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back to article Elon Musk envisions small town of VEGETARIANS ON MARS

Billionaire space pioneer Elon Musk wants to get a Martian colony of 80,000 people up and running by ferrying folks out there for $500,000 a trip. Mars Musk wants to start his colony on Mars with just ten people or so, who would fly to the planet on a huge reusable rocket powered by liquid oxygen and methane. "At Mars, you …

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Re: Won't happen for that price

But can you get a drainage grant ;-)

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Re: Won't happen for that price

Apollo could carry 5 astronauts with the addition of two more seats in the equipment bays from the very start. Improvements meant it could probably have carried 6 or even 7 by the time it was used on Spacelab, though things would have been rather cosy.

Dragon has significantly more internal space due to the miniaturisation of much of the tech involved and it's not inconceivable that it could also carry 6 without any difficulty, or more if you want to get really friendly with your fellow passengers.

But lets just assume that they haven't made any advances at all on the Apollo-era tech and that they're never going to make any cost-saving improvements at all. Ever. That makes it so much easier to argue against the idea.

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Stop

Re: Won't happen for that price

Yes there are tech improvements, which may increase capacity, lets say 10 people.

Assuming the $500k was on orbit only, which it obviously isn't, that's still a >10x reduction in launch costs. They are a business and need to make a profit somewhere.

Which many people have been promising and not delivered on for decades!

Many stating that the current $50m launch price for the F9 is subsidised.

Reusability may reduce launch costs (depending on how it is implemented), but 10x is very optimistic, certainly in the next 10 years.

Using chemical rockets you need about twice as much fuel to get to Mars (in human reasonable time frames, not robots) as you do to get into orbit.

Yes ion engine tech is coming, but the only thing close is VASIMR and even this is not adequate for a manned mission. They also require power sources that work for long periods without distance to the sun penalties, which means high power nuclear. While not impossible, more development work required.

There are lots of other tech that needs to be created to allow Humans to survive long term in deep space. While I don't believe this is technically infeasible, the development costs of such systems outweigh what Musk has done already, the F9 is based on well known and proven technologies. A lot of the systems required for a Mars mission, have either not been implemented before, or not been implemented to operate for the durations in question. There are many unknowns and potential gotchas that may creep up, more than anything adding cost.

All of this adds up to cost, I respect what Musk has done with the F9, but I personally believe $500k to Earth orbit is unrealistic in the near term, Mars for $500k is even more unrealistic in the timescales mentioned.

The only thing that may come close is Skylon, imo.

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Re: Won't happen for that price

The Dragon can carry 7, lets say 6 as passengers, and fuel cost for a Falcon 9 is $300,000. For airliners fuel is half the ticket price, so let's use that for fully reusable launch every day Falcon just like a jet airliner. Total launch cost is $600,000 or $100,000 per passenger.

Then you go to Mars on a different vehicle, something with more room and supplies, it drops you off at Mars, refuels, and comes back to be re-used. You would need at least 1300 pounds of food, clothes, personal effects, and other supplies per person for the trip. Total payload mass would be 1500x6people = 9000 pounds. Then you have the weight of the empty transit vehicle, lets say 30,000 pounds same as an empty Apollo CSM.

Then you need the fuel to boost 40,000 pounds to escape velocity, a delta V of 9800 ft/sec. Maximum oxygen/methane vacuum isp is about 330, at an average acceleration of 1g the engine would have to run for 304 seconds, or in other words you need almost 1 pound of fuel to accelerate 1 pound to escape velocity. Since the fuel is also being accelerated, 70.000 pounds of fuel will be needed to get 40,000 pounds of vehicle and payload off to Mars.

The 70,000 pounds of fuel, 8,000 pounds of supplies, and a container for them weighing lets say 7000 pounds need to be brought up from earth orbit, a total of 85,000 pounds. This would take three falcon launches, $1.8 million total or $300,000 per person. So we are up to $400,000 already without the cost of the Mars base, the Mars refueling equipment, and the transit vehicle, all of which needs to be brought up from Earth and transported to Mars. I would say total cost would be more like $1 million per person, which is still pretty cheap.

You can see the biggest expense is fuel for the transit vehicle, if instead it had a solar powered ion engine using reaction mass magnetically propelled off the Moon and Mars, then it could probably be done for $500,000 a person.

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Re: Won't happen for that price

You're assuming the F9 is fully reusable and 100% reliable.

You're also assuming that you have 80,000 people with that kind of money that actually want to go.

Solar power for Ion drives is the problem, there are distance penalties the solar energy in Mars orbit is about 1/3 that of Earth orbit. Hence why you need large space bound nuclear reactors.

With development costs and operating costs I'd personally put it in the $200B range, rather than the $80B you're suggesting.

I seriously doubt you'll get 80,000 paying participants, simply because having that kind of cash on Earth you need to be fairly successful, why go somewhere, where there is literally nothing, I'm not saying there won't be opportunities there, but I doubt they would do better there than here on Earth.

Assuming you could get 80,000 @ 2.5m each, still cheap compared to today.

There would need to be some serious breakthroughs in propulsion technology to make the technicalities side of this financially viable.

Then there needs to be something that draws people to Mars, beyond the I'll go for a couple of months and come back!

This would be the fundamental problem, demand. I'm sure you'd get plenty of people willing to go, but willing to stay, I doubt it.

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Great stuff

Nice that someone who actually managed to build a rocket company and sell services to nasa is saying this. Gives him more credibility than most :)

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Alien

Send no politicians, lawyers or civil servants. Let's do it right this time.

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Coat

Better yet

Send all the politicians, lawyers and civil servants!

Mine's the one with HHG2G in the pocket, thanks!

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Is that a reference to Martin Amis's sci-fi short "The Janitor on Mar's"? n the story a Mars-based alien robot contacts the NY Times, gives humanity some tips on escaping our gravity well and requests that scientists, artists and "examples of male and female pulchritude" are sent to the Red Planet. He asks that no politicians or religious leaders are sent, and says "Print the obscenity is full, else I go the Post. I repeat: No Fucking Monkeys."

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@Dave 126

I don't know about NoneSuch's post, but mine is a reference to a scene in the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (ergo, the HHG2G reference).

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Prep

Maybe they should work on redirecting a few asteroids and comets into Mars first. Just to warm it up a bit and wet it more.

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Childcatcher

Mid-40s?

I colony of people in their mid 40s is not going to be a colony for very long.

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Re: Mid-40s?

Well, yeah, that part puzzled me too. It seemed to be purely based around financial situations.

Sadly what they really need is a glut of horny teenagers and 20 year olds, but this may not make for the most organised society. But it sure will start to balloon.

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Mushroom

Re: Mid-40s?

This will be instead the secret of its success: 40s something men will pay for their tickets and additional tickets for 20s girls... and as most of the colony will be necessarily automated and there will be a lot of free time and few distractions, people will multiply like rabbits... see Dr.Strangelove final subterranean mines plan...

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DJO
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Boffin

Re: Mid-40s?

Yeah, it's a shame the best way to create a viable colony is to ferry lots of women and a couple of freezers full of sperm from millions of donors. Absolutely no fun whatsoever but a good way to ensure sound genetic diversity.

Boring but true.

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"it took a significant expense to get things started"

...such as getting rid of most locals. Shouldn't be much of a problem on Mars.

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Re: "it took a significant expense to get things started"

Well, the diseases that us Old-Worlders (as in Europe, not Earth) had become resistant to did that much of that for us.

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I would laugh if

The US spent a fortune setting up a Mars colony, and then when it started to pay its way after decades of subsidy the colonists objected to paying their taxes and declared independance.

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Re: I would laugh if

It's pretty much bound to happen. Just so long as they can be civilised about it, and not waste gargantuan quantities of delicious tea in the process, I don't mind.

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Re: I would laugh if

Actually, taxing a Mars colony wouldn't make much sense -- you're almost certain to waste more resources trying to collect, even if the colonists were willing to pay, than you would gain in taxation anyway.

And if they weren't willing to pay, the cost of enforcement would be astronomical.

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Black Helicopters

They could call it...

...Alternative 3!

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Noooooooooooooooooooooooo

Have they not played Millenium 2.2?

This will not end well.

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Re: Noooooooooooooooooooooooo

I was going to post "subsurface water? I've seen Dr. Who, this will not end well" - but this is way better.

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Interesting but

It might appeal to a certain mindset to make the trip, but the first question I'd ask them is, do you really want to live in an enclosed space surrounded by frozen arid tundra where absolutely nothing can survive and catastrophe is one broken machine / widget away.

Settlers colonised the America's spurred on by promises of land, rich soil, gold, and other tangible things. What is there on Mars?

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Re: Interesting but

Being there.

I think I'll watch "The Right Stuff" and "Apollo 13" again.

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Happy

At last

The Mother-in-Laws Christmas Present sorted

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Venus

Wouldn't it be easier and better for human life to attempt to terraform Venus?

Smash a couple of ice comets into it at the right trajectory to speed the planets rotation up and you've almost got a like for like planet.

I'm not a boffin or even a one tenth boffin but something that always seems to escape the colonising Mars questions is gravity or lack of it on Mars. You can fake a lot of things on Mars. You could create enough greenhouse gases to heat the planet up, you could coat the surface with oxygen but you can't fake gravity on a global scale.

Would we not just turn into a Mr Soft like race several generations down the line?

Thoughts? Arse talking out of?

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Headmaster

Re: Venus

Venus is incredibly hostile to Earth-based life. Mars is merely hostile.

An unprotected human on Venus would simultaneously and rapidly corrode, melt, suffocate and implode. On Mars you would merely suffocate and freeze.

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Re: Venus

Not only that, Venus rotates on an opposite axis to the rest of the planets in the solar system. It would be too weird for us to comprehend. Either that, or we would get younger every day

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Anonymous Coward

Oh, bugger. I thought he was offering to PAY $500K to the volunteers. I'd go if he did that, but there's no way in hell I could dig up that much cash to pay him.

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Anonymous Coward

"Oh, bugger. I thought he was offering to PAY $500K to the volunteers. I'd go if he did that, but there's no way in hell I could dig up that much cash to pay him."

You could always rob a bank. They can come and get you if they want.

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Paris Hilton

re: "I thought he was offering to PAY $500K to the volunteers..."

Forgive me - idle thought - What were you planning to spend the money on when you got there..?

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Joke

I want to open the first pub. It'll be called 'Mars bar'.

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Just need hops, barley, freeze-dried yeast and molten permafrost. The vehicle thrusters can be cannibalised to boil the wort, the rest is just plumbing and temperature control.

Get it right, and the population might start to grow.

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FAIL

Bad idea

We call the local pub "The Mars Hotel" because it has hardly any atmosphere. Boom Boom!

But who in their right mind would want to live in a spacesuit? How long would a spacesuit last if you have to work in one every day? You would be patching the thing all the time and hoping it doesn't leak.

Why would anyone want to leave the Goldilocks Zone and go to a planet that has nothing to offer?

I get very grumpy if I have not been able to wash for a few days so I'm definitely not going. .

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B-Ark

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This post has been deleted by its author

Because...

... you have the right to form any opinion you choose of anyone? Because you base that opinion on a limited sub-set of predefined assumptions and guidelines?

I have not done, nor likely could ever do, what the man has done and caused to be done already. I try to avoid (on some occasions unsuccessfully) identifying anything not actually mammary tissue in the term you chose here - and (at the risk of being beaten about the head by my beloved) not even mammary tissue. To choose to do so is, I believe,your right.

When Elon Musk first started talking about building his own rockets, similar things were said. When Elon Musk first started talking about not just building them, but establishing their use and function as a commercial venture, similar things were said.

Perhaps irritatingly for those who said such things (and sadly, perhaps not) - the bugger went right on ahead and did it.

If it takes a Tit to think that way, to put those thoughts into action, and to go right ahead and achieve what he has achieved - even a rich Tit (though he had to be the person he is to get to be said rich Tit in the first place) - I can only wish I was such a Tit. Or that there were more such Tits among us.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Because...

Musk is by no means the first to consider colonizing Mars. His idea is childish at best. It won't happen in the near future. Getting a single human to Mars in one piece would be an achievement enough. Talking about settling Mars is about as plausible as talking about using wormholes to travel to distant galaxies. Great fun for sci-fi or a Morgan Freeman narrated documentary, but not even close to being in the ball-park of something that could be considered remotely practical.

Next.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Because...

Says who please?

Next.

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Anonymous Coward

"Why is it every single interview or talk given by Elon Musk..."

Why is it that every single interview given by you... oh, well... never mind.

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FAIL

Re: Because...

"Talking about settling Mars is about as plausible as talking about using wormholes to travel to distant galaxies."

No its not.

Wormholes are a purely theoretical idea that humanity has no concept of how we could generate or make practical use of , vs rockets which have been in use for over 60 years, and have already demonstrated the ability to send stuff to Mars successfully. I would have to say there is a huge qualitative difference in those two endeavours.

Humanity could give a good go at colonising Mars if we dedicated a considerable proportion of our resources to it, using only existing technology.

Whereas opening "wormholes to distant galaxies" is total sci-fi bullshit

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Holmes

Re: Because...

I agree fully.... maybe you don't like the guy as a person.. but it is not unreasonable to begin planning for a day (decades off still, but you have to start or never get there) in the future where we can colonize the moon and mars. The main reason being that is ice (which also means oxygen) and other precious resources (including physical space or room to grow). No he by far not the first to envision this, but he is rich enough and willing enough to be the first to accomplish it. I have to say I was mightily impressed when a private citizens company built a rocket that DID successfully dock with the international space station..... that achievement adds at least a little credibility to his further ventures in the same arena.

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Devil

And who'd be able to afford the $500K tickets?

Investment bankers.

Hedgefond managers.

All those sociopathic rich people currently looking into "seastading".

Media executives.

A- to Z-list celebrities.

Fantastic!

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Re: And who'd be able to afford the $500K tickets?

How very Golgafrinchan of you :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And who'd be able to afford the $500K tickets?

Oh come ON!

Given the relentless increases in house prices over the last decade, the average Londoner only needs to sell their flat to cover the majority of the fare and take out a modest loan for a fictitious purpose to cover the rest (which you wouldn't bother paying back - whose going to send a debt collector after you??)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And who'd be able to afford the $500K tickets?

Apparently..."most people in advanced countries, in their mid-forties or something like that, could put together enough money to make the trip"...

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Go

Re: And who'd be able to afford the $500K tickets?

You won't be coming back remember so quite a few people could get this together by selling house/car/absolutely everything they own, cashing in pension, emptying savings etc. The very rich on the other hand will be less likely to go because it is such a small part of their wealth and they won't be willing to leave the rest behind.

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Anonymous Coward

New vices and old habits

The English colonies in America only took off after they started exporting highly addictive tobacco to Europe. Does anything exists on Mars that could provide a similar revenue stream/ demand back here on Earth?

Also both France and Britain transported convicts to their colonies, hence the Brit's interest in Oz after American Independence, and there is no shortage of convicts in America these days.....

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Re: New vices and old habits

Well Mars has got lots of desert, and not much water freely available. I suggest they produce melange (spice).

What could possibly go wrong?

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