. The more contrary a view is, i.e. the more it contradicts the audience's beliefs, the more important it is to present substantively. Otherwise (assuming you're correct) you do a disservice to the truth, in addition to igniting the obvious flamewar and making this site worse.

We detached this subthread from and marked it off-topic.

Thank you for posting this. Have been excited about this all week!
Yup, time to move to other planets - the virus has almost killed its current host.
This is either:

A) the most revolutionary venture of this century

B) the largest Ponzi scheme ever

I don't see how B) would work in this case.

However, it could also simply be a huge pile of money getting burned, with a few useful innovations made along the way.

I would venture to say that is the most likely outcome, actually, although I prefer A) to happen, of course.

Not sure how it could be seen as a Ponzi scheme. By definition a Ponzi scheme has to return money from its later investors to earlier investors and I don't see anything like that here.

Expect a job application as soon as I receive my Greencard, Elon :-)
What are we going to do on Mars? Live in a plastic box? Send in a bunch of slaves to mine minerals in insufferable conditions? I don't get it.
>What are we going to do on Mars?

Probably the same stuff we do on Earth? Also- sports would be pretty cool in low gravity (37% of Earth's gravity)

Are you going to need bones to play them?
Only if you plan on coming back to Earth, which they're not.
Watch the end of the video. I think he intends to terraform it.

Edit: looks like he's aiming for a city of 1m people in the short term, Terraforming in the long term.

Short term is relative, I suppose.
We can't solve simplest problems on Earth (like re-capturing CO2 for example), but believe we'll be able to terraform a planet to which we haven't even been able to send a human yet?
We can't solve simplest problems on Earth (like re-capturing CO2 for example)

But we can. There are these nanomachines that take in CO2, store the C, and release the O2 (on a simplistic level)... called trees. For the average American, $15/person/year will plant enough trees to offset all the CO2 released into the atmosphere.

Given hundreds (or thousands) of years, yes.
Yeah, I don't argue it can't be done in thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of years.

I'm just saying it's probably unwise to focus and spend time and money on this right now. We probably won't even make it to that day. It's better to learn to live on Earth responsibly and then maybe, once we've learned our lessons, start looking further.

I don't understand this sentiment. It's so incredibly backwards.

What do you do for a living? Your profile says you work on Why? We have so many problems on why are you working on something to deploy code? Shouldn't you be working in medicine to help those in need? You shouldn't you be working on reducing CO2? You shouldn't be working on any code deployment tools until we solve healthcare. It's really irresponsible.

Do you see the issue here? There is no reason someone can't spend their money (or company's money) to pursue a goal they're passionate about.

You misunderstood what I was saying. I was not criticizing Elon Musk for working on this, it's a lot of fun and I imagine he's having the time of his life.

The discussion here is about the viability and importance of the goal of colonizing Mars. Elon is free to pursue any ideas and dreams, like everyone else. I was just offering my ideas about his ideas, and sometimes they oppose. Not everything has to be a circle jerk.

Yes, I work on but I'm not pushing the agenda that humanity now needs to become "continuously deploying species" because that's what I enjoy.

deploy bot sucks btw...
> The discussion here is about the viability and importance of the goal of colonizing Mars. Elon is free to pursue any ideas and dreams, like everyone else. I was just offering my ideas about his ideas, and sometimes they oppose. Not everything has to be a circle jerk.

I mean you specifically say it's unwise and say we probably shouldn't bother until we learn some other lessons that you don't specify. That doesn't talk about viability or importance or really your ideas beyond some basic complaining.

I agree not everything should be a circle jerk and when it comes to Musk it's quite easy for HN and Reddit to go down that hole but at the same time I don't understand the empty criticism. That's not really criticism.

> Yes, I work on but I'm not pushing the agenda that humanity now needs to become "continuously deploying species" because that's what I enjoy

So an announcement is "pushing an agenda"? I mean I would agree but why wouldn't everyone do that? You don't want to advertise yourself / what you do? Is there something bad about that? Your phrasing makes me think you're not a fan of press releases or announcements regarding things you disagree with.

But it seems you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I heard this guy Tesla was involved in a car company that was trying to make an nice electric car that produces no emissions. A noble pursuit in the direction you suggested, living here on Earth more responsibly. But then it turns out that those cars have huge costs in other areas.

Not sure what to make of any of it. We keep trying and digging bigger holes it seems.

But we're not going to be able to do that. The only way we survive is if we can fuel humanity with offworld resources. We can move polluting and dangerous industries offworld, and then the Earth can recover. Trying to change our propensity to consume resources as much as possible is a fool's errand.
> I'm just saying it's probably unwise to focus and spend time and money on this right now. We probably won't even make it to that day. It's better to learn to live on Earth responsibly and then maybe, once we've learned our lessons, start looking further.

I'm quite thankful none of the European powers said "you know, we really should stabilize things here before we try and head west".

And when they landed in America? They KEPT PUSHING. In every single direction. Through revolutions, bloody coups, and multiple changes of government back in Europe, people kept exploring and expanding.

Perfect is the enemy of good.

People from Europe colonized America because it's a beautiful continent, with great climate, a ton of gold and so on. Even if they didn't know that, that's what they were hoping for.

Elon on the other hand is trying to colonize a known deserted wasteland and propose it as a viable future home for humanity.

This is a big assumption that Mars is deserted. No one (including Musk) has right to colonize any species humans or aliens.
Watching the presentation I don't see Elon saying that. Likely when we can terraform Mars we can also recapture CO2 and terraforming would be far away. Perhaps you should watch the presentation before commenting negatively on it?
I wasn't the one who said he is going to terraform it.
We don't need the permission and cooperation of every major world power and polluting industry to go to Mars. I'd go so far as to say it's vastly more attainable than fixing our atmosphere.
Once there's any indication that terraforming Mars is possible, why wouldn't they do everything they can to cash in as well?
Terraforming Mars actually means creating a greenhouse effect there to increase atmospheric pressure enough that colonists could just wear oxygen masks and not full pressure suits. Oxygenation would come much later, and no doubt the lessons learned there could apply to the poor unfortunate souls still living on this rock.
Right, but my point is that the negative political and industrial facts of life on Earth will likely follow the settlers to Mars once there's a profit to be made.
This is a fun read on that topic
We don't need the permission and cooperation of every major world power to destroy the Earth's environment. In fact, it seems to be our default mode of operation.
It's those aforementioned world powers and industries doing it. I'm sorry if my argument made assumptions about the context.
I understand that. But if we as people can't even solve these simple problems of intercommunication in the system that we ourselves created, how are we going to be solving problems of terraforming which involve a lot more complex systems that we have absolutely no clue about?

We can't stop desertification on this planet, yet plan to turn a planet-sized desert into a hospitable place. Crazy.

As the parent commenter implied, things get a lot easier when you only bring people who agree.
Indeed. We could argue the tragedy of the commons as it pertains to climate change (it's a tough argument for both sides, honestly) but when colonizing Mars means bringing along colonists vetted by scientists and not politicians, keeping from wrecking the place would be a lot easier.

I do recognize that it wouldn't solely be scientists to choose colonists, I'm not that naive, but I'm confident that there would be enough controls in place to ensure that the right thing is the default answer to what do we do now?

I get where you're coming from. Here's how I see it: No one's really invested in keeping Mars a wasteland, and there are a lot of very powerful people invested in activities that are destroying Earth.
VR work+play in a Musky geopolitical climate, with a Martian exploration theme park for weekend excursions.
Nobody's making you go, so it's not really "we." Lots of people do want to go, so you could ask them what they'd like to do there, but you'd get better answers if you ditched the condescending language.
Well, the title of the post is "making humans a multiplanetary species". Not "asking humans if they want to be multiplanetary species". I was speaking of "we" in that sense, "we as humans". But I get your point.
Why are we thinking about going to other planets when we can't even take care of our own?

How many industry leaders see planets as merely resources to be exploited like they do people?

We should not be colonizing foreign lands instead making our own planet better in all sense. Elon Musk and company are well known for big promises, I'm still waiting for 35K Tesla that was supposed to come out last year.
Forgive me but I love this stuff, thinking about how much quantum mechanics has taught us about the universe makes me absolutely giddy. I haven't even watched this yet and I can tell you this:

To achieve multi-planetary status, we need to make ourselves less fragile than we currently tend to be. What I mean by that is that if we devoted half as much time, money and resources as we do to wage endless wars and collectively shifted our focus to medical advancements such as the technology we need to keep ourselves alive in the hostile environments we'll encounter in space, our astronauts very likely could be traveling in self contained, iron man-like suits by now.

Aside from that, we may have to upgrade our own physiology so;

We NEED nanotech that can repair us, keep us healthy and help us adapt OURSELVES to new environments that have enough of the proper elements. Can you imagine being able to Evolve On Demand so that you can breathe a different atmosphere and derive whatever your body needed from it? I can.

If relativity holds then planets that are either bigger or moving faster might have a very different local space-time from what we're used to, so imagine if jet lag was so severe it hospitalized you.

We need artificial intelligence capable of both supervised and unsupervised learning to run and monitor our environments, our medical conditions - both physical and mental. The 'quantified self movement' actually has a very, very useful purpose here.

We need to be able to repair a ship while it's in space. We need to be able to repair an environmental suit while standing or perhaps trapped in a volcano that ejects molten Dihydrogen Monoxide on Titan.

We need real, functioning, scanning, recording, data-analyzing Tricorders. Yes, if if weren't obvious by now, I AM a total Star Trek nerd and if we want to explore space, we need those mobile forensic labs that will allow us to truly see the universe and ALL of its wonderful colors. I could go on, but then someones' R&D department is gonna have to pay me.

I have a better idea:

Let's focus all the money and effort we would spend on getting to Mars and living on its wasteland, and use it to understand the human mind and digitize it into a realm not individually constrained by physics? I actually think that may be a more realistic and practical goal, and our quality of lives could be much better. I mean, what do we really get from living somewhere like Mars? A storage compartment for excess humans? To what end? What will happen to it when we cure aging?

The idea of terraforming Mars cracks me up. Maybe when Musk completes his hyperloop will also be when I start taking him more seriously.

We get to experience the Brand New again. We get to learn things that are unlearnable right now. We get to leave behind a planet whose ecosystem has been screwed by its current population and try to make the right choices on a new one.

But mostly?

Because it's hard, and rising to the challenge can supersede politics and superstition and, we can only hope, recapture the sense of, "holy shit, we did it!" not experienced by a large percentage of our population since 1969.

> We get to experience the Brand New again.

So what? Does it improve the human experience more than addressing human biology & cognition?

> We get to leave behind a planet whose ecosystem has been screwed by its current population and try to make the right choices on a new one.

Unless you can substantiate that claim, I don't necessarily agree. You are also speculating that we would somehow make better choices with a different planet than this one. Not that it's impossible, but I find it hard to believe. Are you saying that it is more practical to terraform a planet that doesn't support life than to address existing environmental issues on Earth?

> Because it's hard[...]

That's not a very good reason to do anything. It might give people motivation to do things, but "because it's hard" speaks nothing to what we stand to benefit from doing said thing. There are plenty of things that are hard to do, like building a giant pogo stick that can bounce you into outer space, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's worth the time and money to do.

I would get behind a space pogo project. Would certainly cut down on the pesky emissions from many rocket fuels.
I'm trying to work toward that goal every day in my lab! Sure would be helpful if a billionaire hired me though. Kernel is the closest thing we have to an industry effort, but they don't quite know exactly what they're doing yet.
Humanity can work on more than one project. We're 7 billion people.
That point is not in dispute. What I think would be better than spending the amount of effort and time to get to Mars, which I am unconvinced solves our long term problems in any way, would be to better pool those resources into solving the root issues that afflict humanity like aging, pathogens, degenerative diseases, the need for so much food, the pollution we create, and the resources we consume. Working towards changing the human into something better, whether it be through improving our own hardware(biology) or bringing us into a digital realm(cognition). If we don't do that sooner, we're more likely to continue to suffer from the problems we are inevitably facing and end up, as I said earlier, turning planets into mere storage compartments. We can certainly do multiple things at once, but resources are not infinite, and I don't think all avenues of spending those resources make sense.
Just about all human effort is directed towards things which aren't curing disease and downloading our brains to a computer. So it's not SpaceX to complain about. It's the corner store and the hairdresser down the road. Collectively they're all wasting far more effort on far more useless activities than SpaceX ever will.

More directly to your point - Mars solves the risk to our species of a comet strike. Musk mentioned extinction events in the video. They've happened before and will happen again. All the health and cognitive improvement in the world won't save us from that.

I agree! We could be working on projects to improve the ecosystem of Earth, exploring the oceans, and exploring space. We have the bandwidth to do so. We just need more people who are motivated to do it and make a change.
Some of the comments here make me think of crabs in a pot pulling down the ones who try to climb out.

Nobody's making you participate in this venture. If you don't like it, then you're free to go do whatever it is you do like.

You might think Musk could better direct his efforts and resources elsewhere, but most other billionaires don't do anything all that interesting, they just invest their money in mundane stuff, outsource jobs, build hotels, run for President, etc. So why are you upset with this one and not all those others?

You're my hero! This attitude is why I quit regularly contributing to this site. Any time any single person does something positive, some armchair "expert" comes out the woodworks to tell you how it won't work or can't work.
> Any time any single person does something positive, some armchair "expert" comes out the woodworks to tell you how it won't work or can't work.

All public forums go bad once they reach a certain size. Since everything is on a gaussian curve (fat mediocre middle, and two asymptotes, one for greatness, the other for the opposite end), it's just pure statistics that junk comments will start creeping in once the population grows beyond a certain threshold.

Pedantic point: not everything is Gaussian. Income, for example, doesn't go below zero. It may not even be log-normal, but rather a power distribution.

Pedantic point aside, you bring up an important point. Can behavioral incentives be aligned to avoid the bottom side of participation?

If you measure income as change in net worth minus expenditures, it could go below zero. That might not be an appropriate definition in all cases, but, for example if you incur debts without acquiring an offsetting benefit (maybe by being compelled to pay damages to someone for something you did that you didn't derive much or any value from, like causing an accident?), it might be reasonable to say that you had negative income. Or maybe due to capital losses -- you own something that gets stolen or destroyed or damaged, or whose market value falls a lot.

(That doesn't mean that it will follow a Gaussian distribution, just that it could be defined in a way where it makes sense that it can sometimes be negative.)

Fair points.
And who or what algorithm decides which end is bottom?
Trolling, generally.
This is less of a pedantic point than might be assumed.

The Gaussian depends upon a notion of independence and identical distribution: independence can be dispensed of when one thinks about power laws.

If you can soberly state the assumption that the effects of a comment on any other comment is completely negligible, or falls into a couple of other strange exceptions that leads to the universal phenomena that generates the Gaussian, then and only then can you state that any quantity associated with comments is Gaussian. I do not think that this can be soberly stated as such.

Your point is well stated! I demured that my point would be pedantic since it was pointing out an inappropriate comparison with the Gaussian analogy.

All this said, I'm hugely and awesomely excited by the future prospects of becoming a multiplanet species.

This is what happened with Reddit. It used to be a lot more enlightened discussion and now it is a gutter of memes, paranoia, puns, and debased comments.
It's the puns. Some are funny, but it's just not funny anymore. I go on that site a few times a year, and the jokes never stop.

It's a pretty old website now. I thought the hilarious banter/play on words would have run its course. There must be some psychological thing going on?

I am reminded we are just monkeys, hitting buttons when I'm there. (No offence to monkeys. I like you guys. I think you're better than us.)

Some fads just take longer to run their course? Skinny jeans for men--done. Guys buying $500 tennis shoes--still going on. Guys that have the semi-Mohawk. Just enough on the sides to get a job--almost done. I can't think of anything that doesn't have a beginning, and end. All I can think of, right now, is life is too short. Depressing. This summer went by way to quick for myself. I wasted it.

Comment sounds like another armchair "expert" opinion to me :-)
In some ways HN is designed to combat this. You need to "earn" downvotes with contributions, and the sites UX is designed in a way to slow down low effort comments, and to make comments sit for a bit before allowing replies (with workarounds if needed).

The things that aren't features (like the lack of notifications) also help.

>In some ways HN is designed to combat this.

Yeah, those things are an example of something that sounds great in theory, but doesn't work out in practice.

Your shit is greyed out so I guess it's working pretty well.
I wonder if recent UI enhancements really improve the discussion, or if they are just indicators that we've reached that critical threshold.

I don't remember wanting for collapsable threads and such four or five years ago, but now I can't imagine sifting through all the junk without them.

Personally I really like that change because it helps keep one thread from derailing a whole submission.

But I also feel like my karma goes up faster now too, but that could just be in my head.

Certainly I'd be a lot more ashamed at having my rant at the top here if not for the ability to collapse it.
And there is an aspect to that ability that I know people don't like.

The ability to collapse means you feel less bad about somewhat-off-topic conversation, which in a way can create worse discussion for the actual topic.

But at the same time some of my favorite HN threads have been offshoots of the submission's topic.

There's also a quite-active, and largely effective, moderation effort by @dang and ... I forget the other mod, scbc or something like that.

I've been making comparative studies of a few communities (HN, Reddit, G+, Imzy, Ello), and it's interesting to see how various ones work. In particular, there's a tremendous culture against the types of even indirect personal attacks at HN which fly in spades elsewhere. I saw @dang inveighing against a comment which began with "<sigh>", on the grounds that that is the equivalent of an internet eyeroll.

On G+, discussion quality depends very much on the host and how they manage a particular thread. I've got problems with Google itself, but the platform can support quite good discussions. Overall participation has always been small (6-12 million users posting publicly per month, a value I'd had a hand in determining), but in corners, that's still a good crowd. The best circumstance is to cultivate a small group ~30-100 members or so, set firm expectations for participation, moderate aggressively (that is, promptly), though fairly and starting with social nudges. There's a balance between topic drift and derailment.

Reddit varies hugely by subreddit, the good ones are exceptionally good. The site as a whole has some faults that leak through even to the good subs though.

Ello has a very small (~10k or so daily, ~200k or so monthly visits) userbase, but it strikes me as quite well behaved for the most part, something I've commented on specifically to the site's admins.

Imzy, the "kinder, gentler Reddit" has largely proven not to be. For reasons not entirely suprising when you combine an on-tap, ad libitum anonymity access, lacking leadership, overtaxed / AWOL moderation, exceptionally ill-conceived notifications, threading, and response mechanisms, and a community drawn from SRS and similar beds of vitriol. It's not the issues advocated for, but the methods of advocacy, including ample amounts of friendly fire and hypocrisy, which generate problems.

I watched a trainwreck explode simply trying to discuss anonymity itself:

<sigh> and what level of derailment would you call this thread? it has probably two comments on the video contents, and all the rest is about which community stays on topic better.

the irony is too damn high

I'd comment on the video itself if I could watch it, but local systems aren't cooperating.

That said: discussions can be about the nominal topic, or they can drift, naturally, to other areas of interest. I find the meta-topic of "where is a good place to discuss the things I'm interested in discussing" to be generally on-topic. HN isn't a bad place for that.

With the ability to collapse threads baked into the HN page design, if you're not interested in a discussion, you can simply collapse it an move on.

On which: I'm increasingly hitting long threads from the bottom, for a few reasons:

1. The top-ranked post often isn't particularly on-topic, and attracts diversions posted for visibility.

2. It's easier to tell if a thread is of little concern if you follow it from the bottom.

3. It's easier to track a conversation from bottom to top and collapse going up, than it is to backtrack back to the top and collapse that. There's a subreddit which runs the collapse bars down the side of the thread, allowing a subthread, or entire thread, to be collapsed in one go.

4. There are often downvoted or flagged items which I feel are incorrectly tagged. It's usually faster to assess if something has some merits than to see if it's solid, and I'll nudge stuff up -- even if I substantially disagree with it -- if it seems it's been overly penalised.

HN, as with other online discussions, does poorly for deep and complex posts. One standout was The Edge Question issue a few years ago. There were a handful of comments on the first few essays, but given that there were ~100 - 150 total responses, it's not the sort of thing you can digest quickly.

I've tracked down other issues of the Question and gone through it. I have to say on balance I'm fairly disappointed in the quality -- much is narrow self-promotion of research, another large set is rampant speculation. The short an humerous responses are often disarmingly refreshing. And every so often there's something quite good. Sturgeon's quality estimate though seems generous.

I have tried most of them and feel largely the same.

HN seems in that sweet spot for me where it is large enough to have a good amount of discussion but still has very good quality.

Most "reddit but more free" sites turn into imzy or even worse voat. G+ communities are too small for me, and finding a good community is proving to be hard. And I've given up on reddit for any larger scale technical discussion (there's just too much vitriol and "my team is better" sentiment there. It always seems to focus on the negative, and creating a "positive only" subreddit seems like a bad idea, and it attracts the users that will fight that idea on principle)

I'll need to try Ello though. Have you looked at lobsters? It's much smaller than HN but also more technical (and with its own share of bias against anything newer in my experience)

G+ communities, as a rule, are simply broken. I created one of my one with a carefully selected set of members, and that worked well for discussion. It's limited in specialised knowledge, though not bad.

Ello is tiny, though there are again some interesting folks. I'm simply impressed by the healthy socialisation.

I've done some rigorous "tracking the conversation" studies, which are based on terms I have interest in, across numerous sites. Blogs are still surprisingly relevant.

I'm not familiar with lobsters.

Lobsters is another technical-oriented HN-like site.

You need to be invited by someone there, and they actually show the full invite graph, and I believe will somewhat hold you accountable if you invite spammers or trolls.

That being said, if you won't cause trouble I'd be willing to send you an invite if you email the account in my userpage on HN ;)

Don't stop contributing if you're one of the good ones!
I want to, but it got to the point where the hivemind has pushed me away. I have noticed recently that HN is becoming self-aware. More than ever, I'm seeing comments by good users telling the bad ones to take their bad attitude elsewhere. The contrarianism going on really drove me away. I started to believe that there were people feeling the need to be contrarian just to appear more intelligent than the other users.
>More than ever, I'm seeing comments by good users telling the bad ones to take their bad attitude elsewhere.

That's been happening since I've been here, since around mid 2007. Not to dismiss what you're saying, I just want to say that there have always been people fighting the good fight.

This is not new for HN at all. In fact I lurked for years because the community was so harsh. So it's nothing new.
If you see a hive mind on HN that says more about your thought process than this site.
Guys, chill out.

To quote from Elon's Q&A, "space questions only".

I hope one day you can see the irony of your comment.
Feel free to explain it to me, as I consider people to be individual actors who are not subject to mental control
It's a mistake to anthropomorphise HN. I've made it too. We're all in this together, and we're all individuals.

True, people here can be frustrating at times. But the mod team is one of the sharpest, and they cull abuse. And they do it well.

When the abuse is removed, what's left is substance. Sometimes that substance is disagreeable, and sometimes even hostile, but never personal.

It can be un-fun sometimes. But it's been rewarding to watch this place grow and see all of the new and old opinions intermix. Sometimes you end up learning about yourself more than other people, which are special moments. I haven't really felt that on other sites, so HN feels unique and worthwhile.

It's a journey. The community has ups and downs, but Dan (and now Scott) have always taken care of it.

The community has to take part in the culture to ensure it doesn't get corrupted too. The mods can't do everything.

Total side anecdote about this: I was at the airport check-in counter. At the only open counter was an obvious hoarder with many trash bags as carry ons asking all kinds of vague questions about if the TSA was going to take his stuff. The guy behind the counter kept answering his questions politely. I guess policy was never to tell a customer to get lost. This was taking a very long time, so a little old lady at the front of the line went over to him and told him to hurry it up. He looked a bit shocked and moved on. I guess companies are so scared of bad reviews or creating controversy that they indulge these people for as long as it takes and it's up to the other customers to put a stop to it.

When a discussion forum discourages skepticism and criticism, you tend to end up in an uninteresting "That's awesome, bro!" echo chamber. There's a big difference between trolling / negativity and battle-hardened cynicism / constructive criticism. Good mods help sort it out.
It's these armchair "experts" which make hacker news interesting. It's certainly preferable to Youtube +1s or emoticons to say how wonderful someone's comment is. The root comment is fine and makes a good point about how most billionaires outsource jobs and don't think big like Musk does, but this reply I am not so sure about.
That's just part of the hard work of producing something and distributing it. You have to overcome criticism. Both armchair experts and real experts will shit all over what you do for different reasons. It's a necessary evil, you have to pick out the good feedback and ignore the bad.
Yeah check out today's electric airplane thread for another example. Apparently the concept is impossible.
> some armchair "expert" comes out the woodworks to tell you how it won't work or can't work.

“Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it.” - robert-a-heinlein

While this does happen, I think it's because some on HN enjoy spirited argument and aren't intending to hurt anyone's feelings, just issue a worthy challenge.
Because it's no longer filled with hackers.
It's especially exaggerated here -- almost comically so -- when the subject is JavaScript or when something isn't quite right with a project's website.
Developers are a cynical bunch. It comes with the chops.
I think it just comes with the type of person who fits the programmer stereotype. I don't think being cynical makes one a better programmer.
Well I think it depends on what kind of code you work (or worked) on. My first two jobs were on decade-old PHP codebases with thousands of global variables and copy pasta galore. Only the damn cynical can survive in that kind of mess, because it literally feels like the system is trying to fight you. I imagine legacy COBOL programmers can also relate. Now if most of your experience is working with green field systems, such a level of cynicism is not needed and may even be detrimental.
Being cynical comes with experience. You get exposed to tons of ideas and hype over time. Some of it is warranted, and some of it isn't. You realize that marketing and lowest common denominator play a big role.
Yes, or the ever popular:

"This is nice, but my cousins, uncles, framework that's coming out next week is way better!"

I would never say "it won't work", but I do think we humans have a tendency to turn to technology to solve our most basic problems, while the real solutions lie within us (where most people never look).

I believe we should first learn to clean up our act on planet Earth before we export anything of our existence and what we do.

To me, the real revolution that needs to happen is a spiritual one - a statement that will only be understood by those practicing meditation. Our brain has so many "undiscovered" capabilities. Discovering them will change our behavior and ultimately allow us to survive on Earth.

The more I look around, the more I'm opposed to that concept.

Sure, I've seen humans change - but only under heavy "brainwashing", i.e. internalizing an ideology that values being fair, helpful and truthful, and that only holds with a support structure of adherents. And I doubt it scales.

If you look at the world, a lot if not most changes for the better are technology-driven. Technology alters the economical landscape, which makes people do things better, even though they're still following the same behaviours as they always did.

TL;DR: I think individuals have much less agency than we'd like to think.

> the real revolution that needs to happen is a spiritual one

I think the only "spiritual" anything we need is to drop anything spiritual and focus more intensely on reality and evidence based reasoning. Spirituality has done plenty of harm and it is not hard to argue more harm than good if you can lump religion in there with it.

Your ridiculous claims about undiscovered capacities in our brains allowing to to survive is non-sense. Our ability to problem solve base on past experience/evidence is the real miracle and our gradual takeover of every ecosystem is why we have survived this far. Now we need to use this capacity we already demonstrated to not kill ourselves. Going to space is one possible option.

Meditation can go hand in hand with space exploration.

Besides that, Musk is doing two things at the same time. He tries both to protect the earth (Tesla, solar power), and initiate a base in case something happened to our home.

Spirituality alone won't help you survive winter, regardless of how developed your mind is.

> Spirituality alone won't help you survive winter, regardless of how developed your mind is.

It's funny that you would say that - you may want to take a quick look at this:

(The main site is:

There is no good scientific evidence that Hof's breathing techniques account for his ability to withstand cold temperatures, rather than some kind of genetic difference. Four people have died while attempting to follow his 'technique'.

On a related note, you might find this story about a frozen guru who is still "meditating" after several years of attempting to withstand the cold...

I'm becoming more and more convinced that these magical guru stories are the south Asian equivalent of the National Enquirer, except more aimed towards gullible foreigners.
Probably. In this case, it seems the group is claiming he is meditating to keep using his money
It's sad, but also stupid, to be brutally honest. You don't do these exercises in water (btw, they always have these warnings everywhere in their material).

You also don't drink and drive.

Ultimately allow us to survive on Earth...until the next major extinction event. Meditation won't allow us to survive a massive meteor impact (which is just a matter of when, not if).
It is important to people do things whichever areas they are interesting. Everybody knows many problems around us, but nobody cares until it is a priority or if they are not interested.

So, let him do what he is doing, he is doing everything right, now if you are communicating with people through mobile phones is just because of satellites, that happened only because people explored the space and it's application.

So, the final goal of Elon is great, support people so that you will also get good support when you have a great idea.

True, technology doesn't necessarily make a person better, but it does make being a good person easier and more probable, and in a large population that probability makes all the difference.
+1. Very correct view, but just a wrong thread/forum. Don't worry about the down votes.
It's weird for people to suggest that "we" as a human race should/can only focus on one goal at a time. There are enough humans on the planet that different people can focus on different goals at the same time.

It's not like Elon Musk building this rocket is at the expense of SolarCity (improving the environment through solar energy).

What would you prefer? Rolling applause for every idea anyone presents?

One benefit of criticism is we might get to read an angle of attack we hadn't thought of and thereby improve our ideas and designs.

Sure, when people blow off an idea by saying "pointless, let's save the baby dolphins first" I don't find those comments helpful, but HN almost always has far more in-depth critiques.

Edit: fixed a word

> What would you prefer? Rolling applause for every idea anyone presents?

Skepticism is a good thing but it's unevenly applied in the weirdest way. Solar Roadways, it seems like the smallest amount of skepticism would have dismantled the entire idea. Two nobody snake oil salesmen from out of their garage were roundly applauded by everyone to such a degree that competitors opened up.

When Musk presents a design on a much larger scale following a career of related success, it's called down?

Therefore I appreciate criticism but I'm skeptical of its sources.

Exactly. HN is not a fanboy driven community usually, so it's where rational and educated conversation can take place. On the contrary I find criticism helpful in this kind of context.
It's helpful when the critic poses at least a fraction of expertise and experience as related to the subject of the people who's idea is being criticised.
Thats precisely why HN is not reddit.
Well I still have serious doubts that majority of critics in this thread are aerospace engineers.
I have 100% certainty that Musk is not.
From the formal standpoint he is not, given his knowledge and expertise he pretty much is at least according to Space X engineers I know or that publicly spoke about it. There is obviously a very talented team at Space X and the things he presents are obviously a result of team effort.
Why should that matter? Should we exclude all but subject matter experts in all discussions?

You don't need to be an expert to understand the limitations of rockets as a means of getting to space.

No but it would be cool if critics would adjust the language based on their realistic understanding of their level of expertise in the subject matter. Posting very arrogant and dismissive comments just because one had read a semi scientific book on the subject or watched a documentary is not very helpful.
For sure, agree with you here, and I just scroll past those comments that come off as arrogant and dismissive, maybe I down vote them. Definitely do a lot of up voting of those comments that are more in-depth critiques, in the hope they rise to the top and help sink the arrogance.
As engineers (or hackers, whatever) we are supposed to be naturally skeptical, in the words of someone wiser than me, "good programmers look both ways when crossing a one way street."
U have to. U never know when some dumb nigger is gonna go the wrong way and commit to their mistake. Fuck Kareem
Biking in New York City taught me that. I know it wasn't the programming, because that came second. Funny how many pedestrians look the wrong way when crossing a two way street...maybe they're going with 50/50 chances?
And the negative comments help wipe out a great bit of future competition. If you kill an idea before it gets started, you reduce the risk of it actually working.

Here to the crazy ones.

I encourage people to not say, "This won't work, and here's why."

I encourage people to say, "This won't work, here's why, but here's how it could."

Why would I share the secret to success? If you could predict the stock market, you surely wouldn't tell CNN.
In the stock market you play against others. In human development, you play alongside others. Bringing others up also beings up.
I completely agree with you. The frustration I feel, in the case of SpaceX, is that I am perceiving most of the criticism to be "It's hard, so don't try". That's not helpful or constructive.
so those are the only two choices? automatic cynical criticism or rolling applause? sounds logical. personally i see many other options.
Compared to reddit, you're 100% on the money. At least here, I'm looking at the news/writings I'd be looking at elsewhere, but the discussion is much closer to humane than some things I've seen elsewhere on this internet.

We'll all in this game together, learning how to be a single mind. Be nice to your fellow human-cells no matter their goal, if their goal is for the greater good. The thing is - we can save the dolphins && live on Mars, not mutually exclusive goals.

If somebody told Elon "don't go Mars, do something like cure cancers first" what would he say? Thye're missing the point altogether, right? People are curing cancer, saving dolphins, working on hunger. The reason Musk is so successful and iconic is because specifically he followed things that interested and mattered to him, i.e. energy and colonization.

If someone is following their passion and investing enough energy to be recognized on the level of these people, they're assuredly more cognizant of what's in the realm of reality in their scope than the average journalist/internet commentator. I can glean so much from just listening to the man react to the audience's question.. the one about the Funny or Die video, he's sending "you're wasting our time" body language... I get it, though, this is a pointed, focused thing they're working on; grandiose and monumental indeed, focused nonetheless.

You can't cure cancer because that would kill the whole "find cure" industry /s

Anyway success of people as species is through specialisation. Side effect is that we also have specialist naysayers

In past there was "Why Explore Space?" letter from 1970 linked on HN:

Considering progress humanity made this letter is more actual than ever. So I wish more people understand that it's super important to work on what you like and can do the best since there always chance that space exploration help to solve other problems too.

I think the problem here is one of misanthropy.

I'm not saying it applies to all those commenting negatively, but one commonly held philosophy amongst some of my geek friends is this logic:

"the world is terrible and people are terrible" -> "there's no point trying to improve things" -> "I don't need to improve things"

It's essentially an argument that allows people to live a defeatist (selfish?) life without feeling guilty.

Anyone who stands up and says "we can make things better and I'm going to do it!" is an immediate threat to this philosophical position. If Elon Musk can make the world(s) a better place, then it's much harder for me to maintain that all humans are selfish and evil, and it's harder to justify living a selfish and cynical existence. Hey, maybe I'm wrong about things, maybe I need to mature and learn about the world, which means the stance I've held all my life is incorrect and that is a scary thing to contemplate. It takes great self-awareness to move beyond that position.

I don't know why these thoughts correlate with being a programmer. Perhaps it's somewhat related to seeing things in a very black and white manner: things are good or bad. Elon Musk is a hero or a charlatan or he can't achieve what he says he will and he will fail and therefore it's pointless.

Here's an example I came across recently: "people are individually smart and collectively stupid, therefore we are doomed wrt politics and climate change." But the mature, adult, response is to ask "how can we help people better make collective decisions?"

Overall, this thinking comes across as childlike, failing to appreciate the subtleties in how progress is made, and the reality that nothing is all good or all bad, all failure or all success.

"the world is terrible and people are terrible" -> "there's no point trying to improve things" -> "I don't need to improve things"

This is kinda a stupid position to hold as statistically for the average human on this planet everything today is better then it was yesterday and most likely will be better tomorrow then today.

most people's lives are much more driven by their emotional opinions/decisions rather than smart, factual rational approach. compared to hard facts, emotions can be changed/manipulated rather easily. examples visible everywhere, all the time
Source? I am not sure this is true. I am not sure you can prove people today are happier than people yesterday.
> failing to appreciate the subtleties in how progress is made

What are these subtleties? Why is it better to invest energy into space instead of sustainability? It's just heartbreaking that we can't remotely get as excited about sustainability as we can about romantic memes of curiosity and history books. Is the 'subtlety' that we just got to accept this as a fact about human nature and hope for sustainability as a byproduct?

There seems to be plenty of excitement when big announcements are made for things like solar power, nuclear energy, energy storage, non-hydrocarbon transportation, and other such things. Lots of work is going into those things already, a big chunk of it being done by the same guy pushing Mars here.
I am not seeing it. People are following the super stimuli of rockets, history etc. while further contributing to pollution and resource depletion. We need a culture that is satisfied with much less, one that overcomes the tragedy of the commons. Tesla might contribute a bit in that regard, but SpaceX is outright opposed to it. If you want to convince people of the future, there are more effective and reliable ways of doing that (for example science, cryonics, education etc.).
Cryonics requires constant power to the fridges for years, its carbon footprint is terrible.
AFAIK it's not so bad at large scale and with brains only.
I am upvoting you for your insightful comment, but I still think that in your comment's second part your speculation goes in a wrong direction.

"things are good or bad. Elon Musk is a hero or a charlatan or he can't achieve what he says he will and he will fail and therefore it's pointless"

On the granular level, considered from only one problem's prospective, decisions actually have a binary value. For a supposed genius like Musk it's no wonder why there's a backlash for the wrong ones. The judgment itself has a scale of tolerance for its subjects (even though this is harder to admit openly) and exactly this high bar inherently set for highly potential, highly resourceful people like genius billionaires is what we see here. This is a good thing, I think.

As of right now, the top comment is complaining about the negative comments, the next 75% of the comments or so are positive comments (even calling Musk a hero and saying that this is a historical moment), and there's about 25% or so that are skeptical (many of those offering valid criticisms and not simply complaining about it).

Yes, excessive negativity can be a bad thing. But when a small minority of the comments being critical (comments mostly downvoted to the bottom) is considered too negative (to the point where people are advocating scripts that remove or auto-downvote comments deemed negative), it suggests that there's a danger of people being overly sanguine and reflexively hostile to any criticism.

I'm not sure how something as massive as this could ever be accomplished without taking it seriously. And I don't think it can be taken seriously without taking a good, hard look at the numerous challenges that face it. Mindless hype doesn't really get us anywhere.

I don't see the complainers taking a good, hard look at the challenges. I see them taking a superficial glance and then basically complaining that people shouldn't like different things.

Maybe you're right that the numbers don't justify my complaint, but this isn't about silencing dissent or being hostile to criticism, I just want intelligent criticism.

If the comment split here goes 75% positive / 25% not, I think that's a healthy split. Even if it had been 50/50 I'd still consider that good.

A caveat: particularly in the case of someone like Musk who already has, conservatively speaking, some very decent stuff under his belt, if someone wants to post something against an idea they themselves have the responsibility, to make sure it is indeed well thought out, and not just knee-jerk negativity, pessimism or cynicism.

Likewise, people need to realize that excessive fanboyism really needs to be tempered and can really turn others off from supporting some of the truly great innovators of our time whomever they might be. No matter how stunning a person might be, they still gotta take a shit like anyone else, and you bet that shit's gonna stink too.

We need a lot more like Musk, whether you agree with space or not. Investing their resources in crazy ideas of their heart, some might just work.

We don't progress the species with digging up more rocks, building more stuff, selling more stuff, or dare I say it, finding a new way to get a cab.

A few more vastly wealthy eccentrics building teams to play with space, fusion (carefully I hope), generation, or whatever pipe dream they have could easily make up for some of the global short termism.

Does it matter if he sells enough tickets to Mars to profit? I doubt it. I don't think that's the point. The moon landings were excellent for helping humankind dream big, Mars will be too.

What will the moon landing conspiracy theorists do then? :)

> We don't progress the species with digging up more rocks, building more stuff, selling more stuff, or dare I say it, finding a new way to get a cab.

Oh but we do. Statistically such things contribute a lot more to humanity overall, it's just less visible because the benefits are widely distributed. What enables projects like this is the huge amounts of human labour that have been saved by less glamorous projects, along with general innovation in manufacturing.

Musk got in the position to do what he's doing by figuring out a new way to pay for stuff.
> What will the moon landing conspiracy theorists do then? :)

they say NASA has changed Mars colors in the photos, it is more Earth-like, because something

>We don't progress the species with digging up more rocks, building more stuff, selling more stuff, or dare I say it, finding a new way to get a cab.

I think you are assuming that being wealthy is just a state someone gets into magically.

While the things you mention aren't on their own crazy species changing ideas, the selling stuff, the getting a cab is what allowed some folks to become wealthy and go after crazy things. So don't discount the process of acquiring resources.

Hardly discounting. Or downplaying ability to make a successful huge business from formation - most can't after all.

It's the means to the end. Nothing wrong with that either.

Bezos was being connected with space as the destination in the 90s long before Amazon was even a certain hit or Blue Horizon. Amazon gave him the means to follow his childhood dream. That's not to trivialise an Amazon, but had Amazon failed, which it almost did, whatever came next would try to get big enough to make Blue Horizon. Selling books online wasn't unique, getting big fast was more so, at least for a while.

For Musk, he'd identified as having a dream of alternative energy, solar, and electric vehicles from years ago and mentioning it along the way. No surprise that as soon as he can he's founding Tesla. With SpaceX right after Paypal I cant recall hearing earlier mention, but I'm glad he did.

> Amazon gave him the means to follow his childhood dream.

Lots of people have wacky childhood dreams. Our society picks who gets to pursue theirs based on money. Some inherit it. Others execute magnificently on something daring.

For the latter, their dreams seem like good bets to bet on (but only given the prior performance). For the former, I suppose it's a plus they mostly remain in a holding pattern.

> Nobody's making you participate in this venture. If you don't like it, then you're free to go do whatever it is you do like.

I can't agree more. I've seen HN degrade into that kind of discussion over the last 2 years and it really disappoints me.

Part of me wishes HN had a really strong moderator that slapped down nay-sayers. If you're not contributing something valuable, comment deleted.

I don't think this is a recent trend, look at the presentation post of Dropbox[1] from 9 years ago. On the one hand, YC is a relatively contrarian community. On the other hand, if you agree with something you may not have much to add, but if you disagree you'll probably want to express why.


Well, the top 2 comments are dismissive, but after that there are lots of positive comments.
> Part of me wishes HN had a really strong moderator that slapped down nay-sayers.

Slapping down dissenting opinions leads to an echo-chamber. One mans sceptic is another's "nay-sayer", I think community moderation (via votes) is filtering high value comments rather well,so specific moderation is hardly required: egregious flaming excepted.

> If you're not contributing something valuable, comment deleted

Just because you disagree with a given opinion does not make it worthless.

> Part of me wishes HN had a really strong moderator that slapped down nay-sayers. If you're not contributing something valuable, comment deleted.

What a load of rubbish. Note that HN already has strong moderation, and does delete "way out there" contrarian views. If this was taken to the extreme, only back-patting allowed, the comments would become useless. And I feel, like others, this already goes on a lot (e.g. the top karma posters all tend to agree/compliment each other, there isn't that much disagreement although it happens sometimes).

> I can't agree more. I've seen HN degrade into that kind of discussion over the last 2 years and it really disappoints me.

You say it's "degraded", but it's more likely that HN's audience has diversified as it's grown, and therefore it's less likely for you to agree with any given comment.

Just an idea: sentiment analysis has gotten pretty accurate.

What if HN included sentiment in the sort algorithm?

The post score you see would stay the same (upvotes minus downvotes). You'd just multiply the sort score by, for example, 1.25 for posts positive in tone and 0.8 for posts with negative tone.

So if two comments have about the same number of upvotes, the nicer one appears higher up.

Criticism or disapproval could still become top post with enough upvotes, but it wouldnt happen as often as it does now.

> What if HN just automatically penalized negative posts?

"I think it's a good idea to start a national wingsuit base jumping team."

"I don't know if that's a good idea. Pretty high chance of death"

Penalized - negative post

I am currently doing a (simple) sentiment analysis for the complete reddit comment set. Perhaps when I am done with that, I can have a look at the HN corpus (where to download?) for correlations between upvotes and users, though I doubt that rating post quality by sentiment is easy.

But it could be useful to look at the comment history of a user. When someone who is an overall positively minded contributor (with a high average positive sentiment) suddenly writes one scathing reply, this could mark a potentially interesting thread.

You can query the HN corpus with Google's Bigquery:
If that worked at all, it could be applied before the comment was even posted. Warn the user that their comment looks inordinately negative, and ask if they would like to revise before submitting.
This is not about censoring or discouraging criticism. Often criticism is fair and warranted.

I just want positive comments to appear as the top comment more often.

Negative commenta should have a bit of a higher bar (in other words, need more votes) to get to the top

That presumes that the negative comments are always the ones derailing the discussion. For example:

"I think these questions at IAC are great, it's good that people get a chance to <self promote thing> at a technical conference"

"Wtf is with these stupid questions at IAC? They should be asking about <fascinating technical detail>"

Then perhaps use sentiment analysis to remove the derailing part of both negative and negative comments?


"I think these questions at IAC are great,..."

"...they should be asking about <fascinating technical detail>"

Hah, you just described the sheer drivel which is comments on LinkedIn stories. Good point - contentious and _well presented_ negative arguments are still helpful.
I think hackaday is a good example of a community with similar (techie) people to HN that has gone further down the same path of negativity, cynicism, and salt. HN is great and the moderators here do a good job (I'm always impressed by the way dang handles issues), but I do think some sort of push is needed to get us off of that path.
Hackaday comments have never not been salty, and I say that as someone who's followed that site since before the pictures were in color. I'm not sure there is a useful comparison to be drawn.
I was there in those days too. Maybe it didn't change, I just got sick of it.
The way I recall it is that I was the one who changed. Of course, I haven't gone back to check, so I may be wrong about that.
> Part of me wishes HN had a really strong moderator that slapped down nay-sayers. If you're not contributing something valuable, comment deleted.

Pointing out flaws == not valuable?

Not nearly as valuable as negative people seem to think.
I think it's the opposite trend actually over the last two years. HN has become a lot more positive. Frankly I think it's reduced discussion quality a lot; people are unwilling to be frank and point out flaws.
There's a phrase I'm fond of:

The man who says it can't be done needs to get out of the way of the man who's doing it.

That might be true in this context, but otherwise a rather flawed generalization:)
There's a phrase I'm fond of:

As long as you don't want my money for it, I'll be more than happy to help you get the fuck out. I hope you never return.

At least in my case, I see trying to start a Mars colony as a death trap. It's the illusion of carrying on the human race, but it's really just dooming a bunch of pioneers to a grim fate in an extremely hostile environment. I think making a south pole colony would be hard enough, let alone a Mars one.
I don't understand the abject lack of imagination, or optimism, or whatever it is, that makes some people believe that mildly complicated engineering challenges are somehow impossible. Do you think no one in SpaceX has thought about this for more than five seconds?

Obviously it's not completely trivial to sustain humans on Mars, but there is literally no reason to believe we couldn't accomplish it using current levels of technology, to say nothing about whatever we're going to invent over the next fifty years.

Keeping humans alive on Mars starting from now is vastly easier to comprehend than putting a man on the moon starting from 1950. I wonder how many armchair pessimists there were for the space program back then.

> Keeping humans alive on THE MOON starting from now is vastly easier to comprehend than putting a man on the moon starting from 1950

Fixed. Mars is impossible, for now. We haven't kept someone in space long enough to reach mars nor have we developed a sustainable model that's extraterrestrially tested. Mars has more problems than a moon base, not significantly less (there's a few small pros and cons but being so far away is a major con).

> there is literally no reason to believe we couldn't accomplish it using current levels of technology

Except that we have no demonstrable way to do it, any fantasy seems plausible in comparison. At least try to start a closed biological system with a rat and find out how hard that is, then add the lag-time to service problems and a low gravity high radiation environment, etc. The movies have really poisoned the reality for the US population, but maybe it's part of the PR to raise money. I can understand that, but I won't concede that it's doable yet.

Nope, I meant what I said. The moon was impossible in 1950. Actually impossible, not just expensive like getting someone to Mars in the very near future. The tech didn't exist.

> We haven't kept someone in space long enough to reach mars nor have we developed a sustainable model that's extraterrestrially tested

SpaceX claims to be able to do it in as little as 90 days. You can go a lot faster with more free fuel. We've kept someone in space for 4 times that.

> Mars has more problems than a moon base, not significantly less

What are you referring to? Mars has available gasses, water, and more easily accessible useful solids than the moon. It will be easier to get radiation shielding on Mars, as the surface is more amenable to building underground structures.

> Except that we have no demonstrable way to do it

You are aware that we have sent probes to Mars, yes? The only difference between that and the human is how much money you're willing to spend to increase the chances of the journey being survivable.

> Actually impossible, not just expensive like getting someone to Mars in the very near future. The tech didn't exist.

What about the tech to grow food in space? Is it "just expensive" or it doesn't exists? I think it doesn't exist.

I think we need a dedicated food-growing space lab, and run it for least 10 years, until we're confident we have a robust technology that works.

I don't think growing food in space is all that important, as long as you can grow it on Mars. You can pack supplies for 80 days, especially if you have an effective water re-usage system like the one on the ISS.

Once on Mars, we could probably use something like this:

For producing crops and oxygen, and maybe even supplies for a return trip.

> We haven't kept someone in space long enough to reach mars

A quick google search says a trip to mars varies between 150-300 days. The longest human spaceflight exceeds that at 438 days aboard the Mir space station [1] from 1994-1995.


They're not comparable. Life in LEO gets protection from solar radiation. Life in space, on the surface of the Moon doesn't. Life on Mars gets some protection, but it still needs to be managed.

See e.g.

But this is pretty basic for any Mars trip. I'm sure it's been considered.

I'm not one of the nay-sayers. Musk has a good record of getting things done, although sometimes maybe he pushes a little too hard.

I certainly don't think "That's s stupid waste of time and money."

And if Musk doesn't do it, someone else will.

Which immediately suggests a way to help with the Mars plan - in the time SpaceX and (hopefully) others are building the transportation architecture, someone should go out there and try to set up a self-sustaining colony on the pole or in the middle of a desert. Data and experience collected will be invaluable and directly useful for the Mars mission.
Here's one example, and references to several others:
>someone should go out there and try to set up a self-sustaining colony on the pole or in the middle of a desert.

That's already been done. It was called "Biosphere II", set up in the Arizona desert. It failed.

That only says it needs to be tried again. And again. Until it works.
Hear, hear. I can't for the life of me understand why that experiment isn't being tried hundreds of times, all over the world. Learning how to create sustainable sealed ecosystems is one of the most important things we can do. Quite apart from the valuable knowledge we'll gain, once we get that nailed we can seed those suckers all over the place - South Pole, Sahara, orbit, Mars, upper atmosphere of Venus...

The really weird thing is we already sort of know how - "bottle gardens" are a thing. It seems to be mainly a question of scale. So why aren't we building bigger and bigger bottle gardens?

>I can't for the life of me understand why that experiment isn't being tried hundreds of times, all over the world. Learning how to create sustainable sealed ecosystems is one of the most important things we can do.

Apparently, after giving it one little shot here in a convenient location and failing miserably, we think we can just skip straight to Mars and be successful there.

There are four additional experiments listed under this link:

So that's at least five.

In Poland, there's a Mars-like base being built right now, though not aimed at testing self-sufficient ecosystems but equipment and work procedures of potential off-world colonists. My guess is there's more of such little-known projects happening.

The point being, the number of projects related to living off-world is slowly increasing, and my guess it will only go up as the perspective of Mars mission comes closer (SpaceX is doing a lot of good work making this close to "very soon" in peoples' minds). So we're definitely not "giving it one little shot".

An experiment is only a failure if you don't learn anything from it.
>someone should go out there and try to set up a self-sustaining colony on the pole or in the middle of a desert.

>That's already been done. It was called "Biosphere II", set up in the Arizona desert. It failed.

>An experiment is only a failure if you don't learn anything from it.

It was a failure. Go back and look at what I replied to: the OP said someone should go set up a self-sustaining colony. That was attempted with Biosphere II. It failed. It was not self-sustaining.

It they learned stuff from it, that's all well and good, but it doesn't meet the requirement from the OP of being self-sustaining.

The OP says we should set up a self-sustaining colony on Earth as practice for something in space. We have not done that. We tried and we failed, and we didn't bother trying again. So the point here is: what makes us think we can set up a self-sustaining colony on Mars when we can't even set one up in Arizona? Cart before the horse.

You appear to be thinking of it as an attempt to set up a colony, whose purpose was to be a colony (or a simulation thereof). It failed at that, sure.

But it can also be thought of as an experiment whose purpose was to test the hypothesis "this is a good way to set up a colony". In the scientific sense of the term, experiments that disprove their hypothesis are as successful as those that prove it. A failed experiment is one that is inconclusive or incomplete.

You seem to be thinking of it as a scientific experiment. I'm not. In the context of the OP's comment, I'm thinking of it as a "trial run", to see if we can figure out how to build a self-sustaining colony here on Earth, where it's safe and we can cut the "simulation" short if there's a problem and try again, before we try it for real on another world. In that context, we failed. We did not set up a self-sustaining colony and prove that we can do such a thing successfully. Perhaps we could be successful if we tried it a few more times, but we have not been successful yet. Therefore, we are unprepared to attempt any such project on another world.

Building a habitat on another world is not a scientific experiment; it's an engineering project.

They actually learned a bunch of things from that. Including that the concrete took CO2 from the atmosphere in chemical processes that was unexpected, leaving the plants short and not producing enough oxygen.

The insects and plants selected didn't cohabit well, as well another issues. There was clearly lots to learn from the experiment.

One smaller but related effort in that direction is the year-long Mars habitat simulation in Hawaii that concluded a month ago:
We live pretty cushy lives, so it's easy to forget just how difficult progress was at times. Read about David Thompson and what he went through to discover the northwest passage, or any of those guys who did things like that.

Doomed pioneers suffering grim fates in hostile environments is how the west was won.

You say a south pole colony would be hard enough as though we don't have one. We have a south pole colony [0], and there are a half dozen multi-million dollar experiments there that must be manned year round.


I believe under discussion is a self-sustaining colony. The south pole runs on imports.
We could do that too, we just don't have sufficient reason to.
The most important part of a Mars colony program will be the team on Earth raising money for more supply runs.
Raising money? Just equip the colony with Go Pro's and stream the content back to Earth as a reality TV show.
Keep those ratings up or your supplies are cut off.

Anime reference: "Starship Operators".

Sounds great, let's try that. We're all doomed to death, anyway. Clearly we're not all doomed for greatness.
Why should your opinion dictate what other people try to accomplish?
How is an opinion dictating anything other than expressing someone's skepticism?
I'm not saying "don't try", I'm just saying "I think what you are attempting is foolish and that you are just going to kill a bunch of people", that's all. I can express an opinion about a potentially deadly venture, can't I?
A lot of large engineering projects have killed a bunch of people before succeeding. It's fine, as long as the people accept the risk, and aren't deceived.
Please don't comment like this here.
I wasn't suggesting that you cannot have an opinion. It's a perfectly valid opinion. I was implying that as a society we have a tendency to impose our opinions on others through laws and social pressure.
I mean, Musk himself is very upfront about the risks involved, especially for the first few waves of colonists. And indeed, there would likely be very little personal upside for them, even if they survived the grueling initial period. But you're making a false equivocation: considering the colonists personal risks in leaving against the species shared risk in staying. If there's even a small chance of success in establishing a self-sustaining colony off of Earth (and I don't think you can argue that success is inconceivable/vanishingly improbable), then any degree of personal risks levied on individual colonists are "worth it" from the species level perspective, which is precisely the perspective taken to justify the mission.
> If there's even a small chance of success in establishing a self-sustaining colony [...] then any degree of personal risks levied on individual colonists are "worth it" from the species level

No, the risk v reward curve has to be better than an equivalent risk v reward curve for a terrestrial species survival project to justify the mission.

I would argue that just about any PhD in epidemiology, disaster relief, or geopolitics will have a risk/reward curve far better than any Mars mission.

People keep making this argument that, absent any other information, a two planet species is more robust than a one planet species. But that's not the choice we're facing. The choice is a two-planet species versus a more prepared one-planet species.

I think no amount of geopolitics PhDs will reduce the chance of wiping out humanity through nuclear war more than Mars colonization does.

I think it may take some time - centuries even - for colonizing Mars to "pay off" in terms of reduced extinction risk. But I think in the long term - say 500 years from now - we will indisputably be safer as a species if we started colonizing Mars 500 years ago than if we didn't. And if we don't start now, then when?

There's a big failure of game theory (and ists) with respect to MAD; unwinding it as a dominant game would be a Ph.D for sure...
There is no vaguely plausible scenario where humanity goes extinct through deployment of the current nuclear arsenal. I would put the probability at zero.

I would increase that number if someone could tell a story with even a whiff of truth about how it could happen.

> The choice is a two-planet species versus a more prepared one-planet species.

That's not the choice. Those two options are not mutually exclusive.

Sure they are. Every engineer working on a Mars mission is not working on sustainability/stability engineering.
Those problems on earth stopped being engineering issues a long time ago. See the current US election.
Well, there are a couple engineers currently working on things which are not sustainability/stability engineering.
If you don't like it, then you're free to go do whatever it is you do like.

Right. And as what appears to be the loudest voice in this discussion, it's also my prerogative to advocate for what I believe to be a better allocation of resources.

Lets not pretend there is not competition for attention, capital and enthusiasm for vision based projects. That I advocate for one over another - in competition - is exactly what is supposed to happen.So, bring the merits of both and have the conversation.

Just saying yay this thing is credulous and doesn't actually evaluate what are possible futures.

In my case I advocate for Transhumanism and AGI as our solutions to his existential questions and promote those (as does Musk actually but to a lesser extent).

> it's also my prerogative to advocate for what I believe to be a better allocation of resources.

Honest question, not trying to be rude: what makes you believe you have a better idea of what a good allocation of resources (and Elon Musk's / SpaceX's skills) would be?

If you're so smart and good at allocating resources, what prevents you from pursuing that other project instead of demanding from other people to follow your lead?

> Honest question, not trying to be rude: what makes you believe you have a better idea of what a good allocation of resources (and Elon Musk's / SpaceX's skills) would be?

We all advocate for what we believe, advance our best arguments, and collectively reach conclusions. That's how discussion is supposed to work, no? Or are we supposed to pick the smartest person in the room and then ignore everyone else?

what makes you believe you have a better idea of what a good allocation of resources (and Elon Musk's / SpaceX's skills) would be?

Same reason as anyone else I suppose. Not really sure how to answer that without sounding like a douche.

If you're so smart and good at allocating resources, what prevents you from pursuing that other project instead of demanding from other people to follow your lead?

I mean that's exactly what I'm doing...

>I mean that's exactly what I'm doing...

You're not advocating for something your advocating against something.

You could have made the effort of reading his messages in this very sub-thread before answering. Not that I agree with him, but he has his 'vision' too.
> better allocation of resources

Let me argue that allocation of resources as a zero-sum game is a deeply flawed view of the situation. There is competition, but this is not a bucket-for-bucket transfer and given the figures displayed here as well as ballpark estimations, there is more than largely room for all of those to develop simultaneously. As mikeash points out, there is an untapped audience as well as boatloads of resources going down the sink that totally dwarf the resources put in any of those endeavours (and this extends way past "wasteful" billionaires)

The problem is that while what you say is true over a long period, it's not true in the time period necessary to make progress work.

This is especially biting when you go out to raise money - there is a limited pool of money out there that is looking to be allocated. Sure, some small changes open up small amounts - such as the introduction of crowdfunding - but generally speaking there are more companies seeking funds than there are funds seeking investment.

Said another way the pie grows too slowly to consider the market anything other than zero-sum over the window of time that a venture has.

Just pass a few laws. Outlaw the First Amendment, so people can't spread these dangerous ideas. Put people like yourself in charge of 1st world nations. Then confiscate the wealth of anyone who attempts travel to Mars. Anyone who attempts this dangerous idea in secret would be locked up, of course.

I'm sure you have it all figured out.

You're free to advocate for other things, but most of the critics aren't doing this, they're just shitting all over this idea and then making vague waves in the general direction of other ideas.

Further, why so much focus on this particular billionaire, who at least is focusing pretty hard on driving progress even if you don't agree on the precise direction, and ignoring all the ones just wasting it, or being actively counterproductive?

That's the part that really drives me nuts. A lot of wealthy people are doing things that are highly questionable or are outright destructive, but they don't get this much criticism.

The funny thing about Elon Musk is that he actually accomplishes stuff. Which is not the norm among vision-driven people.

I regularly get approached by vision-driven projects, to help them make something concrete, and the vast majority of them will accomplish nothing because the people on them are not doers and they don't understand practical matters. Many, many people do not understand the difference between dreaming and doing. And many people will happily waste their entire life dreaming about things and then getting bitter when someone else doesn't realize it for dem and give them the credit.

I'm not going to name names, but I had a discussion with a fairly known "visionary" who has been trying to claim credit for something which he did not do. Simply because he fucked around with an idea without actually making any progress on it for _decades_. All he did was to make it ever more complex and unattainable by adding useless shit to it. Then when someone actually managed to strip the idea down to something that could be realized he first shit all over it and then tried to claim credit for it once it became successful. Yet he wanted everyone to recognize him for his "contributions".

I generally don't give a shit about what people who do nothing think. To me, they do not count.

Elon Musk does stuff. His critics don't. Let's start there.

> Further, why so much focus on this particular billionaire,

Personally, I'm worried by the fact that it's a billionaire driving this, nevermind which one in particular. If and when SpaceX colonizes Mars, what sort of life will the people up there live? Will it be a Musk dictatorship? A corporate fiefdom? Rich people remaking society in their own image wasn't exactly the space dream I grew up with.

It's not like NASA or anyone else is going to make it happen anytime soon if this weren't happening. If anyone else wants to take a shot at Mars, they're more than welcome to. Even long after SpaceX's plans come to fruition (assuming they ever do), Mars is a big place and there will be plenty of room for other organizations to do their own thing.
> Rich people remaking society in their own image wasn't exactly the space dream I grew up with.

It wasn't the "earth dream" I grew up with either, and yet, here we are.

International law (i.e. the Outer Space Treaty[1]) does not cease to apply in the event that it's a corporation that does the exploring.


> Will it be a Musk dictatorship? A corporate fiefdom? Rich people remaking society in their own image wasn't exactly the space dream I grew up with.

i see the possibility, with corporations there is always the option of quitting the job - that's the limiting factor, so that it can't get really totalitarian as it doesn't have the teeth for that. However you don't have the option of quitting up on Mars. There will probably be shortages and huge problems during the initial stage, so you might end up with a highly stratified society (provided that there are no robots that could do all the work for us).

Now there is always the option of a benevolent dictator who will actually quit after two terms; it has happened before. They might just as well put up reasonable institutions of government given that we have this tradition down here on earth.

i guess the colonists will not just silently comply with a dictatorship (that's a key requirement for keeping this system), just because they are not used to this sort of governance.

> Rich people remaking society in their own image

If that were actually the case, then there would be no poor people, and we can all at least agree that all other things being held constant, a society where no one is poor is better than one where some people are poor, right?

Your concern is that a billionaire is driving a private project that will cost billions of dollars?
In the talk, Musk says that he plans on selling the ticket, not building the colony. The colony will be a product of the different interests paying to send people to the planet. Who those interests will be is anyone's guess.
Any of these is possible, but the character of the founders really does matter.
There's a weird sort of fear of potential corporate dystopias that just ignores all the actual government dystopias that have existed throughout history. Plenty of government colonies were dictatorships, fiefdoms, attempts at building bizarre and broken societies. Many people reading this live in nations that originated in exactly that fashion.
There have pretty bad corporate dystopias in history too. The East India companies, Belgian Congo etc.

Many nations with dystopian origins are fine now, sure, but there was a lot of suffering along the way; I don't think it's unreasonable to want to prevent that.

The point is that there have been plenty of purely governmental dystopias -- far more than there have been even pseudo-corporate ones like the ones you describe -- but we don't have people fretting about how we shouldn't have the government run Mars colonization due to that.
Dystopian colonies run by national governments yes. Dystopian colonies run by democracies of which the colonists were citizens no.
Weren't Algerians citizens of France? Anyway, if we're no-true-Scotsmaning here, there also aren't any examples of dystopian colonies run by "corporations" that weren't joined at the hip with a national government.
> Weren't Algerians citizens of France?

I'm not ever so familiar with that history, but a quick look at the wiki suggests very much not; some of the elites were (and, at certain periods, the non-muslim population), but never the regular population, and indeed this was a major point of contention leading up to the war.

> Anyway, if we're no-true-Scotsmaning here, there also aren't any examples of dystopian colonies run by "corporations" that weren't joined at the hip with a national government.

Musk is explicitly talking about a "public-private partnership". I think any project on the scale of Mars colonization is necessarily going to be intimately entangled with one or more governments.

> ignores all the actual government dystopias that have existed throughout history

I think my fear of potential corporate dystopias is informed by my knowledge of actual government dystopias.

Further, why so much focus on this particular billionaire, who at least is focusing pretty hard on driving progress even if you don't agree on the precise direction, and ignoring all the ones just wasting it, or being actively counterproductive?

Because there is nowhere to engage with them or around their capital allocation specifically? Also because the problem set they are trying to solve is not as ambitious. Remember the problem set for this Mars project is basically "Saving Humanity from Extinction."

You see similar conversations come up when large scale renewable projects are invested in - wherein people shout about how people should be investing in fusion or Thorium etc...

Also, if someone comes out and says "We're investing in Docker" and the response is "You should be investing in AI instead!!" it just makes you look like a crank - largely because they are different value investments.

My point is basically that it just makes you look like a crank regardless of whether the subject is Docker or Mars.

Sure, people do this stuff all the time. And it's ridiculous, and I can't understand why people are doing it here or why you're defending it.

You're saying that if people are highly ambitious and trying to do some good, that makes them more of a target. And furthermore, you seem to be embracing that. I agree with the former, but strongly reject the latter.

> That's the part that really drives me nuts. A lot of wealthy people are doing things that are highly questionable or are outright destructive, but they don't get this much criticism.

For one part, I think many people just expect wealthy people to do questionable and outright destructive things. If there's someone that doesn't fit these expectations he or she shatters that worldview because wealthy people can't at the same time be good people, too, can they?

This has a lot to do with a warped sense of equality and equity: People who aren't so well-off don't get to have these opportunities to change the world in one way or another so the ones who are in that worldview shouldn't get to embark on positive endeavours either, so everyone is equally miserable.

The fallacy with that of course is that with everyone feeling equally miserable everyone's worse-off whereas if people - wealthy or not - make the most out of the deck they've been dealt everybody (or at least society as a whole) will profit.

You're also free to critique an idea that's been put out there in public. The so called free market of ideas where people get to express their opinions on said idea. Or do you only want to see cheerleading? Because not all ideas are good, or feasible, or appropriate for now. The might be ahead of their time, and so forth.
My dictionary defines "critique" as "a detailed analysis and assessment of something." That is not what I'm seeing here, nor is it what I'm arguing against.

I have no problem with people arguing against SpaceX's Mars plans, either on the basis that the plan is infeasible, or that he should be doing something else. I have a huge problem with people arguing against it on the basis that the commenter doesn't like it and the whole idea is dumb.

I just want to see an intelligent conversation.

Juxtapose this desire against the fact this is in reply to a user named "goatlover" and it's hard not to laugh.
What, do you have something against goats?!
I know, right? Maybe we can engineer a hardy Martian goat that can eat the algae that puts oxygen into the air. Martian goats produce C02 and fertilize the soil. Now you have a source of dairy and meat for our future colonists. Imagine kids in the future, growing up dreaming of being goat herders on Mars.
I think you'd want the goat to consume CO2, not produce it. There's already plenty of CO2 there. Other than that, your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
Kids, hell. As long as I could get a good enough price to make sure my folks were well looked after, I'd sell my indenture tomorrow to go and be a goat herder on Mars.
And then after many generations, those goat herders, having long since lost their spacefaring technology, will create a few different and competing religions. A couple thousand years later, when Martians develop more advanced technology and even manage to send Martian people to their moons Phobos and Deimos in primitive spacecraft, they'll still be arguing about which of those religions is correct.
HN achieves excellent S/N, even with some negativity. It's run very, very well. I go back to USENET and pre-internet fora. In some cases it was impossible to have intelligent conversations because six users "owned" the list. Nah, this is really good. Negativity and all. I've run into moderators a few times and, in retrospect, it's always fair and justified.
This. I too go back to Usenet and Compuserve. I'm really close to giving up on Slashdot altogether. I've only recently come across HN and love it. Vast majority of discussions are polite, thoughtful, considered and interesting. There are almost zero personal attacks and very few content-free comments. It reminds me SO much of the early days of the net. My greatest fear is that HN too shall fall to the trolls and numbskulls.

Reading this whole thread I'm reminded of something from my childhood that greatly impressed me. My mother emigrated in the sixties from a country which had undergone a communist-fomented civil war in which her father, a policeman, was killed (when she was four). When she arrived here she know no one other than my father. One of her first and greatest friends here was a woman that along with her husband was a card carrying member of the communist party. When I was old enough to understand these things I was pretty stunned that two people who by rights should probably hate each other, could get along and be so friendly. That has stayed with me to this day. We can seek consensus and argue positions and come together or stay in our corners. But the ability to do it without being dicks is very special.

Compuserve was excellent. Made good friends in many parts of the world through various discussion groups.
It's human nature to attacks a reality-distortion field.

If he would have said "You know guys. We're going to Mars. But right now, we're working on making rockets that go up, on time, in one piece.

When we finish with that, we'll show how to go. It'll be hard. Here are the technical and sociological issues involved. When we're getting close to being ready to go, we'll get working on them."

But why do you care if Musk and SpaceX have a reality-distortion field? Worst case (or best case for you) is that he fails and you get to gloat.
Popular false beliefs always seem harmless until they suddenly aren't. The principle of explosion means that one false belief can justify literally any course of action, and by the time people start on a harmful course it's too late.
For the principle of explosion to work you have to actually confirm that a belief is false, or at least calculate a justifiable probability that it is false. You can't just assume that it is false and extrapolate from there.
The point is you can't assume it doesn't matter because it seems harmless-if-false. The grandparent asked "why do you care [whether the things Musk is saying are true]?", but the answer is that you have to care about anything that's likely to influence a large number of people.
The same reason Apple bothers me.

Today, I don't care. His clients know what they're getting involved with, and if they don't care, I don't either.

My concern is when he does go to Mars, he'll have hundreds of people signing up not realizing that he's putting lives on a beta rocket.

He's very upfront about the risks to the first visitors/colonists. His first screening questions for applicants is literally "Are you prepared to die?"
Oh, he clearly stated that lives would be at risk for the first flights. I can only imagine the contracts you have to sign, when signing up. If those people do not read them, you cannot blame Musk.
He was completely up front about how early they are in this project. He even acknowledged his overambitious timelines, saying that the one he presented was the most optimistic and probably wouldn't happen.

I can't understand how this kind of openness gets labeled "a reality-distortion field."

I don't know, probably it's the blender videos pushing the wider internet audience into it (so it's not all his fault).

While he's going good, and is launching rockets, but right now he's behind OldSpace in doing what he's actually doing - launching rockets.

Behind on things like launching on time and not exploding, ahead on things like recovering hardware and being cheap.

In any case, it's not like he infused the whole thing with a "we are the best at space" attitude, so why does that even matter?

Behind OldSpace? Im sorry that is an absurd claim.

OldSpace has not devloped a new rocket or rocket engine or rocket in a while. OldSpace has almost completely been pushed out of the international launch market. OldSpace launches cost at least 2x more, and for a number of missions more like 4x more. SpaceX is flying a young rocket that is seeing huge amounts of improvement still, while Old Space is flying Old Rockets that don't really improve all that much.

They are not just 'launching rockets'. SpaceX is flying an active Space ship, Dragon 1, and are working on another one. OldSpace company Boing is for 4.2 Billion for the Commercial Crew contract, SpaceX only 2.3 Billion. For that money SpaceX will have to perform extremely complex tests, that the Boing craft will not even be capable of. Plus, Boing has actually tried to get around even the more basic tests. Additionally to that Boing is already far behind on their schedule, even thought they were specifically picked over SNC Dreamchaser because 'they are the most likely to finish development in time'.

> OldSpace has not devloped a new rocket or rocket engine or rocket in a while. OldSpace has almost completely been pushed out of the international launch market. OldSpace launches cost at least 2x more, and for a number of missions more like 4x more. SpaceX is flying a young rocket that is seeing huge amounts of improvement still, while Old Space is flying Old Rockets that don't really improve all that much.

1. I consider Arianespace and Proton "OldSpace" - Old established players who exist to make a buck.

2. What counts is success at your business. If you're good at that, you can take time off to do R&D. If not, you're rightfully seen as a not-focused, unreliable company.

It's like if Firefox Os. If Firefox was a great, secure, light browser and then they want to also came up with an OS, fine. If their browser needs work but instead they write experimental OSs, they got their priorities wrong.

Now it's true that OldSpace has been tremendously lucky with the latest rocket incarnations, but except the three Delta_III launches, they were tremendously successful.

Delta II was 151/153 Delta III was 1/3 Delta IV is 32/33

That's 184/189. That's five mistakes in 17 years.

Here's a rundown on what "OldSpace" is doing right now:

They are in space, orbiting Jupiter and Saturn, driving around the surface of Mars, flying by Pluto and escaping the solar system. And that's just NASA.

While its true that they haven't landed a rocket on a barge, I'd say SpaceX is far, far, far behind.

Criticism is good and the world needs more of it to thrive. It's not going to kill you (or Elon Musk, for that matter) to have some disagree with them. Forums were made for this very reason!

1. Part of participating in humanity is being critical. Part of participating in anything is being critical. If people have complaints, it doesn't harm you to hear them out. If you only seek to have your beliefs validated via the internet, you're going to have a bad time.

2. Just because someone criticizes Musk doesn't mean they're not critical of anything else. They're just giving you their thoughts on the subject, which is better forum etiquette than just randomly going on about China when asked about NATO, so to speak.

Criticism is fine. I don't like mindless criticism.

I must have written my original comment poorly, because a lot of people seem to have come away with the impression that I don't want to see any comments that aren't fawning. That's not it at all! I just don't want to see knee-jerk stupid negative comments that add no value to the discussion.

These do cause harm, because they waste time and derail conversations that could otherwise go to more interesting places. It's not a huge harm, but the harm is on the same order as the good that comes of a site like this.

As for #2, I don't see this sort of negativity towards the more mundane projects of other super-rich people when their activities get brought up. I don't expect to see it in this thread, but there seems to be a lot more effort put into whining about why Mars is a terrible idea than goes into, say, doing the same for why Uber is doomed in China or whatever. (Those get negative comments but at least they're mostly well thought out!)

You're afraid of derailing conversations that could go more interesting places? Stop posting this same argument 100 times in a single thread.
But there are just as many knee-jerk stupid positive comments, they are just as much damaging, and you singled out the negative ones.
I agree, but the tension is healthy. HN wouldn't work if everyone was overwhelmingly positive or overwhelmingly negative. We need skeptics as much as we need optimists to keep our sense of reality in check. The 90's Dotcom Bubble was arguably driven by unchecked optimism.
I don't think knee-jerk negativity creates healthy tension, it just sucks down the conversation.

I have no problem with intelligent, well thought out negativity. It's just the "why would anyone want to spend $100,000 to die in a metal box?" stuff that I really dislike.

> If you don't like it, then you're free to go do whatever it is you do like.

You forget that Musk envision a public-private partnership for his insane project. That means public money will be involved.

I don't mind Musk building an interplanetary rocket. I even agree with him that it will be useful to visit other places than mars. But his project to build a "self-sustaining city" on mars sounds ludicruous to me and I don't wont any tax money to be spent in it.

Oh come on, if you dont want people to criticize why do you expect everyone to show enthusiasm? Some skepticism will not pull Musk down if he has the means to deliver what he's selling, and no amount of enthusiasm will make a pig fly.

This just suggests Elon chose to run forward to avoid any questions asked about the current and the past. He didn't revolutionize anything yet, made a few small dents in status quo but still far away from his plans and visions. Why talk about interplanetary travel in 5 years if SpaceX rocket has just made a single successful flight to Earths orbit? Why talk about revolutionizing transportation if Tesla cars are just a tiny percentage of all automobiles without clear grow path beyond fanboys? Same with battery industry - nothing meaningful so far, just plans and visions. Deliver first then build on even a single critical remark about Tesla can make the company value go down and Elon mad - get some solid foundation first and then look at the stars.

Criticism and skepticism are fine. What's not fine is criticism based purely on emotion or lack of information.

"The timeline is unrealistic and major problems X, Y, and Z must be overcome." I welcome this kind of comment.

"Going to Mars is stupid. You'll just die in a box. We should focus on climate change instead." This is what I'm complaining about.

SpaceX has a bunch of rocket companies working on reusability when just a few years ago that was dismissed as stupid. Tesla has a bunch of major car companies working on serious electric vehicles when just a few years ago there was nothing of interest. Both of those are already revolutionary.

Every time I hear him talk about Mars (placing it before curing cancer), I think "if only he had grown up wanting to eradicate poverty." Still...rather than think ill of his idea - and work - we should celebrate his innovation and the way he will inspire others.

As I thought about how he is perfecting rocket technology, I wandered off on a tangential rocket technology (thought) that would tract nuclear rockets launched from the earth's surface and curry them off into space... and return home.Is it a good idea? It is if it works. Do I plan on working on it? I don't know shit about rockets, so probably not. The point it, we need more "Mars Men" in order to discover the ideas that will change things here on earth. Maybe Musk won't cure cancer or end wars but maybe someone inspired by him will.

how many things were invented as byproducts of the space race?
This is also a thing I think we don't explain very well, because a frequent response is "oh those things would've been invented anyway" (with the implication they would've been invented more cheaply).

Which is not how it works.

The cost of the actual raw materials to build almost anything is a tiny tiny tiny 1% fraction of the cost of what the thing actually costs to build. Rocket fuel, titanium etc. are all cheap compared to the cost of actual rockets. So the question of course is, where does all that extra money though? And the answer of course is: into people, process and technology.

The cost of rocketry, or particle accelerators or fundamental science, is correctly viewed as a massive sponsorship and investment into people and tools to improve how they do something so they can do it better.

And that is why "spin-off technology" actually happens in the first place - because large projects mean that we have now skilled up, tooled up and improved the capability of vast numbers of people, companies and fields of trade - which is what makes new innovations possible, or changes the market dynamics so things become economical and then profitable.

Eradicating poverty is a political problem. Going to Mars is an engineering problem. Political problems are orders of magnitude harder to solve than engineering ones.
Eradicating poverty is orders of magnitude harder than landing a colony on Mars.

Hypothetically, if the US were to put 20% of their budget into (truly) getting people on Mars, they'll do it.

If they put 20% of their budget into eradicating poverty?

Right now the US government puts between 10% to 30% of their budget into Medicare and Medicaid.

Is poverty eradicated?

> Some of the comments here make me think of crabs in a pot pulling down the ones who try to climb out.

It's fine with me if some of my fellow crabs climb out, but it is very important not to lose sight of the fact (and to his credit, Musk gets this right) that unless all of us climb out (and we won't) then conditions in the pot are still going to matter to those -- almost certainly the vast majority -- who are left behind.

Pulling other crabs back into the pot is a pretty poor use of resources that could otherwise be used to improve conditions within it.
With a Martian colony, we could - if worst came to worst - start a zero-child policy, and "go silently into the night".

That would be unacceptable if it meant the end of humanity.

Yes, but there is more than enough effort/energy/enthusiasm available to do both things. Both things are valuable and we need them both. And we can afford them. What Musk presented costs about as much as an Olympic game.
Probably not even close to that cost. I think he said something like $10 billion to get it up and running. How much did Rio cost? Even if that estimate is way too low, I think it's a lot more money poured into people running around in tight clothing.
> Nobody's making you participate in this venture. If you don't like it, then you're free to go do whatever it is you do like.

It should make its way to HN guidelines.

I came here to learn from "armchair experts" about the challenges that lie ahead for such forays. Instead I am seeing that the discussion devolved to over-sensitive drivel. This might not be your initial intention, but you caused this.

HN bunch is courteous and precise and that is generally best applied to topics which require expertise. You triggered them to defensive mode and by now most are accusing you of fanboyism in the most courteous and precise way possible.

I hope you set an example to future commenters on what not to write.

>You triggered them to defensive mode and by now most are accusing you of fanboyism in the most courteous and precise way possible.

>I hope you set an example to future commenters on what not to write.

Oh go fuck yourself. Every thread is full of armchair experts, and every thread is full of know it alls who get defensive whenever you say something they don't like, go find a different thread and stop whining. Who the fuck are you to try assign blame to someone like this? Someone made a comment and it changed the your perception of the discussion so now you're wagging your finger at them? Get a grip.

Apology accepted.
Personal attacks are not OK on Hacker News. Please don't do this.
"we choose to go [...]; not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard;"
I'm going to go one step further. If there is any private space exploration company who ever needs a programmer/engineer for long-term in-space missions, I'll do it. I doubt that you would find any candidates but I'd like to volunteer anyway.

I don't think I can do anything as valuable to humanity here on earth as I can by even helping space missions. Even if there is a 50% chance some system fails and I'll die in space I still think its important to do so.

And on a side note I've also always wanted La Forge's cool visor so if you can throw that in too I'd be very happy.

Augmented reality for spacecraft operations is probably one of the more immediately likely things for us to do. Filling those things with as many location sensors as possible so you can get context information of what's around you at all times would be a big important help, especially with how space messes with a lot of our normal 3D visual cues.
I don't know of any billionaire that's run for president. /s
Alleged billionaire?
What, you've never heard of H. Ross Perot?
It's not directly your fault, but I wish there were more discussion of making humans a multiplanetary species and less discussion about the discussion here.
> If we all worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true is really true, there would be little hope of advance.

~ Orville Wright

Yep. I'm sure plenty of detractors tried to pull down the Wright Brothers. Human innovators have had these detractors as always.

Yes! Everybody on this commenting forum that knows about the science or has any technical questions or doubts must shut up. Only adoring reverent fawning must be allowed.
This would be relevant were that the point OP was making.
This would be relevant were that the point OP was making.
This would be relevant were that the point OP was making.
I'm not talking about those comments. I'm talking about the mindless knee-jerk "Mars sucks, you'll just die in a box" comments that contain zero substance.
Simple. They are jealous they are on the sidelines.
It's part and parcel of the zero-sum game mentality. It's what drives Wall St.
In the same way nerds got beat up because the jocks are just jealous of their brains?

There can be criticisms of a plan to send a few people to die in a metal box millions of miles away at incredible cost that do not require jealousy as a motivator.

And if someone would like to post those criticisms in an intelligent fashion, I would welcome them. I have nothing against contrary views, I only dislike contrary views presented purely for the sake of being contrary and with nothing interesting presented.
> send a few people to die in a metal box millions of miles away

I wish I had this much talent at putting a negative spin on things. You could make a cure for cancer sound like the bubonic plague.

Just think most people have had to settle for dying on a silicon rock buried under a 100 miles of nitrogen.
And yet there will be many capable people lining up for a suicide mission to Mars if that's what it comes to. Not just to be the first, but so that their potential sacrifice will change the future of humanity.

My lack of skills necessary as a programmer to help, and my health issues mean that I can't really do anything but cheer from the sidelines. There will be mistakes, but sometimes you have to jump into the river with both feet if you wish to cross.

This (almost) as accurately describes the Apollo program. Are you saying we should not have gone to the moon?

*There's criticism: "Maybe it would work better with Type A rather than Type B" and there's _criticism_: "Thats stupid and you are stupid for thinking its not stupid"

I'll say it, sure.

Apollo was dangerous, expensive, and didn't accomplish anything that couldn't have been done more safely and cheaply with probes. It was cool as shit too, but I'm not going to pretend that 'cool' is a real basis for public policy.

Mr Musk is welcome to spend his money as he wants, of course.

Humanity would not have achieved much if we didn't try something because it was either expensive and/or risky.
Seriously, this 1000x. if we are going to survive the next millennia, we need to get off this rock.
Then we should probably prefer levels of organization that have a track record of pulling off these types of feats, instead of private sector wanking.
I still think it's many, many orders of magnitude easier to survive on a messed up earth than on a fresh Mars or Venus.
Depends on how messed up it is. Earth ravaged by global warming and pollution? Yeah, still a lot easier than Mars. Earth ravaged by a strike from a gigantic asteroid that sterilizes the crust to a depth of three meters? Mars is probably easier.

The chances of the second one are pretty low, but some people think that any chance is too high.

As far as we're aware of, the crust of Mars is even more sterile.

I'm pretty sure humanity currently possesses the knowledge and resources to build multiple underground shelters around the Earth (as seen in Hollywood movies) that can sustain a population of at least one million indefinitely. Food can be grown with artificial lighting. Air and water can be brought in from outside, purified and recycled. If you need anything else, send robots (or people in protective suits) to scavenge the surface. The only thing we lack is political will.

Earth is still more hospitable in the case of your giant asteroid. Those in nuclear submarines and bunkers will survive unless they're very close to the epicenter. When they emerge, they'll find temperatures and atmosphere which are much more hospitable than on Mars. The survivors will also be able to scavenge abundant refined metals from the dead for rebuilding.

We can also start improving these facilities today, if we care about the survival of homo sapiens. Even out the gender ratio at Cheyenne mountain, give it a small nuclear reactor, a hydroponic farm, and a seed bank and we can be reasonably confident in it weathering anything but a very near miss.

Yeah in a lot of circumstances that is true, but the degree to which it is messed up is important. Eventually it will be too messed up right? Eventually the Solar System will be too messed up as well, but we need to start somewhere.

Just comes down to how well prepared you want the human race to be for a planetary or solar system wide disaster.

There is pretty much nothing we can do to this planet to make it less habitable then Mars short of filling it with self sustaining death robot armies set to kill all humans or something. Incredibly severe global warming? Still a better temperature then mars. Nuclear Winter? Still can breathe the atmosphere.
"Self sustaining death robot armies" gets me thinking. What if the biggest threat is bad ideologies? Humans make pretty good self sustaining death robot soldiers if you can shape their brain accordingly.
> What if the biggest threat is bad ideologies?

Then changing planet doesn't help unless the colony has people who are protected from them compared to those left behind.

> So why are you upset with this one and not all those others?

Because most others aren't constantly being worshipped by people on HN and the like. Musk worship was the reason I stopped bothering with the technology subreddit.

Bingo! Aside from his dot-com successes, his other ventures are still in the early stages with uncertain futures. History could prove him a visionary or merely foolhardy. I don't get the hero-worship.
This seems unfairly negative. It may strictly be true that his ventures are "still in the early stages with uncertain futures." But the ambition and degree of difficulty of those ventures is also relevant. If you look at Tesla and SpaceX, I'd say the degree of success so far, relative to the degree of difficulty, is quite remarkable.
In addition, I'll bet that if he ended up broke, but having significantly pushed forward various technological ideas, he wouldn't consider it a failure.

Some folks who only focus on wealth would call it foolhardy regardless, though.

I don't think it's unfair. How would you view a person in the 1800s who invested a large fortune in electricity or automobiles prior to certain critical technological innovations that made those things practical. He had the right idea and wanted to move mankind forward but he was 50 years too early. Was he foolhardy? Was he arrogant? Was he admirable? I don't know. Mostly though I think he's not worth giving much of a damn about, and definitely not worthy of some kind of cult of personality of devoted fanboys.
I could buy that a few years ago, but EV adoption is taking off and some big automakers are now chasing Tesla's lead. Even if Tesla keels over and fails, their impact will be felt for a long time. Similarly, SpaceX kickstarted a new age in space launches by showing that the old ways really could be improved, getting reusability out from the long shadow of the Space Shuttle, and getting private companies into the game as more than extensions of the government. Like Tesla, they've made a big impact now even if they collapse.

The hero worship should be pretty simple to understand: he's built (with the efforts of thousands of people working for him, of course, it's a huge group effort) amazing things. Every time I get in my car, I marvel at it. He's landed an orbital rocket on a barge in the ocean. Several times! Even if somehow these things somehow fade into absolutely nothing, they're amazing accomplishments.

Thank you!
Meaning what, that this guy is attempting something amazing but people like him too much so you need to be disproportionately negative to compensate?
We are being made to participate in this venture via taxes.

That said, its incredibly exciting.

Not yet, although that is apparently the plan. If someone argued that it should be entirely privately funded, I'd be fairly sympathetic, although I don't agree.

(It is indirectly funded through some tax dollars with things like their ISS resupply missions, but that's money the company would get with or without a Mars plan, and could easily just take as profit instead.)

To me, reason for this is that most of those HN posters are people with progressive-left tendencies. They will never like the idea that a capitalist will be the one doing this kind of job far better than the collective (state).
> ...most of those HN posters are people with progressive-left tendencies...

If you have data about this, please share, otherwise avoid making unsubstantiated generalizations about the community. It's a predictable rhetorical device that doesn't move us towards gratifying our intellectual curiosity.

This is just my theory based on my previous encounters, call it generalization if you will. Sure, I cannot prove it as I cannot make a poll in HN about it.
Thank you.
> If you don't like it, then you're free to go do whatever it is you do like.

Well, maybe they like to shout "the King is naked". Or maybe they want the interest in space exploration to go towards what they think would be more realistic and/or reasonable plans.

> So why are you upset with this one and not all those others?

I'd venture that's because it somehow silently challenges the humanocentric point of view that many (unconsciously, mostly) hold onto. Why would anyone seemingly cling so much onto that pale blue dot unless it's held as deeply special in some way?

Because we don't have access to another pale blue dot. Turning Venus, Mars or one of the gas giant moons into a livable planet in any way comparable to Earth is a gigantic long term undertaking.
I didn't mean "special" in a practical way but in a "spiritual" (for lack of a better term, not necessarily tied to religion) one.

We have no chance of achieving that if we keep on endlessly postponing each step towards it. And as far as rocky space dots go, Mars looks incredibly close to Earth.

Who cares if it's a long term undertaking? The people capable of bringing about something. So miraculous won't be looking to achieve it all or see the fruits of their labor in their lifetime - a start contrast to the 12-30 month timelines that most modern software projects follow..
We could ask ourselves why aren't we attempting such a difficult task as space collonisation as a collective entity. Why are we busy fighting each other over limited resources when we could collaborate to build a better future for ourselves..

Well, man is still a teritorial animal driven by instinct, and as any animal, it perceives the unknown as dangerous and it will attempt to stop, in a knee jerk reaction, anyone who will try to change the status quo.

We're still driven by the past, by what we know, than by the future. We're not used to thinking in terms of probabilities and possible outcomes, but Elon does.

This is why most great breakthroughs have been made by exceptional individuals that fought through resistence and brought progress for the rest.

We are still not ready to act like a single consciousness. I wonder if we will ever be..

Alot of people react negatively to overt emotional manipulation. Musk's live stream is called "Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species." The only actual information in his talk was about the new line of rockets he's building. Transportation is certainly Musk's specialty, but with the information given combined with what we already know about the man's companies, he cannot even begin to address the scope of the opening promise. Human colonization, in this context, is a bait-and-switch.
I don't know if you actually stayed for the Q&A session after the video, but this question came up and he addressed it directly.

His viewpoint is that SpaceX is a transportation company, not a colonization or habitat company. He drew an analogy to the railroad companies that built the first railroads to California. Once they made California easily accessible, others came after them to settle down to and build the state.

Two-way transportation is the biggest obstacle in the way of Mars colonization. That's why SpaceX is focusing on it. But colonization is what gets people excited, and it is the long-term vision, so it has to be the central pitch.

Having a sustainable transport scheme is a necessity in moving to Mars. I don't think anyone is naive enough to think that in practice transport is the hardest problem. But it's psychologically important - without transport there is nowhere to go. Either we become multiplanetary or not - I don't know - but if we become multiplanetary then transport is a necessary step. Building the transport scheme from economically self sustaining processes is only for the better for the robustness of it.

The fact that something is marketed does not diminish the utility of a thing.

Well also, once the cost gets low enough, a lot of other space ventures suddenly go from impossible to practical.

Sending multiple tons of robotic drilling equipment to Europa to look for life under the ice for example...

> Human colonization, in this context, is a bait-and-switch

A switch with what, exactly? If he's just trying to make money, just space tourism alone would be more than enough, since he could charge the same as he'd charge for a Mars trip . Also, if your goal is to colonize Mars, a pretty critical step one is getting humans to Mars. It's not some nefarious plan.

If getting stuff to Mars becomes cheap enough, then the rest becomes pretty easy.

He's proposing a system for getting stuff to Mars cheaply enough.

Characterizing this as "emotional manipulation" is ridiculous. You want to see what emotional manipulation actually looks like, watch an Apple keynote. This is a guy risking his fortune on a crazy dream and presenting his efforts in a technical and factual manner.

Successful terraforming becomes easy once we can send alot of rockets to a destination? We are emperically terrible at sustainably making our own planet more hospitable to human life, how is Mars easier? I'm actually bewildered here; just baby me and spell out how the Mars colonization process works if the only significant requisite is being able to move things from point A to point B. Do not dodge by saying we've colonized land on Earth.

Remember, the talk was about a method of transportation, not colonization as the title suggested. Optimism is great; don't let it be a means of deception.

Terraforming isn't necessary. Growing food is probably a necessity, as even this cheap transport isn't that transport, but you can do that in greenhouses. Water is available. Energy is available in the form of either solar or nuclear. Getting the colony to be self-sustaining is hard, but it boils down to getting enough people and infrastructure there that they are able to build everything they need on site.
If terraforming is not possible and the Mars colony requires sealed and pressurized buildings, why does it need to be on Mars? Just build it on earth. And if earth runs out of mineable resources, mine asteroids instead, and build your colonies inside those asteroids.
> why does it need to be on Mars? Just build it on earth

The point is to make humanity resilient to what would otherwise be an exctinction-level event, such as an engineered superplague, weaponized nanorobotics, or a massive asteroid impact.

We have bases on Antarctica, and they're not self sustaining. Consider that Antarctica is far more liveable and closer than Mars.
Facilities for re-supply are so close and economical there is no incentive to make them self-sustaining. But it could be done.
Nobody has tried to make them self-sustaining. It's not as if people have tried and failed.
>Nobody has tried to make them self-sustaining. It's not as if people have tried and failed.

I'm certain folks have tried on Antarctica (we've had constant human presence there for decades).

However, we still failed even under a much more controlled and hospitable environment - Biosphere 2.

Biosphere 2[1] failed because of our lack of understanding of our own ecosystems on earth. A minute imbalance led to the entire ecosystem failing.

The issue with Mars isn't getting there (or back) - government's have been doing this for more than a decade.

The issue with Mars is getting people there, alive... and keeping them alive for the duration of the mission, and then returning them home alive.

We're only now starting to explore the effects of microgravity on the human body - and having not figured out how to mitigate some serious issues (such as your eyes losing shape, causing you to go blind[2]), we're not going to be able to seriously consider long duration space travel, let alone inhabit another planet.



Biosphere 2 didn't succeed because it wasn't run by scientists.
Why are you certain folks have tried to make a self-sustaining Antarctic colony? I don't see why anyone would bother. You can get supplies from the outside. Activity on the continent transitioned directly from exploration to scientific outposts.

Biosphere 2 was in many ways more challenging than Mars. It was intended to be totally self-contained with all water and oxygen recycled. On Mars, water can be found outside, and oxygen can be made from the atmosphere industrially.

The transit time to Mars with this system is 3-4 months. Astronauts have already spent far more time in orbit than that. There are negative effects, yes, but blindness isn't one of them (and your link doesn't even list blindness as a potential consequence, just impaired vision).

It's possible that the reduced gravity on Mars would continue to cause harm, but I rather doubt that it would be so bad as to make the whole venture impossible. Maybe Martians have bad eyesight and shortened lives, but nobody's doing this for their health anyway.

> Why are you certain folks have tried to make a self-sustaining Antarctic colony? I don't see why anyone would bother. You can get supplies from the outside. Activity on the continent transitioned directly from exploration to scientific outposts.

Nobody said they _had_ to, but I'm sure someone has tried over the years out of a scientific interest. (Although I have no source for this, so it's unsubstantiated unless someone digs something up).

> The transit time to Mars with this system is 3-4 months

Travel time depends on trajectory, however safe estimates usually are around 6 months each way.[1]

> It's possible that the reduced gravity on Mars would continue to cause harm, but I rather doubt that it would be so bad as to make the whole venture impossible

Well, the effects we're observing now (for the first time!) are largely from Scott Kelly[2]'s year in microgravity. Going to mars and back takes around 1 year's time (6 months approximately each way), plus we assume they'll stay on the surface longer than a few hours... so these may prove to be serious complications. The scary thing is, few talk about these issues when dreaming about traveling to Mars (Musk included, apparently).



> I'm sure someone has tried over the years out of a scientific interest.

Maybe as a hobby idea. But has anyone seriously tried, with an 8-9 figure budget, a team of engineers, etc.? Shipping in supplies is cheap. There is little financial motive to make a self-sustaining colony.

"Travel time depends on trajectory, however safe estimates usually are around 6 months each way."

The figure I stated comes from the presentation we're discussing, I didn't just pull it out of my nether regions. You can go faster if you're willing to use more fuel.

You're "sure" that someone has tried to set up a self-sustaining colony in Antarctica even though you have absolutely zero evidence for any such thing, yet you completely reject a figure I got straight from the source material we're supposedly discussing here? I can't carry on a conversation like that.

> The figure I stated comes from the presentation we're discussing, I didn't just pull it out of my nether regions

We have yet to see if these figures are sound. Hauling enough fuel up there for an oversized vehicle quickly becomes an issue - the more weight, the more fuel required, which adds to weight.

Regardless, 3-4 months each way is still a long time in microgravity. I don't see the point you're raising.

> You're "sure" that someone has tried to set up a self-sustaining colony in Antarctica even though you have absolutely zero evidence for any such thing, yet you completely reject a figure I got straight from the source material we're supposedly discussing here?

The grand point I raised was we've tried this on earth, and failed. We understand earth fairly well, comparatively... yet we've failed each time we try. We can't just waive hands and say this isn't an issue.

> The grand point I raised was we've tried this on earth, and failed.

A grand point that you have failed to back up with anything other than a hunch, and are defending by rejecting numbers, that while are far from infallible, you didn't give any reason for rejecting.

Right now my point is just that a discussion needs some foundation of shared understanding, and when you're insisting that there's some failed colony in Antarctica based on nothing, while simultaneously discounting believable numbers from the CEO of a successful rocket company because hauling more fuel is "an issue," then we don't have that.

I'm not talking about Mars anymore, because it would be fruitless.

Agree, I wrote a medium article about exactly this phenomenon partly inspired by you:

I've been annoyed by this attitude for quite some time now. You see it all the time. Same deal with Tesla an Model S. Because not everybody can afford it, and because not all power is renewable an electric car like Tesla Model S seems like some sort of terrible crime.

Whatever people level against Elon Musk he seems to have already done something about it. People say don't go to Mars, save the planet earth instead. So Elon answers I made electric cars. Then they are like, but they don't run on renewable energy but coal power plants. So he can reply I am also promoting solar power through Solar City. Ah whatever, people shouldn't be driving car anyway, they should take trains. Well I came up with Hyperloop, Elon can answer to that.

But somehow it is just never enough. He should have pushed out an electric car yesterday which everybody could have afforded while simultaneously have closed down all coal plants and replaced them with solar.

And his rockets are nothing because he hasn't landed on the moon like NASA yet so screw him.

Man these negative people just gets my blood boiling. I am from Norway, so I grew up with the Law of Jante. I am surprised that that law seems to have spread across the globe.

The attitude is probably focused at the generality of human activity. So many important projects become domainated by personal rivalries and greed. The irony is that Musk has found a way to avoid exactly this kind of problem. Mars can act as a unifying mission that everyone can work towards. There is something more important than the individual that justifies the effort.

And it could inspire a whole host of companies that simply try and do X on Mars. And perhaps in the process we will learn how to do X better on Earth also. Because the unique constraints of Mars are an extreme version of the sustainability issues we face on earth. Humanity has to evolve to be independant of ecosystems that we will otherwise destroy.

I agree with you a lot. Thanks for saying this, it's been annoying me too. Lots of anti-Elonism in France as well.

And even with solar power, I've heard criticism, stating that it's not renewable because you need rare earths possibly for solar panels (i don't know) but especially for batteries. And that it's only effective enough in regions where there is a lot of sun, even though Elon claims that it would work fine even in the UK.

Action > Words even when it's about physics.

Potentially relevant:
> Man these negative people just gets my blood boiling. I am from Norway, so I grew up with the Law of Jante. I am surprised that that law seems to have spread across the globe.

I understand where you're coming from. But it is not about all negativity per se.

I am quite negative about our progress over the past few decades. But that is because I think we could be doing much, much more.

I think it is a combination of seemingly opposite attributes that is the most helpful here. Enough optimism to have faith in the future, and enough pessimism in another part of the brain to catch the bugs before you get taken down by the obstacles.

So please don't throw me in with the crab people! :-)

Elon Musk has given us a torch for the first time in a long, long time, and if he falters, our cadre shall pick up the fire and continue on.


> I am from Norway, so I grew up with the Law of Jante. I am surprised that that law seems to have spread across the globe.

A similar concept is 'tall poppy syndrome'.

Tesla cars are extremely popular in Norway though - I was in Bergen a few months back and electric cars were everywhere.
Norwegian's receive huge benefits when buying an electric car as far as I recall — tax breaks, free parking, free pass through road tolls, etc.
Thank you for this sir. I'm with you, Elon has accomplished a breadth of amazing things fairly early in his career. If you don't find that astounding then GTFO IMHO
Oh it's progress, no doubt. There's no question about that. What me and other skeptics argue against is these kinds of overly futuristic announcements that have no ground in reality, yet have people praising them like they are some kind of achievement by themselves.

Elon Musk grandly announces: I'm going to make humans an interplanetary species. This is such a grand and far reaching goal that were it to be achieved it would be by far, by very very far, the most important achievement of the human species so far. So far I've seen him put a rocket in orbit and land it again.* So excuse me if I tamper my enthusiasm.

Hyperloop, as you so mentioned? Yeah, he announced he would try to implement a concept already thought about, that without absolutely major breakthroughs in several fields remains impossible or at a cost of trillions of dollars, by far the most expensive private undertaking in history. So excuse me if I tamper my enthusiasm.

*(Don't get me wrong, this is an amazing achievement, it deserves all the praise it can get and I will be the first to give it. It's when he starts with these talks of master plans, and multitrillionaire projects, and making humans a multiplanetary species, that my brow starts to frown.m)

Re: hyperloop: I think he specifically said he didn't have the time/energy/money/focus necessary to work on an implementation.

Musk is a visionary, and I think we need people like that. He said of Tesla and SpaceX that he went in with a fatalistic view: that there was a 10% chance of success.

In his talk yesterday, he repeated a phrase he used before, about moving the ball forward as far as he can.

So I'm an Elon Musk fanboy because he has real vision, tempered by reality and pragmatism.

I think what a lot of vocal skeptics react to is less Elon Musk (or whoever), and more to the seemingly mindless fawning of some of his 'followers'. That also bugs me.

As an engineer, I'm always looking for the ways something can fail. At the same time, I try to add as much vision as I can to my professional work, so long as its tempered with real engineering skepticism.

And Elon Musk appears of the same mindset.

By the way, did I note correctly that at the price tag was 'only' ten billion dollars to get the first humans on Mars? If close to true, that's pretty awesome, in my opinion at least. I and he suspect that once that benchmark is reached, the additional billions necessary to get a real civilization going there will flow more easily.

> he went in with a fatalistic view

He even did that with regard to the chance of surviving the trip to Mars: he emphasised that there was a high risk of death for the first travellers and that he wouldn't want to do it. He actually stated that the first travellers would have to be comfortable with the high risk of death.

He's not saying "I'll colonize Mars". He's saying "We should colonize Mars. I'll make sure people interested in doing it can get there."

> By the way, did I note correctly that at the price tag was 'only' ten billion dollars to get the first humans on Mars?

Yeah, he did make that claim. I think the specific claim was meant to ONLY cover getting the initial transportation system running, not the cost of setting up an initial colony there. He is focused on the transportation problem and wants other people to figure out how to support human life there.

I was also particularly impressed by the assertion that they would start sending some vehicle in every transit window to mars. Regular cargo flights to mars will be crucial to getting started on the science required to support the initial colony.

Isn't the first step in reaching for a goal to announce it so people will hold you to it?

I feel that saying, "So far I've seen him put a rocket in orbit and land it again" is along the lines of when you come up with an invention called the potato peeler and everyone says, "But isn't that just a dull knife?".

People constantly downplay new ideas, they're only recognizing the similarity and not the genius the slight alteration an existing invention offered them.

On a positive note, Elon Musk has somewhat of a track record for executing on his dreams/goals and making it happen. :)

People praise him because he has a plan in the first place and is working towards achieving it. Whether he succeeds or not, he's atleast making the effort.

This is why people get irritated when he gets criticized because the arguments boil down to "this is so ambitious and will likely fail, so why even try?"

SpaceX is showing that this sort of thing is within reach. Before the last few years, I would have looked at the current state of the art and politics of rocket technology and space exploration and dismissed this plan as a fanciful dream that could never happen. SpaceX has been killing it, though. They've been building new engines, landing rockets, and it's only a matter of time until they re-fly one; this is the sort of real progress we haven't seen in decades, and it's all in service of solving some of the thorniest bits of the "new" plan. I think it's time to reset our expectations and believe that something like this is possible. Musk himself said it's a long shot, and obviously it is, but I don't think it's rational to dismiss SpaceX after what they've already shown us they can do.
Yeah, SpaceX is doing good work, being economical like many other space agencies and yet being able to land back the stage 1 booster. Of course, they haven't reused even one yet, and have not studied the effects of multiple reuses.

But going from this to imagining a space taxi and a space settlement? There is so much work that needs done first, effect of radiation on people? Effect of lower gravity? Effect of high concentration of heavy metals on plant life? Recycling everything? Making propellant on Mars? And so much more, he just hand waives it saying that is easy, all their idea relied on was reusing their booster 1000 times, even when they have not reused it once! If I wanted science fiction (not that I think it is impossible), I would read a book.

It's really like the Wright brothers doing their first test flight, and then imagining a commercial airline system, complete with Boeing 777, airports and hell even SR71 Blackbird. It's just too far off, and feels like a sci-fi con. Plus you can see what kind of people this thinking attracts, like that idiot who thinks that Burning man is what mars is going to be like, completely ignoring the thin atmosphere, lack of gravity, cold temperatures, and all its' effect on humans, plant and building materials.

I think there are some false equivalencies in here. There are real serious challenges to be overcome, especially (as you say) dealing with the radiation exposure over >= 3 months in deep space, and we've seen the serious health issues Apollo astronauts have suffered from after enduring the same sort of exposure for a comparatively short time. But overall, the science and engineering are largely in place; to do this it will take scaling, integration, and refinement all on a massive scale, but it really isn't like e.g. going from the Wright flyer to SR-71. The latter was unimaginable back in the day of the former, which simply isn't the case for SpaceX's plan or it would be getting a lot more flak from real experts than it apparently has been (though, let's be honest, SpaceX are the real experts now).

And, again, nobody's saying it's anything other than a long shot, not even Musk himself. But a lot of people seem to be pooh-poohing it for bad reasons. For instance, the awful quality of the audience at the Q&A does not in reality tell us anything about SpaceX's ability to execute on some or all of this plan. In fact, I think Musk was ready for much more challenging questions than he ended up receiving (how could he not have been?)

Where in the recording did he say it was easy?

And where in the recording did he say it was going to be hard?

I think your example actually harms your argument. The SR-71 is a nice plane, and certainly much more advanced than the Wright Flyer, but it is completely outclassed by the Saturn V. The space technology is much more complex, and much more energetic, and has far tighter tolerances, and less room for failure. You should have been making this same argument in the early sixties. Right now we do have the technology, the engines, the fuel, the deep-space communications network. We need to scale up the engines to rival the power of God Almighty, but we don't need new physics to do so.

Musk is pointing out, correctly, that this is possible with existing rocket technology -- at least the transportation. Keeping people alive once they're there is apparently somebody else's problem, but until we have the materials science for a space elevator, an obscenely heavy lift vehicle will probably have to do. Ultimately he's going to be asking a lot of people to climb on top of a monstrous Engine and hope that it explodes correctly, and I hope that his conscience is clear when that day dawns. Probably you are right that we're going to have a hell of a time keeping people alive on Mars, but we seem to have a tough time of that here as well.

This is not science fiction. There is no new physics required, just some fiendishly difficult engineering challenges. The Wright Brothers were able to build their plane because there was nothing physically stopping them. They had the scientific knowledge and the dedication, and everything else followed. Really it's not that people -- even Presidents -- haven't been talking about doing this and working on details and preliminaries for decades. This is news precisely because it's not science fiction. This time, it could actually happen.

"No ground in reality" according to you. History is full of the success and failures of people trying to achieve such pie in the sky ideals. While past success is not a true indication of future success, Musk has a history of delivering.

Your argument comes across as "There are unsolved problems, and it's expensive, so don't try". Attitudes like that don't drive human progress. Society was not built on "it's hard, so don't try". I'm kind of surprised that this attitude has to be argued against on Hacker News, of all places.

Wasn't JFKs claim that the US would put a man on the moon within a decade seen as overly futuristic/optimistic at the time?
I think people get excited about his plans because he has a track record of actually delivering. Self-landing boosters on autonomous boats? A lot of people could have thought about that, but he (and his employees!) actually did it!

So when he talk about stuff like this, people have begun to pay attention.

I'll praise anyone who tries this shit, even if it's just a presentation to start. I'd like to encourage more people to try.
Yes, the plan itself doesn't deserve a lot of praise, but knowing Elon, it will likely happen eventually (though usually later than when he says it will :)
" What me and other skeptics argue against is these kinds of overly futuristic announcements that have no ground in reality,"

I am pretty sure this is exactly the kind things people said about going to the moon, build a machine that can add numbers together faster than humans etc... lol

"This is such a grand and far reaching goal that were it to be achieved it would be by far, by very very far, the most important achievement of the human species so far. So far I've seen him put a rocket in orbit and land it again.* So excuse me if I tamper my enthusiasm."

What have people see NASA do when Kennedy announced landing a man on the moon? Would they be able to accomplish if people would tamper their enthusiasm? I don't think so. They had to invent technology that didn't exist to accomplish it and I believe this needs the same thing. Hence the reason I am stoked about it.

Someone who grew up admiring the achievements in space and technology(I was born the same year the Voyagers left earth) that kind of dreaming and willingness, set me on course as a child to study science and work in tech. I am very excited to see announcements like this. Because without dreaming it up and setting a direction we would stagnate. Just like NASA did with the space shuttle program.

Helping out and working on a CubeSat project that is going to be launched in June 2017, I see how much work it is to even communicate in leo never mind beyond that(I can't even begin). Yet I can barely contain my excitement :)

If "overpromise now and (under)deliver later" is the most effective and most efficient way of getting things done, isn't that worth all the disadvantages of such a strategy?
> So far I've seen him put a rocket in orbit and land it again.* So excuse me if I tamper my enthusiasm.

I think you and Musk probably have pretty similar views on his chances for success. He mentions that this is precisely why he likes the name "Heart of Gold" for the first one of these ships he sends to Mars: It is extremely improbable and the Heart of Gold ran on an improbability drive.

edit: typo

"No ground in reality"? Sure, the plan is extremely ambitious. But it relies on no fundamentally new technology and comes from someone with a proven track record in the field. They're talking at almost seven years before the first Mars launch with this system. I'll remind you that seven years before Apollo 11, this was the state of the art for American spaceflight:

Further, Musk explicitly admitted that his ability to create realistic schedules is poor, and the timeline should be considered more aspirational than concrete.

To me, "no ground in reality" would apply if they had announced, say, plans for a warp drive, or a teleporter. This plan looks extremely grounded in reality to me, which is why it's so exciting.

The technology to put people on Mars is not fundamentally new. The technology to make such a colony self sustaining is. We've never built any habitat which is entirely self sufficient even just in food, water, and air. Even the ISS needs resupply to generate breathable air. Even simple problems like "how do we replace failed bolts" will require resupply from earth for a long time.

I'm also dubious of the economics of this venture. I simply don't understand how living on Mars is advantageous for anybody. Mr. Musk is welcome to set his money on fire if he wants, of course, but I don't see a Mars colony ever being a rational investment for those of us on Earth, nor do I see paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to live a hard life and die in a frozen wasteland to be rational. I suspect after the initial enthusiasm dies down, very few people will choose this.

A very rational argument for colonizing Mars is, we're 1 solar flare, 1 gamma ray burst away from total extinction. Having presence on a second planetary body is the best way we have to insure ourself against planet-sized cataclysmic events.

Also, why would someone do this? Same reason people crossed the Atlantic, to take part in something greater than themselves. That's why I want to do it. Don't care it's cold and dry. It's obvious to me that it's the most meaningful thing I could do with my life. To each their own, but I'm pretty sure you can see how I come to this idea; it's not far fetched.

These natural events are rare enough that, to me, they don't create a sense of urgency that we need to get off the planet in the next decade.

This is the big question to me... when is the right time to go? If we wait 50 years, wouldn't the technological progress make such an endeavor cheaper, safer?

And the counterpoint is, well... it's been 50 years since apollo and still we don't have the ability to get to mars, so if there's nothing driving the technology then it doesn't just magically happen, and there's nothing to say that it will magically happen in another fifty years either.

To me, it's not the natural extinction events that are driving this, but the thinking that there is a short window of perhaps 200 years between technological enlightenment (particularly in nuclear and biological engineering) where the risk of self-annihilition is considerably increased, and the only way to decrease it is to add the redundancy.

To be sure, we will not achieve redundancy during the first decades or even perhaps centuries of this colonization. I think that terraforming needs to happen first

>This is the big question to me... when is the right time to go?

Could a natural extinction event happen in the next 50 years?

If the answer is 'yes', I think we should go as soon as it is possible.

Humanity has been much closer to self-annihilation in the past. That gives me hope that we wont nuke ourselves before a giant rock falls from the sky ;)

We don't need to invent new physics to do this. The challenges are very real; by various definitions the Saturn V was the most powerful machine ever constructed, and Musk proposes a rocket with several times the thrust. Mankind has not stopped developing spacecraft and rockets since the Apollo era. Whether or not we colonize Mars, we have to start by getting there. I'm sure waiting for a space elevator would be ideal, but if we can do this economically with rockets there's no particular reason not to. We've done this "build a big rocket" thing before. The only thing really standing in the way of it happening again is sufficient motivation. It's not yet extremely politically useful for US politicians to do more than talk about going to Mars, but so far aerospace has proven to be a pretty good source of pork and high-paying tech jobs, and NASA still has a pretty good public image. The only thing we've really been missing is a popular, charismatic leader who can get common people excited about space again. A national threat wouldn't be bad either, but those are pretty easy to gin up.
Add one kickass meteor impact to your list of things that could bring us to extinction.
Old, but gold:
A solar flare or a gamma ray burst might knock out satellites and electrical equipment and damage earth's atmosphere. In the worst case, they could kill a few billion people. But Earth will still be more hospitable than Mars.

>Same reason people crossed the Atlantic, to take part in something greater than themselves.

People crossed the Atlantic because they wanted gold, or slaves, or timber, or land, or because they wanted to escape from religious persecution, or because they were slaves or prisoners transported against their will (by someone who wanted gold, or timber, or land). They received resupply, not as charity, but from companies which expected to receive gold, tobacco, timber, or other goods in return from their investment.

Colonization is driven by economics. That's why thousands live permanently in Norilsk, Yellowknife, La Rinconada,and Kalgoorlie, but nobody lives permanently at Amundsen-Scott, under the sea, or in LEO. If history is any guide, "how will this turn a profit" is the question any Mars colony needs to address if it is to have any hope of prospering.

This conveniently ignores the fact that people will do it just for the sake of it. Don't always need economic incentives.

For instance: I'll try to do it for the sake of it. Sampling folks around me, a dozen would. It's not that crazy or rare a proposition. Arguably my environment doesn't represent an unbiased share of the population, but it's still a certain amount of people.

> People crossed the Atlantic because they wanted gold, or slaves, or timber, or land, or because they wanted to escape from religious persecution

That was before the industrial revolution - the new world offered relatively mild opportunities; nowadays people still cross the ocean - but these are all people from third world countries, or countries destroyed by civil wars; i think that in order to move people from the first world you would need to promise to make them really rich.

Didn't he say that you get to be the founding member of a new civilisation? Transforming the planet, mining, building cities. It all sounds very exciting to me. It's certainly not for everyone though.
> how do we replace failed bolts

Use that gray stuff in your head to think of a way to do it. It depends on the type and grade of bolt and how it's holding the things together. You could broach & thread the hole and replace your broken bolt with a larger bolt.

Then you can collect your metals, melt them down, work the metal with some oils to imbue it with some carbon, and make reclaimed bolts.

With power, a lathe, and time you can build anything round. With some more tools you can build anything of any shape.

Just recycle everything.

> The technology to put people on Mars is not fundamentally new. The technology to make such a colony self sustaining is. We've never built any habitat which is entirely self sufficient even just in food, water, and air.

This is, thank god, incorrect. We have closed loop systems for food, water and air.

I have in front of me a shelf of books relating to closed loop systems. They were designed for two purposes, space travel on one side, and on the flip side as a final resort against nuclear annihilation. I can give you sources to look up if you're interested.

The details were worked out in the 70s and 80s, but the projects were closed down when the West began to lose faith, no thanks to exponential energy shocks but that is a separate story for another day.

> Even simple problems like "how do we replace failed bolts" will require resupply from earth for a long time.

I would not call the manufacture of steel bolts a simple problem except in a colloquial sense.

This is something different to food/air/water, but we should be able to accomplish this in a new closed loop project.

The secret to space colonization and closed loop systems is not physics, but chemistry, knowing the correct procedures for the synthesis of new compounds from more basic elements.

> I don't see a Mars colony ever being a rational investment for those of us on Earth

This is another subject again, but many rare things exist in abundance in space that could be used to create an economy unlike that of Earth, such as platinum and the isotope helium-3. Then there is the ability to use nuclear systems in a way we cannot without political and environmental problems on our home planet.

To lift all restrictions on the use of nanotechnology, biotechnology and nuclear engineering would unleash a torrent of creativity from our society that is presently bound up in other things.

This is something that is not anybody's area of expertise. It is the area in which businessmen are going to have to come up with exploits.

And let us not forget one important thing from geopolitics. He who controls the skies, controls the earth. So going up is not really an option. The full weight of military support should be behind any spacefaring entrepreneurs. You want Iran or Korea slinging rocks at our cities? You do not need nuclear weapons if you have that much kinetic force on your side! You cannot be at the Apex if there exists a rock hanging over your head.

Fortunately our enemies disapprove of science fiction, or we'd be in a spot of trouble!

I'd love to see the sources on closed-loop systems.

Small note on helium-3: if you can get net energy from He3 fusion, you can also get it from the easier D-D reaction. The output of D-D is half He3, and half tritium which decays to He3 with a 12-year half-life, so you can breed He3 from deuterium and get energy in the process.

The D-D reaction does produce neutron radiation but it's lower energy than D-T neutrons and more easily shielded. The fusion startup Helion is attempting a hybrid D-D/D-He3 reactor, and says only 6% of the energy output would be in the form of neutron radiation.

Spaceflight Life Support and Biospherics Peter Eckart Man-Made Closed Ecological Systems JGitelson The Garden in the Machine Claus Emmeche

The famous Biosphere 2 project:

Biosphere 2 John Allen The Human Experiment Jane Poynter Life under Glass Abigail Alling

There exists other biospherics projects but not much information on them. The ESA and Russian projects have materials but in languages I cannot read.

I suspect a lot of this stuff is also classified under sources and methods for other secret government projects.

> Small note on helium-3: if you can get net energy from He3 fusion, you can also get it from the easier D-D reaction. The output of D-D is half He3, and half tritium which decays to He3 with a 12-year half-life, so you can breed He3 from deuterium and get energy in the process.

That is nice. I know it is an important subject but am ignorant of even the most basic physics. Nuclear engineering appears to be dying which is an indictment of our society.

> The fusion startup Helion is attempting a hybrid D-D/D-He3 reactor, and says only 6% of the energy output would be in the form of neutron radiation.

I saw that, I think sama posted something about it or it was on techcrunch. I wish them the best of luck, because like I said, it is dying on the vine. Society, at least in the West, appears to be turning its back on all forms of science that could lead somewhere and the inmates are not just running the asylum but adding new wings to it.

Social dysfunction to me is the most likely calamity to strike us down, which is why we need to go to Mars, we need some kind of control group!

Elon actually had to state this point explicitly on the livestream because it seems to be not getting to people - SpaceX is not in business of colonizing Mars, it's in business of getting colonizers to Mars (and back). I.e. transportation infrastructure. Elon leaves setting up a colony to other people. That's why he keeps repeating that the idea is to drop the price per person to ~$200k - he seems to believe that if he can pull this off, the rest will be done by others.
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