Re: More USS Gravy Train than USS Enterprise
> Spot the difference between isogen74 and Edmund Hillary.
Hillary's trips were amazing, sure, but more or less self funded by the organizing committee, donations from suppliers. Getting humans to Mars is likely to cost a significant fraction of a trillion dollars.
You can do a lot of other useful science for half a trillion dollars, much of which is likely to be significantly more useful in the longer term ...
To be very clear, I'm not saying don't explore. I'm just saying understand the opportunity costs involved, rather than just pouring money into ULA.
> Assuming we get 66% savings from mass producing Curiosity, it would cost roughly $4.5 trillion to cover the same amount of ground a human can.
Why is covering ground a useful measure of success? If the ground is the same for miles in all directions (not unlikely given how Earth geology works) then the amount of new knowledge isn't proportional to distance covered. If you're unlucky (e.g. not enough scout rovers sent first, so you're effectively picking landing spots based on educated guesses) then you land in the middle of a region of very similar geology. Ability to carry food, oxygen, and radiation exposure alone says you can't actually go far from home base in terms of time, even if you could theoretically travel the distance.
> The problem with robots is they have to be built for a relatively narrow range of tasks or they become too unwieldy and still don't have as much flexibility as a person.
So build two or three specialized ones for different purposes. You can build 50 and run them for years for the cost of the manned Mars project, and at least you spread your bets.