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Private Mars expedition… someday

I have suggested a number of times over the years that Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are aiming for Mars. While not the first article backing this up, this one is the latest:

Men to Mars from Vandenberg? (Source: Independent)
As NASA puts to rest its 30-year-old space shuttle program, a private space transportation company is accelerating space travel with a new launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base. SpaceX discussed its plans to replace the existing Titan IV launcher with a new launch pad for the Falcon Heavy ­ which, upon completion, will become the world’s largest launch vehicle by a factor of two.

In the long term, SpaceX’s development of the Falcon Heavy fits into its mission “to make human life multiplanetary” by sending “large numbers of people” to Mars. Although Musk acknowledges that a mission to Mars may not be achievable for many years, he said the company is committed to “going to go as far and as fast as we can” toward achieving its ambitious goal. (7/15)

Tallyho!!!

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20 comments to Private Mars expedition… someday

  • llamas

    To what possible end? I suggest that anyone with an ounce of sense would need to know a whole lot more about Mars before anyone makes any plan to send anyone there, never mind ‘large numbers of people.’

    llater,

    llamas

  • Dale Amon

    Free people do things because they want to know. No other reason is necessary.

  • llamas

    Dale Amon wrote:

    ‘Free people do things because they want to know. No other reason is necessary.’

    Well, yes – that’s a nice, high-sounding principle – but that wasn’t actually the question.

    It’s all very well to talk about Up, Up And Away Into The Wild Blue Yonder, Just Because We Can.

    The Law of Unintended Consequences applies just as well to things that we think are really cool, as it does to the silly things that governments do, that we all like to laugh & point at. Before anyone goes whizzing off to Mars like something in a Saturday-morning Republic serial, I think we should make for damn sure that there are no unintended consequences that we hadn’t quite thought of. You know – War of the Worlds and all that? We are biological beings, yet we know absolutely SFA about the biological state of the Red Planet. Best to find out first, maybe? There’s a whole mess of boring, headline-free groundwork that needs to be done before anyone can even think about making a real plan to do this.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Best to find out first, maybe? There’s a whole mess of boring, headline-free groundwork that needs to be done before anyone can even think about making a real plan to do this.

    There would still be blank patches on most world maps if everyone though that way, llamas

  • Laird

    Besides, that’s precisely what the Mars Rovers are/have been doing, and I understand that NASA is planning more such projects. Anything Elon Musk (or anyone else) does along these lines is many years away; the basic “groundwork” will have been done long before that.

    Llamas just likes to be a wet blanket whenever the subject of off-earth travel arises here. Newcomers are advised to ignore him.

  • Eric

    There would still be blank patches on most world maps if everyone though that way, llamas

    But the money involved is on a vastly different scale. Back when people were fleshing out world maps you could put an expedition together by getting a newspaper to pay for the exclusive and/or get funding from a philanthropic society. If that’s the model, technology-wise we’re a lot closer to the year 909 than 1909.

  • llamas

    Laird wrote:

    ‘Llamas just likes to be a wet blanket whenever the subject of manned off-earth travel arises here. Newcomers are advised to ignore him.’

    There, FIFY.

    llater,

    llamas

  • jsallison

    If I was an internet bez(oz)illionaire I’d pony up some. But, what get’s the squinty-eyed guys, who make their money on smart risks, to cough up for Mars? Or, for that matter, the asteroids which to me would be a smarter long term move?

  • We are making all this effort to haul ourselves out of one gravity well, why the hell are we just dropping down into another? All that lovely mass just floating there in orbit around Jupiter and Saturn will be the driver of human expansion in the future. Mars is, at best, a sideshow.

    Habitats, both in orbit, and cruising on long slow orbits from one centre of civilisation to another.

    Travel out to the Oort cloud and build an entire civilisation from the resources in one single proto comet.

    Massive ships, manned by a single extended family, gypsy traders if you will, drifting along trade routes which could be decades in length.

    Gravity wells, pah.

  • llamas

    Our generous host wrote:

    ‘There would still be blank patches on most world maps if everyone though that way, llamas’

    Oh, nonsense. You overlook the compelling reasons why the great majority of the ‘unknown’ world was explored, namely, for vast profits.

    Erik and Leif, Magellan and Da Gama, Drake and Columbus – none of them set sail out of intellectual curiosity or because they ‘want(ed) to know’ – they set sail to make money by bringing home large amounts of high-density, high-value cargo for a (relatively) tiny investment. Everybody knew America was there in 1000 AD, but nobody went there for the simple reason that there wasn’t a good reason!

    Indeed, where there are no such incentives, large parts of the world remain essentially-blank patches on the map beyond the most desultory surveying – mostly to find the edges so that ships carrying high-density, high-value cargoes do not bump into them on their way to better-known places.

    The history of expeditions done for the sake of finding things out or ‘wanting to know’ has generally been pretty meaningless – not much was found out, much treasure and many lives were expended, and they were mostly concerned with petty personal or national vanities. And so it is with manned space flight, and especially to places like Mars. Once you get there, at vast cost, a few people get to stand there and say ‘here we are!’ And then what? It’s a stone waste of vast resources with no possible prospect of profit. There is no possible amount of any resource there that would make it profitable to fetch.

    I knew this back when I watched Armstrong step off that pad. Emotionally, what a great moment, a triumph of the human spirit! But the next morning, in the cold light of day, what had actually been accomplished? Nothing, beyond the satisfaction of national vanities. 40 years on, nothing has altered. Until there’s a good practical reason to go, there’s no good reason to go. And finding out whether there’s a practical reason to go no longer requires sending people. That is the stuff of Saturday-morning Republic serials – entertaining, but without value.

    llater,

    llamas

    llater,

    llamas

  • That is the stuff of Saturday-morning Republic serials – entertaining, but without value.

    Value is subjective by definition, Llamas. It’s not that you are not making good points – you are, but only from a POV based on the premise of financial profit being of higher value than exploration for the sake of exploration. That premise is by no means universal, although it is true that it is prerequisite to post-exploratory development. IOW, it is OK with some people to spend vast amounts of money to walk on Mars only for the sake of being able to say that they walked on Mars, even if it may be the case that they would not only be the first to have done so, but also the last (in case it turns out that there is no profit to be made there). It shouldn’t be a problem if the money spent is entirely private.

  • llamas

    The romatic ideal – ‘Upon First Looking into Chapman’s ‘Homer”, by John Dryden.

    Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
    Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
    Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
    Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
    Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
    Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
    He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
    Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

    The worldly reality – it was Balboa, of course, but that’s not the point:

    ‘Balboa commanded his men to halt, and advanced alone to the summit, that he might be the first who should enjoy a spectacle which he had so long desired. As soon as he beheld the South Sea stretching in endless prospect below him, he fell on his knees, and lifting up his hands to Heaven, returned thanks to God, who had conducted him to a discovery so beneficial to his country, and so honourable to himself.

    Most ‘discovery’ is exactly as I described – for profit, or for vanity, one or the other. Let’s not be putting too much romantic ‘the joy of finding out’ lipstick on this here pig.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Llamas, if you think I’m a romantic, you are only partially correct. I agree with you that a lot, if not most of that money may end up being pissed into the wind from a practical POV – my only point was that you shouldn’t care, as long as it is not your money. I can see that what bothers you most is the inefficiency that may be inherent in manned space exploration, but you would do well to remember that efficiency does not trump all, and that there is a good reason why not all men have been created engineers;-)

  • llamas

    Alisa wrote:

    ‘ . . .there is a good reason why not all men have been created engineers;-)’

    Indeed – it’s called ‘the continuation of the species’.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Dale Amon

    It also seems to be getting lost that only a private sector entity like SpaceX will actually be able to build up the capital and use it efficiently enough to carry out Elon’s goals. If he were driven purely by shareholder value, he would go no where. An infestation of lawyers would descend and lay his demesne bare. It is that fine line between the self-sufficiency and discipline of capitalism and the use of it as a tool for individuals to break new ground and accomplish personal goals that is the true miracle of Liberty.

  • I expect Mars – Earth to be an American Colonies – Britain event. A troublesome secession.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Llamas – as Laird points out – pours cold water on the idea of a trip to Mars because in contrast to other explorations on earth, he cannot see any commercial angle. Well, the guys who went to the North and South poles could not see the financial benefits – at least not directly, either. But they went. And they did the same for Mount Everest, and so on.

    Anyway, if a private space entrepreneur or group of them want to go to Mars/wherever, good luck to them. (It bemuses me when so-called free marketeers mock private entrepreneurs’s doing stuff with their own money).

    Creating an off-earth colony also has the benefit, as writers such as John Varley, Heinlein and Zubrin have shown, of giving Mankind a backup plan if things ever get nasty here. Which is not inconceivable.

  • Paul Marks

    Happy Moon landing day.