back to article Elon Musk reveals Mars colony rocket capable of bringing pizza joints to the red planet

Elon Musk has published his blueprint for “Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species” by establishing a self-sufficient city on Mars. Elon Musk Elon Musk's Mars colonisation plan in a nutshell Musk reckons humanity needs to get off-planet before an extinction event comes along and that Mars is the best candidate for that …

  1. d3rrial

    What about Oxygen?

    Methane as fuel is all well and good, but without oxidizer it doesn't get you very far... How abundant and available is oxygen on Mars?

    1. Esme

      Re: What about Oxygen?

      @d3rrial - Sufficient, even in the atmosphere, to get things going on Mars, see

      http://ccar.colorado.edu/asen5050/projects/projects_2000/trost/innovation.htm

      But long-term, there's even more locked up in rocks and minerals, not to mention ice deposits..

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Coat

        Re: What about Oxygen?

        But long-term, there's even more locked up in rocks and minerals, not to mention ice deposits..

        You can tell it's hot today. I read thas as iccream, rather than ice deposits. Of course, if there's iccream on Mars, then we probably don't need to send pizza, as they're bound to already have it.

        In space, noone can hear your ice cream...

      2. Chemist

        Re: What about Oxygen?

        "- Sufficient, even in the atmosphere, to get things going on Mars,"

        There are only trace amounts in the atmosphere. ( it's about 0.1% of an atmosphere that is already very low pressure (~0.6% cf. earth )) It would need to be generated from water or some other source.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: What about Oxygen?

          I prefer Mars on ice-cream. Ah... the return of the Ice-cream Warriors.

        2. Esme

          Re: What about Oxygen?

          @Chemist - - sure - but there's an awful lot of a very thin atmosphere, and the production of fuel from simulant Martian atmosphere has already been tested, and it worked well - see Zubrin's 'Case for Mars' for the full story (I only linked to the article I did as it was the first hit I found and appeared to be correct). If there's one thing that IMHO there is little doubt of regarding Zubrin's plan, it's that in situ fuel production is entirely possible. Indeed, NASA's revision of Zubrin's plans for getting us to Mars also included in-situ fuel production.

          Don't forget, people, that in order to get oxygen from the atmosphere it doesn't have to be either molecular oxygen or ozone - it can be chemically bound, and the Martian atmosphere is mainly carbon dioxide, so you take some hydrogen to Mars, use it to produce methane using the carbon in the carbon dioxide, and use the byproduct oxygen as the oxidiser.

          So, as I said - in order to get exploration going, there's more than enough in the Martian atmosphere for that. Long-term, though, you'd be wanting to use non-atmospheric sources. Seiously, the numbers have been checked thoroughly by experts in the field, and the processes tested. It's one of the things about potential Martian missions that we can be very sure about.

          1. Chemist

            Re: What about Oxygen?

            "the production of fuel from simulant Martian atmosphere has already been tested"

            I've no problem with the possibility of obtaining fuel ( from CO2) from the atmosphere it's the extraction of oxygen from a very dilute mix of other gases that I suggest will be a very energy intensive process. Probably better to produce hydrogen & oxygen from any available water even though that will also be very energy consuming esp. to produce/store liquid oxygen

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: What about Oxygen?

              Mars has plenty of water below the surface. All you need is to split it and you have a ready supply of rocket fuel

              1. IT Poser

                Re: What about Oxygen?

                It is a little more complex than that. Storing hydrogen for long periods(the estimate is that we will need 40,000 m² of solar panels to supply fuel for one ITS ever 26 months) is harder practical for Mars missions. We want to add a couple more steps, compressing atmospheric CO2 then using the Sabatier reaction to make methane from the H2 and CO2, so we can vastly simplify the fuel storage system.

                Just like on Earth, until we find better materials for storing hydrogen, hydrogen storage simply costs to much to make it effective as anything other than an intermediate step in a larger production process.

            2. Esme

              Re: What about Oxygen?

              @Chemist - I thoroughly reccomend that you read the the literature on the subject, it's extremely interesting. The people who've already looked into it are qualified scientists, not wide-eyed amateurs guestimating numbers (which is what I would be, if I tried). In 'The Case for Mars' Zubrin goes into this in detail, pointing out various options,and how the exothermic reactions can be used to help drive some of the endothermic ones. Indeed he looks at the range of gases and metals and plastics that might be produced in situ and how the various setups to produce them could/would need to interlink for best effect.

              I've seen many critiques of Zubrins notions for how best to explore Mars, mainly to do with radiation throughout the trip and perchlorites in the dust once at Mars (and personally, I think he underestimated the amount of living room required to keep people sane for such an extended trip). I've yet to see anyone say that he got his chemistry wrong.

              To quote from the NASA refernce design for a Mars mission:

              "1.3.3.2 In Situ Resource Production

              The highly automated production of propellant from martian resources is another defining attribute of the Reference Mission. The technology for producing methane and liquid oxygen from the martian atmosphere and some nominal hydrogen feedstock from Earth is an effective performance enhancement and appears to be technologically feasible within the next few years.

              The split mission strategy allows the propellant production capability to be emplaced, checked out, and operated to produce the required propellant prior to launching the crew from Earth. In addition to spacecraft propulsion, the production capability on Mars can provide fuel for surface transportation, reactants for fuel cells, and backup caches of consumables (water, oxygen, nitrogen, and argon) for the life support system."

              http://spacecraft.ssl.umd.edu/design_lib/NASA-SP6107.Mars_DRM.pdf

              And that is the most critical assesment of the issue that I've come across - NASA saying that they think it'll possible in a few years, as against Zubrin saying that it's all known technology and could be made right now. If you feel like telling NASA that their chemists don't know what they're talking about, I'd be most interested in the response!

              1. Chemist

                Re: What about Oxygen?

                I'm not saying the chemistry is wrong it's not. I'm questioning the overall efficiency when the supply of energy is going to be limited. Given it will have to be solar or nuclear to run this lot I question how much kit they'll need. The Sabatier reaction, to produce the methane itself is exothermic once initiated but extracting or concentrating the necessary oxygen and then liquifying it will require a lot of energy.

                For example to produce 1kg of hydrogen gas by electrolysis will require ~~ 60kW.hrs in the process producing 8kg of oxygen. To liquify the oxygen (for storage and engine use) needs ~~ 5kW.hrs for the 8kg.

                I note some of the NASA papers don't actually mention the energy requirements

                1. d3rrial

                  Re: What about Oxygen?

                  All of those are good replies... I was just a bit concerned, because rockets do use a ridiculous amount of fuel... I kinda remembered, that the Falcon 9 FT first stage has a LOX capacity of 287400kg.... But then again, the first stage has to punch through a whole lot more atmosphere than the actual lander thingy, so the number I had in my head was just way too large.

                2. IT Poser

                  Re: "I question how much kit they'll need"

                  The estimate is that each ITS return will require 40,000 m² of solar panels.

                  As ITS is still a paper rocket this figure is for reference purposes only. It does give us a sense of the scale needed, which, at this point, is what we need.

              2. Aries1B
                Happy

                Re: What about Oxygen?

                Fuel generation speculation is fun. Actually generating fuel on a small scale on Mars would be even more fun. Build a small prototype fuel plant, send it to the Red Planet, fill up from the local resources and fire off a rocket engine on live + delay television. C'mon, ESA, get it accomplished!

            3. IT Poser

              Re: What about Oxygen?

              Chemist,

              The fuel production procedure is to use water, compressed CO2, and electricity. First water is split through electrolysis. Then the hydrogen and CO2 are converted to methane using the Sabatier reaction. SpaceX is planning on running a fuel rich mixture. As such more oxygen is produced than needed. As we will already be compressing a lot of the oxygen freed by electrolysis it makes sense to make the O2 compression system large enough that it can capture all the oxygen.

              Once a colony is established oxygen from fuel production becomes a minor contributor to the total oxygen supply rather quickly. Food crops will produce double what humans need to survive. Industrial processes, many using the perchlorates(I trust, as a chemist, that you would like to have a local source of chloride salts.) that some many are overly-concerned with gives us even more. The problem is what to do with all the oxygen we can create, not how to get it.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: What about Oxygen?

      If we are going to ship all our politicians as 'Mars Settlers' then we don't need oxygen.

      1. Freedom1958

        Re: What about Oxygen?

        No. We ship the politicians to Venus: A tropical paradise, with "blanket trees", "ham bushes" and "soap roots".

        Our beloved politicians deserve only the best!

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: What about Oxygen?

          and "soap roots".

          There are politicians who know what soap is? I thought they lived in filth!

          Or is that just the result of the river of smelly stuff that pours forth from their mouths?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: What about Oxygen?

            I think "soap roots" is what makes 'em so slippery.

            1. Kiwi Silver badge

              Re: What about Oxygen?

              I think "soap roots" is what makes 'em so slippery.

              I thought that was the normal texture of pond scum?

        2. Ian 55

          Re: What about Oxygen?

          Set the controls for the heart of the Sun.

      2. wayne 8

        Ark B

        Ark B. First and Last Mars mission.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Plenty of oxygen on the Moon

          It is locked up in rocks, but it is easy enough to free using solar power.

          I don't understand why Musk wants to set up a colony on Mars. The Moon is a much better location given how close it is, minimal communication delay, better efficiency for solar power, and less of a gravity well for return trips. Mars' atmosphere is so thin it does us no good, and terraforming is a ridiculous dream with our current or near future level of technology.

          I get the desire to be the first man on Mars, but not the desire to set up a colony there in preference to one on the Moon.

          1. IT Poser

            Re: Plenty of oxygen on the Moon

            When deciding on where to place the location there are two factors. How much Dv it will take to get there and what resources are available. The Moon's lack of atmosphere means that the total Dv to reach either destination isn't markedly different(Areocapture and areobraking really are that valuable). There are more identified resources on Mars than the Moon. If humans have problems with values of G between 0.16% and 0.99%we expect them to be worse at lower G levels(As we have no data this is just a guess).

            Historically the number of colonists who have returned to their homelands is nearly 0%. Since, at current transportation costs, there will be very little in the way of physical goods returned, the added return costs are not a major consideration.

            At the end of end of the day what matters is what resources we have available, how difficult it is to utilize those resources, and who will use those resources. On the first two points, based on everything we know, Mars wins. On the third point the Moon has a slight edge. Short travel times mean that we expect tourists in addition to the colonists. So far I've not been able to find production techniques that allow the expanded customer base to make up for the higher costs of local production. For long-term growth the target we want is Mars.

            If you happen to have a business model for the Moon I have yet to consider, I could be convinced going to the Moon first is worth the effort. Please be aware the export cases commonly used, fuel depots and computer chip manufacturing to name a couple, require customers and a comparative advantage that overcomes the cost which do not exist unless we are undertaking a larger project, like colonizing Mars. For now the Moon is a path to nowhere economically.

            We also have to consider that virtually all of the equipment for Mars and the Moon is similar, just more robust for the longer trips required to reach Mars. Design for Mars and we end up going to the Moon as well by default. Personally I'd prefer to target a more difficult destination(Both the Moon and Mars can be expected to be water importers) but few others are willing to consider targets like Ceres.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Plenty of oxygen on the Moon

              Some interesting discussions of the chemistry possibilies of Mars. But I think the big issue has been missed. Why?

              "Because it's there" excites explorers. That got us to the Moon, but we didn't stay. And I'd say the same holds for Mars. Musk is fascinated by it and has the money to play with these ideas. But if you want a million colonists, you've got to attract them.

              People upped sticks from Europe to the New World from the kind of poverty that even most of Africa is getting out of now. Or from political oppression / religious differences. But there are better places to go to if you've escaped your oppressive regime on Earth. If you want serious numbers of colonists, I don't believe that Mars has much to offer them in the way of hope for the future. People historically have been willing to put up with stuff getting worse, for the promise that their children will be in clover when they're dead - but I don't even see Mars holding out that promise.

              Not unless we're talking of terraforming it. Now we don't have to have all the tech, and all the answers now. Just a general idea of what to do. I don't know how much atmosphere Mars can hold, but clearly it would be a lot more if we could greenhouse effect it, and give it some plants. Presumably algaes and mosses to help create topsoil and get nitrogen and carbon cycles going.

              If that's not being talked of as a serious option, then I can't see Mars getting more than just thrill seekers.

              The other driver of possible colonists is money. Filthy lucre attracts workers, and they need feeding, watering and people to marry (or at least have sex with). But Mars is at the bottom of a gravity well, and is unlikely to produce anything we can't do on Earth - or at least not well enough to negate the hideous shipping costs.

              If you're not terraforming, then with the radiaton on Mars what it is, you're eventually going to be living underground. At which point why not the Moon? Which is easier to get off, and closer to Earth? Or even just a space station or an asteroid? We might not live on the Moon, so much as mine it to provide for orbital industries. Or get resources from asteroids, which we can obviously move (if we're feeling brave enough).

              What are the sources of money in space? It seems to me there are only a few. Microgravity chemicals, pharmaceuticals and computer chips perhaps? But that's not going to happen unless we already have a presence in space that makes it economic to do the research into what we can actually make. So what can make money now is repairing/servicing/refueuling our existing and profitable satellite fleet - and tourism. All of that is in LEO/GEO, and the tourists might like to visit the Moon.

              So it seems to me that mining the Moon for resources to feed industry in Earth orbit is economically feasible, and nothing else is. So nothing else but exploration will happen anywhere else. If we're talking real blue sky thinking, then why not the asteroids? Short of terraforming Mars, you're going to have a better and safer living space there than it's possible to ever get on Mars, and while you're hollowing one out you have space-based resources to sell to other people that need relatively little delta-v to get somewhere useful.

              Selling a Mars colony as a backup pool of humans in case of catastrophe to Earth seems too esoteric to get a proper colony going.

              1. Chemist

                Re: Plenty of oxygen on the Moon

                "and give it some plants. "

                I point out that plants need many things, oxygen being one. Although they generate oxygen in sunlight during the dark they actively require oxygen. All plant culture will have to be indoors for many reasons.

                1. IT Poser

                  Re: Plenty of oxygen on the Moon

                  Obviously we need fertilizer for our crops. Initially the rocket fuel plant will provide a large portion of our buffer gases(Nitrogen and argon being roughly 5% of the atmosphere). Trace elements such as phosphorus and sulfur are available in the Martian dust(Ideally we will find more concentrated sources but we have the elements we need). While I haven't fully examined everything need to make fertilizer all of the ingredients are available on Mars.

                  Yes, plants require oxygen. That doesn't really matter. Food crops will provide roughly twice the oxygen humans need. Crops grown for other purposes, fibers like cotton for textiles and cellulose for plastics production, further enhance the oversupply of oxygen. Inside we have far too much total oxygen. The little bit plants require is already available so there is no reason to be overly concerned.

                  Outside we already plenty of oxidizers available. What we really need on Mars is fuel.

              2. IT Poser

                Re: Plenty of oxygen on the Moon

                I ain't Spartacus,

                The answer is because we can. Once we get there we know we will learn valuable things but, because we don't yet know what those things are, we have no clue how to monetize them. At this point all that we can do is determine which short-term goals won't be able to turn a profit.

                Excepting tourism all of the Lunar options you list require markets that don't yet exist. Our current satellite fleet was not designed to be repaired, serviced, or refueled. Much of the planned research into developing industrial processes got delayed when Shuttle cancellation was announced, and is still on hold. While you didn't mention it, I will add that He-3 mining requires fusion, which is still two decades away.

                Honestly my preference is to go to as many places as we can. The problem is that there simply isn't enough money. Since we can afford to start one colony, assuming we don't use the traditional supply-side oriented funding techniques, the question is which target provides us with the best options for developing a local economy? Based on the information available, developing a local economy appears far easier on Mars. As ships that can travel from Earth to Mars will be able to easily do the Lunar trip(A Lunar specific lander is desirable though.) private enterprise can go to the Moon once there is demand for products they can make.

                1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                  Re: Plenty of oxygen on the Moon

                  IT poser,

                  I just don't buy that Mars can become a self-sustaining colony. And nor, I stronly suspect, will any potential colonists. I think this is trying to run before we can walk, and what we can do now is simply baby steps.

                  To say we might find something useful when we know more is actually quite a huge assumption. There's a really important elephant in this room and that elephant is shipping costs. It's a very big elephant. Anything that can be traded in space is going to have to be low mass and very expensive, or it ain't going to be worth shipping. Or at least anything that requires boosting out of a gravity well. You might be able to chop an asteroid up for minerals and send it on a slow trip to your destination - where you then do something with it, but even that's probably 50 years in the future.

                  The only possible revenue streams from space in the next 20 years are tourism and satellite repair. There might be some early money with micro-gravity crystals maybe, but I suspect only if it can piggyback on otherwise profitable infrastructure.

                  Satellites are currently not designed for in-orbit servicing, but then neither was hubble. Even if it's just replacing thruster fuel and giving a bird an extra few years of life, that's probably worth tens of millions of dollars to do - and that's enough cash to tempt people.

                  Mining the moon would not be for HE3, but for oxygen bearing rock, water, topsoil maybe, perhaps even just rock to use as radiation shielding for a small space station. And that only if it can be got cheaper than popping up and down from Earth.

                  I don't think there's any point planning longer term than that. NASA should just explore, as now, with a possible trip to Mars if the politicians want to fund it for the wow factor. In the medium term we need resources in orbit before we can do anything else ambitious, and we have a funding source to pay for that (fixing satellites). Once that looks likely, satellites can then be designed to be even more expensive, so they're repairable - or even modular, so you can add to them as demand grows. That ought to be self-sustaining, or at least the numbers don't look ridiculous - given the billions we spend on satellites now.

                  The Moon is just the nearest source of resources that doesn't require expensive boosting from Earh. But if cost to orbit keeps falling, that may turn out to be irrelevant. Here's hoping Reaction Engines can strut their funky stuff.

                  1. IT Poser

                    Re: Plenty of oxygen on the Moon

                    Satellites use hypergolics. The most common fuel combination is monomethylhydrazine fuel and textroxide oxidizer. Lunar fuel plant designs are based around hydrolox. ISRU availability of nitrogen and carbon on the Moon is limited to trace amounts. Refueling satellites using Lunar fuel will require importing both nitrogen and carbon.

                    We want hydrogen, not oxygen, for spacecraft shielding. If we want to go the bulk mass route and use unprocessed rocks, grabbing an asteroid requires far less Dv. The trouble with the bulk mass route is we end up using a lot of fuel to get rock to the destination. That rock isn't useful for much else without processing. If we were building dozens of ships and stations it could make sense to build a rock processing center in space. We're not building dozens of ships and stations. At this stage is HSF it makes the most sense to send water to any stations/ships we build. At least there are multiple uses for the water.

                    The Moon simply is not a good source of resources. To change this we either need to import carbon and nitrogen(Assuming we don't discover extractable local sources in the quantities needed). Depending on the labor force needed to operate an industrial mass-production facility(Robots are great but, for the foreseeable future, we still need the guy with the spanner.) and the supply chain it is questionable whether we would have enough hydrogen for local uses. If we are going to the Moon using tax dollars it has to be because people actually want to live on the Moon. If casino owners want to set up Lunar Vegas on their own dime that is fine with me.

                    I am hoping the Sabre engine will fly. I don't see what exactly Skylon has to do with a discussion about the Moon versus Mars. Skylon is a space plane to LEO. When(think positive) it is operational it should lower the cost to Earth's surface to LEO. If anything it will make it more difficult for Lunar exports to compete.

                    Because I don't think I've covered it, which means it will probably come up, hydrolox(H2/O2) is not suitable for use as a satellite fuel. The current goal for "long-term" hydrogen storage on orbit is seven days(ACES developmental second stage).

              3. JCitizen
                Childcatcher

                @ I ain't Sparticus

                If you read the "Ride Report" you will see one of the most thoughful processes at that time for planned exploration of the solar system. Sally Ride wrote it and it was very inspiring to a college kid like me at the time. I think Musk discounts the Moon in this plan because he knows we can bypass it if what we wan't to do is just get there. However you brought up points that make me think the Ride Report is still valid.

                I propose that we mine He³ on the moon - it has the most dense source of this excellent fusion material that any other known source worth looking at. If we take advantage of the Moon's low gravity, we may be able to accelerate progress on accomplishing fission, and with that wonderful process you can make ANYTHING. The fusing of any atomic atoms, can result in anything you want from the periodic table, so you could throw moon dust in the process and make fuel, gold, whatever you want to enhance the next hop to Mars. Even if we establish this base and end up bypassing it, the lessons learned will go a long way toward building any base on Mars, and we would be much closer for any rescue missions that may come up.

                And there again, many a rich folk might want bragging rights to being one of the first civilian moon walkers! Tourism might actually help pay for the next step.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Plenty of oxygen on the Moon

            First, Ask yourself this... Why do people climb Mount Everest? Because they can. That's why. No other reason. Second, To be the first to do it.. Period. Third, Because we are in dire need of another planet, similar in Size and Mass to our own, for it to be sustainable. We are ripping this planet to pieces, We are constantly under threat of extinction from something as simple as a rock the size of an 18 wheeler hitting our planet. We need to spread to other planets if we have any viable chance of survival in this universe. Yes we are in a pipe dream of being able to Terraform at our current technology level. But Necessity is the mother of all inventions. Once we get there, this will be a necessary tech to focus on, and it will be accelerated by the need to do so for survival reasons. Everything is accelerated by necessity.. didn't you know that?

      3. ZanzibarRastapopulous

        Re: What about Oxygen?

        > If we are going to ship all our politicians as 'Mars Settlers' then we don't need oxygen.

        We don't need brakes either.

    3. IT Poser

      Re: What about Oxygen?

      When making methane using water, CO2, and electricity we end up with oxygen as a by-product. Roughly 90% gets compressed for LOX with the remaining 10% available for other uses.

      Getting oxygen on Mars isn't the issue. In addition to the fuel plant, we get oxygen from our crops and other industrial processes. One of the issues currently being examined is what we will do with all the oxygen a Martian colony will have. We can't just let it build up in our habs because of the fire issues. Reducing the mass of our oxygen removal systems is a challenge ATM.

      Personally I would just send an algae tank on the first mission. Vent the oxygen, save the biomass so it can be burned in-hab once colonists are growing food, and the problem is solved. The ashes should make a decent fertilizer as well.

    4. cray74

      Re: What about Oxygen?

      How abundant and available is oxygen on Mars?

      Mars' crust is mostly oxygen compounds: basalt, granite, etc. Roughly speaking, Mars' crust is 45-50% oxygen by mass, like Earth's.

      There are a lot of industrial processes for separating the various elements in minerals from their oxygen jailers since most of the metals human love appear in Earth's crust as oxygen compounds. Therefore, the chemistry needed extract oxygen from rocks is pretty well established, it's just a matter of engineering details to focus on oxygen production over metal production. Iron ore refining, for example, tends to throw away oxygen in the form of carbon dioxide.

      So, there's not a shortage of oxygen on Mars. However, there are easier options than trying to extract oxygen from basalt. Splitting water might be energy intensive, but the hardware is relatively simple.

  2. Esme
    Coat

    Hmmmn.. pizza!

    So I could order a lifetime's supply of pizza direct from Italy and get it delivered half an hour hence?

    WIN!

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

      Well, sure, as long as you have a lifetime's worth of guests at hand... otherwise you'll be left with an awful lot of stale pizza.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

        "awful lot of stale pizza"

        I can live with that. This is why mankind invented Salad Cream and Sriracha.

      2. PK

        Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

        I can just see the Dominos app trying to keep up with your nearest branch ... "place order from London ... Reading ... Bristol ... ... ... New York ..."

        1. Pete 2 Silver badge

          Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

          : I can just see the Dominos app trying to keep up with your nearest branch ... "place order from

          > London ... Reading ... Bristol ... ... ... New York ..."

          No, no, no. If Musk can sent a pizza joint (mmm, two of my favourite things) to Mars, he can dam' well put them in LEO. Have a network, like with GPS satellites and you can literally "drop ship" the pizza. With some intelligent packaging it could (probably) land in your yard. And the heat of re-entry will keep it hot, too.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

            When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that's a gravitational perturbance of catastrophic proportion, possibly caused by the explosion of a nuclear waste facility constructed just over the furthest terminator on the dark side of the moon

      3. harmjschoonhoven

        Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

        First send a lot of stale pizza to Mars, then a bunch of German cockroaches. At least they are radiation hardened, less that 1m high and they don't mind if their food is stale.

        1. PK

          Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

          @harmjschoonhoven - is this a budget terraforming plan? Sounds good until the radiation enhanced cockroaches decide to hijack one of the return ships to battle the radiation enhanced turtles for the earth's pizza supply.

      4. Dr Scrum Master
        Coat

        Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

        Well, sure, as long as you have a lifetime's worth of guests at hand... otherwise you'll be left with an awful lot of stale pizza.

        You could always make it into a tower, but be careful otherwise it might lean.

        1. The First Dave

          Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

          Talking of towers, I don't see the point of sending an empty ship back from Mars to Earth. They would be very useful as 'starter homes' on Mars, and/or would give the new residents a way to leave Mars if everything went tits-up there - after all the odds of an asteroid hitting our backup facility is just as great as it hitting our primary.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

      So I could order a lifetime's supply of pizza

      The downside is that if you go to colonise Mars, a lifetime's supply of pizza could be one small pizza. In extreme circumstances, one slice.

      I think I'd much prefer to live on a hollowed-out asteroid than on Mars.

      Although, as I'm reading the Mote in God's Eye at the moment, I'd much rather live on the battlecruiser MacArthur. Well, perhaps maybe Lenin. The commander is rather less cheerful and it's a lot less exciting, but there's tea instead of (mostly bad) coffee and you can have too much excitement...

      1. Patrician

        Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

        ....."Although, as I'm reading the Mote in God's Eye at the moment, I'd much rather live on the battlecruiser MacArthur. Well, perhaps maybe Lenin. "....

        Great book, one of Niven & Purcell's best. I think...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

          > Great book, one of Niven & Purcell's best. I think...

          Don't you mean Nivia and Purcell? Keep's your hands soft while you turn the pages.

          1. roytrubshaw
            Joke

            Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

            "> > Great book, one of Niven & Purcell's best. I think...

            > Don't you mean Nivia and Purcell? Keep's your hands soft while you turn the pages."

            While listening to some 17th Century baroque music...

            (I think the original writer meant: Niven and Pournelle)

        2. Alistair Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

          I think that Niven and Purcell have a few clues in there that we should be taking to heart. However, we tend to think of our museums as money makers, rather than educational sites.

          As for mars? Elon: I'll drive if you'd like.

      2. Esme

        Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

        @ I ain't Spartacus - I live in the UK, though. Mind you, it's a tough decision - stay in the UK and be able to get real Italian pizza within half an hour, or go to Mars taking a pizzeria with me... hmmm... the lower gravity'd be good on these old bones of mine... - shame about the unpleasant qualities of the dust there though!

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

          Why go to Mars? Just open a pizzeria in Blighty? Then eat as much pizza as you want.

          Admittedly that doesn't solve the gravity issue. But then Mars has other problems, like the lack of anything to breathe and being even colder than Skegness. Although I suppose at least not as wet, and with fewer seagulls...

          Hmmm, thinking about it. 99% chance of dying horribly on Mars, or live in Skegness? Erm that's not a very difficult decision is it. Strap me to the rocket now!

      3. keith_w

        Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

        But didn't the watchmakers fixed the coffee machine? (been a long time since I last read it)

  3. frank ly Silver badge

    How about

    Perhaps they could send full tankers on a slow, low fuel journey to a Mars orbit to act as refuelling facilities there?

    I realise that you get into a diminishing returns situation but if I were on Mars and hoping to get back, I'd be a lot happier if I knew there was a fuel supply in orbit above me. Then again, maybe the first colonists would never expect to return to Earth.

    1. Alan_Peery

      Re: How about

      That's why you send a robotic ship ahead that makes the fuel for you. You only launch when the refining rocket says "I've got fuel, any takers?"

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: How about

        That's why you send a robotic ship ahead that makes the fuel for you.

        Unfortunately our current success rate with unmanned landers is only about one in three. You'd also want the production facilities within a klick or two of the launch site, else you'll be laying a lot of pipe or chugging backwards and forwards with lots of pressurised canisters. Not impossible, but potentially a bigger overhead (given you've got to ship all the pipes there) than the advantage you gain.

        1. IT Poser

          Re: "You'd also want the production facilities within a klick or two of the launch site"

          We don't want to land on the water supply. The heat from rocket exhaust is not conducive to keeping ice solid. I work under the assumption that a Martian spaceport will be 10-15 km from our primary ice mining operations. We're most likely going to be stuck lugging fuel or water around. CO2 collection is far less site-specific.

          Please note that this is an assumption that will change based on site surveys. We could find the Martian equivalent of a peninsula. While fuel production still needs setbacks(one does not land rockets on top of solar panels and we can't neglect transmission losses) it is possible we will find a location that allows for transportation distances of less than a km. Since we have yet to begin investigating potential landing sites it is safest to include more fuel transportation in the mass budget.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How about

        "That's why you send a robotic ship ahead that makes the fuel for you."

        Or a largely-automated facility that can be operated by a series of expendable clones, each of whom is unaware that they're going to be incinerated and replaced by another clone at the end of their 3-year stint.

        1. Infernoz Bronze badge
          Meh

          Re: How about

          The later assumes that there are enough raw materials and energy supply where the fuel factory lands and there is a suitable area nearby for human habitation. If the later is not possible, then a viable colony there is probably doomed fantasy!

          If mining and fuel production cost too much energy, the system will die for lack of net energy, just like oil/gas exploration/extraction/refining could end on earth when it becomes too energy costly!

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: How about - slow boat to Mars

      You need an enormous lump of fuel to get to out of Earth's atmosphere and pick up some of the speed needed for orbit. That is what the BFR booster is for. You need a large lump of fuel to get from the speed that the BFR provides to orbital velocity. A full tank in the colony ship should do it. Getting to Earth orbit is hard. Mars is much easier. The colony rocket has enough fuel capacity to get the surface of Mars back to Earth orbit. Most of that fuel is required to get to Mars orbit. Refuelling in at Mars orbit to get to Earth orbit would not require anything like a full tank.

      Let's try plan B. Miss out the nuclear reactor and the chemical plants required to convert CO₂ and ice into O₂ and methane. Instead, pack some of the fuel required to get to Mars orbit. Throw out all the colonists and supplies and you might have space for the fuel required to get to orbit (the colony rocket looks about half fuel tanks and half cargo space by volume - if fuel is heavier than cargo then plan B cannot work).

      The second wave of colonists will be absolutely furious because there will not be a source of fuel on Mars waiting for them so they will have to pack their own.

    3. Infernoz Bronze badge

      Re: How about

      Yes, send a load of tanker rockets craft to a staging point above earth, with enough fuel to accelerate to and decelerate at Mars, with en-route propulsion from Ion jet engines and sling-shot manoeuvres, so that the tankers assemblies could be parked ahead of time in a stable orbit above Mars. These launches could be done a long time before the expected human trip, so slower travel would be OK. Later trips could then refuel in orbit with enough fuel to land and later take-off, and later refuel in orbit for a journey back to earth.

      Of course a huge problem for a manned trip is the hard & deadly space radiation, which even thick & heavy materials are unlikely to attenuate enough en-route or at Mars (assuming no protection magnetic shield like the Earth's Van Allen belt and thick atmosphere). I expect that a portable and weight/energy affordable, electromagnetic radiation-shield will need to be invented, possibly using superconductor electromagnets and/or a plasma field. Another significant problem is enough energy production on Mars to power all the life-support, manufacturing, and construction facilities; the longest lasting space probes have typically used very expensive, restricted, long-half-life radioisotopes e.g. Pultonium.

  4. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Joke

    Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

    And that's why they call it the 'goldilocks' zone...

    1. Ralph B

      Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

      Yebbut, how nasty does Musk think Earth will get to ever make Mars preferable?

      1. Justin Clift

        Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

        > Yebbut, how nasty does Musk think Earth will get to ever make Mars preferable?

        The point is to have self sufficient places-that-aren't-Earth, as (initially) a backup option.

        From the point of view of "if shit really hits the fan" on Earth, the human race would at least have a possibility of surviving if we're in a few other locations too.

        1. Infernoz Bronze badge

          Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

          We'd have to be quite insane to FUBAR Earth, because Earth is obviously the only planet in our solar system suitable for complex life! Making Technology critical for all survival is not a smart idea, because it can break, then everyone is dead!

          Even a messed up Earth is probably far better than all the other planets in our solar system for habitation, because of its temperature ranges, natural resources, and atmosphere, and the Van Allen Belt and Ozone layer blocking deadly space radiation.

          Even colossal disasters like 7 large space objects colliding with Earth oceans about 7 1/2 thousand years ago, so causing 5Km high tidal waves, weren't enough to kill off all life on Earth, because humans of many cultures passed down history of it, not just the Noah story.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

        It is called an off site backup.

        1. 's water music Silver badge

          Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

          It is called an off site backup.

          Yebbut we all know a DR plan isn't valid unless and until it is tested so we probably need to colonise two planets before we try destroying Earth or we instantly go back to SPOF which would just be a stupid plan

          1. Alistair Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

            Mars as the primary backup site -- I still like the idea of using really large rocks as orbital elevators/farms/up system-downsystem elevators instead of "ships" -- we'd have populace, and food sources not pinned to the planet, and means of shuttling back and forth, and the bonus of having backup DNA constantly in motion, in multiple locations.

            1. Mikel

              Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

              The "Fountains of Paradise" space elevator plan works with known materials on exactly one body in the solar system: Ceres. The combination of low gravity and 9 hour day makes for a shorter tether that can be made of Amsteel Blue.

              1. Dave 126 Silver badge

                Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

                > Making Technology critical for all survival is not a smart idea, because it can break, then everyone is dead!

                Fertiliser is a technology, as is birth control, education, societal organisations... Any which way we will have to use a fallible technology to stave off death - in fact we have already done so.

                1. Kiwi Silver badge

                  Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

                  Fertiliser is a technology, as is birth control, education, societal organisations... Any which way we will have to use a fallible technology to stave off death - in fact we have already done so.

                  I think the point is that on earth, if electricity fails long term over a large area (even planet-wide for 6 months or more) a large portion of the population will easily survive (funnily/enjoyably enough it will be the poorer people who are used to going without who will probably survive it the best, while the rich who have no experience of "doing without" will die off PDQ when the banks stop working). Sure, the easily supply of food we in the west are so used to will quickly be gone, and many of our larger cities will fail quickly, but a large portion of the population will survive.

                  On Mars, even short-term, the loss of electricity would probably kill everyone there. On earth you can survive without tech - find yourself an area of bush with abundant year-round fruit (hard but not impossible), and in the right places you can survive off the land and will need little shelter/clothes, absolutely no tech. Basic stuff like fire lets you cook food, and basic tooling/construction lets you provide shelter and clothing, but you can find places you can do without those.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

        It will be preferable because he isnt Cohagen. HE VILL GIFF DIS PIPPLE AEEEUGH!

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

          "It will be preferable because he isnt Cohagen"

          if there's a lady with 3 boobs on mars, I wanna go

          1. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

            if there's a lady with 3 boobs on mars, I wanna go
            But I've only got 2 hands, what would I do with the third one?

          2. Kiwi Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

            "It will be preferable because he isnt Cohagen"

            if there's a lady with 3 boobs on mars, I wanna go

            How about Trump, May and Rudd? There's your 3 boobs, and at least one of them is reputedly a lady.

            1. VinceH Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

              "How about Trump, May and Rudd? There's your 3 boobs, and at least one of them is reputedly a lady."

              Good grief! You learn something even more bizarre about Trump every day!

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

          Cohagen, Montana?

          Come to think of it, it does look a bit like Mars ... Note that Cohagen's not what I would call "rural" because you can get a cold beer right in town; the bar is the building across the street from the Post Office ...

      4. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

        > Yebbut, how nasty does Musk think Earth will get to ever make Mars preferable?

        A whopping great lump of rock hitting the Earth at a stupidly high speed is not only plausible, but considered nearly inevitable on a species-level time-frame.

        Perhaps our nascent ability to move bigger bits of hardware around the solar system might allow us to counter such a threat before it hits our planet, but that still leaves many other threats to human life on Earth.

        If one were to list them (okay, nuclear weapons, disease, depleting resources such as fertiliser, uncontrolled technologies etc etc) they might be accused of being all doom and gloom, but the point is that such risks can be addressed with positive action. Well, we might as well try, hadn't we?

        1. wayne 8

          Re: Human Survival - a good thing?

          How long before Mars devolves into the usual human population center.

          No matter where you go, what you do, you are always you.

          Ten thousand, give or take, years of human development on plant Earth and we have what?

          Higher Technology allowing the few to control a greater many.

          Check out "India Stack".

      5. Fink-Nottle

        Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

        > Yebbut, how nasty does Musk think Earth will get to ever make Mars preferable?

        Never underestimate the power of advertising:

        "A new life awaits you in the Off-world colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure.

        A new life awaits you in the Off-World Colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure.

        A new life awaits you in the Off-World Colonies. The chance to..."

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

          Yebbut, how nasty does Musk think Earth will get to ever make Mars preferable?

          Never underestimate the power of advertising:

          "A new life awaits you in the Off-world colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure.

          Hmm.. Prison population solution!

          There are a lot of intelligent non-violent people in prisons the world over who're never going to get out, and some we don't necessarily want out (those who have a taste for "fresh meat", shall we say..) They could be among some of the first to be sent off. For a start, they're already used to living in very cramped quarters on poor quality food, so an 80 day trip wouldn't be an issue for them. They'll never see the outside world again, so they'd potentially be happier to take the chance to go to Mars, and if you remove their other restrictions then they can be enticed to go.

          Would still have to be some work to make sure the ones who are sent are ones who will appreciate the chance to basically be heroes, and to get out of jail many years early - just there's still little chance of them ever coming back to Earth.

          Well, seemed a good idea when I was up in the wee hours of the morning getting rid of that cup of coffee I should've have had quite so late....

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

            > Hmm.. Prison population solution!

            We call this the Oz solution. It kind of works, but is pretty shitty for everyone involved in the first few generations.

            And you don't want to put people who are pissed of with you further out from the sun's gravity well than the planet you're on.

            1. Kiwi Silver badge

              Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

              We call this the Oz solution. It kind of works, but is pretty shitty for everyone involved in the first few generations.

              First few generations? We have them as our neighbours! Hasn't stopped being shitty! </kiwi<>Ozzie rant>

              And you don't want to put people who are pissed of with you further out from the sun's gravity well than the planet you're on.

              While those people reportedly facing 80 years in prison "just for" attending anti-trump protests1 might be pissed, but I am sure there are many others facing a very long time in prison who would be grateful for going elsewhere, still kind of in prison but mixed with more very intelligent people rather than a large portion of the population being uneducated and prone to violence. Those on murder would have to be chosen carefully - the one who helped his aging mother die is probably fine, the one who killed someone 'coz they looked at him funny, maybe not.

              1 I make no statement on the reality of said reports, just that it has been reported somewhere.

    2. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

      There is also Saturn clouds, with Earth's atmospheric pressure and also roughly Earth's gravity. Of course, the distance from Sun means some other energy source would be needed, also the colonists city would need to be flying - always.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

        > Of course, the distance from Sun means some other energy source [ in Saturns clouds] would be needed

        Could we not

        just use mirrors to concentrate the weaker sunlight?

        1. Alistair Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

          I think someone proposed having collectors orbiting around mercury and using some interesting physics to pump the result out to (Jupiter/Saturn) orbits -- and then some trash talking extremist started throwing rocks at mercury.

        2. StudeJeff

          Re: Venus is too nasty, Mercury too hot and the moons of Jupiter or Saturn too distant.

          Yep, there is a great series of books by John Ringo where they do exactly that. They put up a series of mirrors that are first used to mine asteroids, and even turn one into a giant space station by heating and spinning it.

          It's also used to give some unfriendly aliens a VERY hot reception.

  5. Schultz
    Boffin

    Not optimal ...

    Sending big rockets into big gravity wells and bringing them out again is quite expensive. Better to make fuel on the moon, keep the big rockets to power the earth-mars transit in space, and drop the bigger survival equipment as one-way delivery package onto the mars surface. Return vehicles only need to bring humans back up from Mars, which should be possible with much smaller rockets.

    There is water on the moon and therefore the possibility to make hydrogen and oxygen. To build that infrastructure won't be possible within 10 years though. Anyways, we should fly to Europa and start talking to the local space aliens instead of moving into the desert on Mars.

    1. Martijn Otto
      Joke

      Re: Not optimal ...

      We cannot land on Europa. It is forbidden.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not optimal ...

      But that's exactly why SpaceX plans to use fully reusable rockets. Once your launch costs are just fuel, lifting cheap earth produced fuel into orbit works out way, way cheaper than fuel produced on the moon.

      Try to imagine the cost and complexity of building an automated fuel production and power plant on the moon to produce the thousands of tons worth of fuel needed and then the the automated loading and launching of that fuel from the surface of the moon..... It would be an insanely complex undertaking so you may as well just go straight to the(ir) goal, which is sending large number of people to Mars.

      Large scale ISRU without people to do basic things like plugging in pipes, loading hoppers with source material, etc needs a level of automation and robotics, etc we simply don't have today

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Not optimal ...

        Moon dust plays merry havoc with machinery - imagine razor sharp fractal-edged sand and you'll be close. It clogs, it abrades and pierces, it settles on solar panels and heat radiators...

        http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/chinese-missions-to-study-lunar-dust/8425898

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Alien

          Re: Not optimal ...

          Moon dust plays merry havoc with machinery - imagine razor sharp fractal-edged sand and you'll be close. It clogs, it abrades and pierces, it settles on solar panels and heat radiators...

          How can they know that? No one's ever been there! In fact the moon's been a hologram ever since Queen Victoria blew it up in the 1826! You can tell that because of the way it orbits the flat earth!

          (Oops, think I've been reading too many youtube comments again.. Reality cheque just bounced...)

        2. Mike Flugennock

          Re: Not optimal ...

          Very good point. As I recall, while not doing surface EVA, Apollo crewmen spent a large amount of time cleaning their suits -- especially the hose connectors and sealing rings at the arms, legs, and neck. That friggin' dirt got everywhere. Check out some of the EVA fotos from Apollo 15-17, especially; those guys were filthy from about the waist down after the second day.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: Not optimal ...

            Mars has lots of fine dust that will get in everything, we just haven't experienced it yet. It probably isn't razor sharp like Moon dust, but the "machinery" on the Moon can and should be underground anyway. Melt the floor/ceiling/walls to create dust-free 'caves' for living space and machinery. The dust should only be a problem for those who go outside and you need to get it off them when they come back inside. Fortunately people shouldn't need to go outside very often.

            The Moon dust is only a problem if something moves it where you don't want. You never have to clean solar panels on the lunar surface, because there's nothing to blow the dust on them. Meanwhile on Mars, you have to worry about dust blowing around, and even big dust storms that will blot out your solar panels - which already operate at reduced efficiency due to the distance compared to the Moon. That means people going in and out all the time, unless you can automate the cleaning process.

            1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

              Re: Not optimal ...

              Solar wind blows dust on the moon. It was found, and unexplainable for a while, by the Apollo teams. I don't recall if it was enough to be a problem or not though. Plus things WILL blow it around if you are landing/launching from it (though a rail gun may solve this).

              DV visual:

              https://xkcd.com/681_large/

              http://i.imgur.com/SqdzxzF.png

              Getting to the moon first would save 20-25% of your DV budget... but you cannot use aero capture, so end up using that landing stuff to have to relaunch it. If launching fuel and instead doing a flyby with the crew, you're not landing and relaunching that part, but your transfer vehicle and fuel delivery system need to use less than that 20-25% DV budget.

              In KSP it is better to launch straight to a destination, use cycler craft or launch from orbit than it is to use a moon as a transfer point. They only use them for fun or if re-using large facilities, where landing gives your R&D gains etc.

              Apologies for my post above, last time I post on the phone. ;)

            2. Captain DaFt

              Re: Not optimal ...

              "You never have to clean solar panels on the lunar surface, because there's nothing to blow the dust on them."

              You sure about that?

    3. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Not optimal ...

      Not to be that guy... but the moons gravity well and dv os not much if any saving for fuel transfer iirc. But other argumebts stand.

  6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Kerosene?

    Kerosene can't be made on Mars

    Surely if you have the raw materials to make methane (C and H) then you have the raw materials to make paraffin (a mix of Cs and Hs). Granted it will be a lot more complicated, but it's not strictly impossible.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Kerosene?

      The limit is the sheer energy input required, which is much greater for creating those chemical bonds than it is for, say, cracking light hydrocarbons from heavier ones (we've been cracking oils cheaply for millennia: ghee for use as a lamp oil, for example). Without easy access to hydrocarbons there are only limited steps we can take to profitably create them from scratch.

  7. Chris G Silver badge

    Credit where it's due

    Musky doesn't think small and it sounds as though he has done a few sums.

    When he says 'we need to...' Is that SpaceX or the US/Earth + funding?

  8. jake Silver badge

    So Musk wants to invent the ICBM, eh?

    I wonder what kind of "package" exists that "absolutely, positively has to get anywhere on Earth in 25 minutes or less" ... NaaS anybody?

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: So Musk wants to invent the ICBM, eh?

      I bet Mr. Kim would buy that for a Won (i.e. a ‎₩)...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So Musk wants to invent the ICBM, eh?

      I wonder what kind of "package" exists that "absolutely, positively has to get anywhere on Earth in 25 minutes or less"

      Duh, same answer as for the hyperloop: fast food.

      :)

    3. WonkoTheSane
      Headmaster

      Re: So Musk wants to invent the ICBM, eh?

      I believe the current euphemism is "physics package".

  9. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Fuel on Mars

    Kerosene can't be made on Mars as we're pretty sure there's no oil up there.

    Well, you almost certainly synthesise kerosene from methane but the additional energy density probably isn't worth it.

    However, much as I admire what Musk has achieved thus far, this is worse than a pipe dream and close to outright fraud at least as long as it is anywhere near an existing business interest like Space X. This is more than simply trying to protect investors: getting people safely to and from Mars is about a lot more than motors and fuel.

    1. Alistair 3

      Re: Fuel on Mars

      "close to outright fraud"?

      Please explain (remembering than SpaceX is a privately held company)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fuel on Mars

        "close to outright fraud"?

        Please explain (remembering than SpaceX is a privately held company)

        I reckon what he means to say is that it's all but a front: in reality, Musk is building the B Ark :)

        1. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: Fuel on Mars

          I reckon what he means to say is that it's all but a front: in reality, Musk is building the B Ark :)

          What? I don't think he's BArking mad. A visionary maybe, eccentric absolutely.

          1. WonkoTheSane
            Headmaster

            Re: Fuel on Mars

            "What? I don't think he's BArking mad. A visionary maybe, eccentric absolutely."

            0/10 - Turn in your copy of "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" immediately!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Fuel on Mars

              0/10 - Turn in your copy of "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" immediately!

              Hell no, clearly he still has to read it!

              :)

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Fuel on Mars

          I reckon what he means to say is that it's all but a front

          More or less, SpaceX relies on government contracts to keep going.

          If there is any kind of problem with cashflow, then a tried and tested method to hide it, is to raise new capital for a supposedly new, ground-breaking scheme. Doing this with an existing company achieves three things: it masks existing problems and it reduces the cost of capital associated with the new risk; allows you to buy off any existing investors who want out. If you want to know why we have public stock exchanges and for examples of similar schemes then you might look at railways in the 19th century.

          Note, I'm not accusing Musk of fraud, though the Tesla / Solar City deal looks very much like it. I'm sure he is capable of raising a great deal of "lose your shirt money" from other convinced solutionists, but existing and potential new investors require full and frank disclosure and that is best done in a separate vehicle.

          Meanwhile: I'm convinced that the money would bring a much greater return if directed at non-manned probes and research. Non-manned probes do at least have a chance of getting to the near relativistic speeds needed to find another solar system just in case this one fails. If the Earth isn't safe, then neither is that frozen dustball Mars.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Fuel on Mars

            Non-manned probes do at least have a chance of getting to the near relativistic speeds needed to find another solar system just in case this one fails.

            What do you mean by "near relativistic speeds"?

            Do you have any inkling of what a grain of dust will do at 186,000mph? What a single molecule would do at twice that speed? And note this is MPH, still a very long way from "relativistic speeds".

            It takes light 4 years to travel from our 2nd nearest star1 to Earth. a ship would take 8 years at 1/2 that. At the speed I mentioned above it would take 14,400 years, unless I've messed up my math of am wrong in my calc on SOL (186,000 miles per second isn't it?) (4x3,600 - 1second being 1: 3,600th of an hour)

            Something else to consider at those speeds as well. How many hits from particles would you get? Now, you travel at 30,000MPH in space you probably would hit very few particles. But as you increase the speed, you get more hits - and each hit does much more damage due to the increased mass of the particle at impact. You couldn't manoeuvre your craft at those speeds, without some special jiggery-trekery your own mass would be greater that earth (if my quick in-head calcs are anything to go by, I could be off be a factor of thousands!), maybe greater than that of the sun.

            Until we can get some form of warp/hyperspace technology, much of this stuff is not worthwhile. Especailly when the probe has little chance of reporting home to anyone (look at how fast data/storage formats change), and much much less chance of us finding a way to get to wherever the probe suggests (think for a start on how much stuff in space actually moves - Scorpio appears to be a fixed pattern in the night sky but I know those stars have moved vast distances since I first recognised it in 1984). How do you correct the course of a bus-sized object with an earth-sized mass?

            1 You forgot that the sun is our nearest star, didn't you? :)

    2. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: Fuel on Mars

      getting people safely to and from Mars is about a lot more than motors and fuel.

      True. But without motors and the fuel to, er, fuel them, you won't be going anywhere.

      Leaving earth is our first step into space. And, assuming a) my faith is misplaced and b) something nasty this way comes, leaving earth is the only way for humanity to survive. Though looking at the elections recently in a couple of countries with "United" in their name, maybe humanity shouldn't survive....

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Fuel on Mars

        And, assuming a) my faith is misplaced and b) something nasty this way comes, leaving earth is the only way for humanity to survive.

        This is seductive but flawed logic. Going to Mars is really still a 19th century fantasy.

        Anything big enough to take out the Earth will probably take out Mars as well. Or, anyone crazy and powerful enough to destroy the Earth is probably crazy and powerful enough to take out Mars as well. Mars is pretty inhospitable and all the space between here and there is inimical to life.

        For interstellar travel moons and asteroids are far more interesting: lots of resources without all that pesky gravity to deal with. This is why real scientists are keen on comets and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Because, by the time the first unmanned probe confirms the existence of habitable planets we'll need to be somewhere where we can build spaceships big and safe enough for the travel. They may make for less attractive headlines but Cassini and Huygens and Rosetta and Philae delivered far more knowledge bang for the buck than a manned Mars mission ever could.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Fuel on Mars

          > Non-manned probes do at least have a chance of getting to the near relativistic speeds needed to find another solar system just in case this one fails.

          Eh? So, the probe would find a cosy new star system, bully for the probe. What use is that if no humans can get there?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fuel on Mars

          @Charlie Clark,

          "Anything big enough to take out the Earth will probably take out Mars as well."

          Well, if you're talking about an asteroid or something it would have to be between the size of Neptune and half the diameter of the sun. So reasonably big. Unusually big.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Fuel on Mars

            I'm sure someone will come along and mention that giant wandering planet that everyone keeps speculating about soon...

            1. Kiwi Silver badge
              Alien

              Re: Fuel on Mars

              I'm sure someone will come along and mention that giant wandering planet that everyone keeps speculating about soon...

              You mean that one that is going to hit in Dec 2012 er May 2013 er June 2013 no sorry November 2013 sorry March 2014 no it's definitely October 2014 ok maybe June 21 2015 no sorry December 21 2015 ok sometime 2016 ok sometime in the next trillion years so you all better be scared OK?

              Had fun explaining compound lenses and reflection/refraction to a guy who wondered why you could see it on the smartphone screen when you pointed the phone's camera at the sun, but you couldn't see it with the naked eye. Some people are so gullible, and place way too much trust in "this scientist on youtube".

        3. Kiwi Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Fuel on Mars

          This is seductive but flawed logic. Going to Mars is really still a 19th century fantasy.

          Anything big enough to take out the Earth will probably take out Mars as well.

          Oh? So a small comet on an orbit that causes it to collide with earth. Something a few miles across (lets be exceedingly generous and say it's spherical with a diameter of 100 miles). That's far far more than enough to destroy all life on earth, probably make the entire crust molten, the atmosphere would be burnt and filled with various combustion by-products, the molten material from the collision etc; basically non-existent, and, the oceans would of course be vapour (maybe even closer to plasma, along with the atmosphere?) . All life would be gone within a few seconds, maybe a few minutes.

          Such an object, even if it was travelling in a perfect line to collide with mars, would unlikely have the mass to reach there. Given the difference in orbital distance, anything ejected from earth in such an event probably would not reach Mars in a state enough to do real damage. Even if the velocities would be enough, the odds of something impacting Earth and continuing on to reach Mars are pretty low. Any one care to do the math? Even though 1 in a million shots come out 9 times in 10, this has much much less chance of happening.

          Short of a nova, or maybe Jupiter and Saturn somehow becoming very attracted to each other, there is nothing likely to be a threat to both Earth and Mars. Not totally impossible, but we;re looking at a combination of size, speed, direction of travel and even point of impact (hitting earth in one place will give a different exit direction to hitting it in another place). Not impossible but high enough odds I doubt it would occur before humanity is already gone, or we've found a way to reach other inhabitable solar systems in a single lifetime.

          It doesn't take much of an asteroid to wipe out life on earth. IIRC a few miles across is enough, ie many comets etc. One big enough to have ejecta reach Mars as well? That's a very different story.

          As to rocks for start travel. Do the maths, not the fantasy. An asteroid may be travelling at several 10's of thousands of KPH, but it is still very slow when it comes to interstellar speeds. According to newatlas.com (1st google result) the fastest asteroid on record is 64,000 mph, and comet ISON was believe to have reached 838,890Mph (375km/s, hoping my math is right). New Horizons is travelling at a mere 36,373 MPH. If travelling towards Alpha Centauri, it would only take 78,000 years or so to reach there. That's just to Alpha Centauri. Course there's "Breakthrough Starshot", which may or may not succeed - and NASA are working on some forms of "warp" technology, so it's not hopeless. But we need a lot more than either of these to effectively explore.

          However, getting to Mars and getting a backup system is a good start. Being able to live on Mars for a while gives us knowledge about the tech needed to live in space long-term. Earth and even earth orbit are relatively safe places, we need to escape the protection of earth long-term to find out how to live in the reality of space long-term.

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: Fuel on Mars

            Oh? So a small comet on an orbit that causes it to collide with earth.

            I'm not the one making an argument for leaving Earth because a "VUE" might wipe out life on Earth. This really is a straw man. I'm not suggesting that the same object would hit both Mars and the Earth but if the Earth is being hit by large asteroids then Mars probably is at the same time. For example if Jupiter stopped doing such a good job of hoovering up dangerous rocks that enter the solar system.

            As to rocks for start travel. Do the maths, not the fantasy.

            You seem to misunderstand me: build the spaceships on and from the asteroids. No gravity well to worry about. Still all the problems related to large-scale manufacturing in space, life-support systems, travelling safely at high speeds (a reasonable fraction of c), etc., but easier than doing it on Earth or Mars,

      2. James Hughes 1

        Re: Fuel on Mars

        Surprised that no-one has commented that this is simply a publication of the talk he did a year ago, so nothing new in it.

        As for other points...

        The Moon requires more Dv than going to Mars, so is actually harder to get to (and by get to I mean land on) and get back from.

        This isn't fraud as some conspiracy theorist said above - Musk is currently revolutionising the Space launch business, and his company is almost certainly going to have something on Mars within 10 years. Might even be ITS, but will certainly be a Red Dragon.

        Everything complained about above has been discussed ad nauseam elsewhere already. And in fact Musk is planning a new talk within a few months to go over version 2 of the plan.

  10. Peter Gordon

    1m asses to mars

    surely?

  11. Spudley

    Forgive me, but isn't this just the plan that he presented last year? I'm fairly sure all the details here including those concept drawings of the rocket have been available since that talk.

    I did hear that there was going to be some Musk Mars this week, but I was under the impression that I this week's news was supposed to be an update on how he would get the funding worked out for getting people to Mars.

  12. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Coat

    Just build a rocket that can be split in two...

    A large version that transports humans+cargo to mars and a smaller one that is capable of transporting humans back to earth...

    The larger part can stay behing on mars and can be used for building materials to create housing etc...

  13. Vulch

    Old news

    Note this is just a write-up of the presentation Elon Musk gave at IAC in September last year. He has recently announced a follow-up is imminent and will focus more on paying for the project.

    Progress has been made, the carbon fibre tank featured in the presentation has since been tested to destruction. It's not clear if the destruction was intended, but that's why you test such things.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Old news

      Destructive Testing of pressure vessels is fairly routine, so I imagine it was deliberate. If nothing else, the difference between the predicted failure point and the actual one is informative.

  14. GettinSadda
    Alert

    Sounds Crazy...

    Musk says a lot of crazy things.

    The problem is, quite a lot of them turn into reality.

    It is hard to know when the crazy-sounding things are going to end up working!

  15. DropBear Silver badge
    Trollface

    Plan details how to get 1m humans to Mars

    ...wait - you want to populate Mars with small kids?!? You bastards!!!

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Plan details how to get 1m humans to Mars

      1M-tall humans usually weigh less than 2M-tall humans, thus saving on fuel (and bed linen)!

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Plan details how to get 1m humans to Mars

        And the 1m humans are easy enough to catch and tender enough to be a good food source for when it all goes horribly, horribly wrong.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Plan details how to get 1m humans to Mars

          oh you mean he wasn't trying to promote a race of "little green men"?

          either that or just send a lot of people below average height, perhaps from the set of the latest 'Oz' film.

          /me grabs coat

      2. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: Plan details how to get 1m humans to Mars

        1M-tall humans usually weigh less than 2M-tall humans, thus saving on fuel (and bed linen)!

        I dunno about that.. Going by one of my family members, back when he was 1M tall he went through a hell of a lot of bed linen!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Plan details how to get 1m humans to Mars

      you want to populate Mars with small kids?!?

      Well, yes, because when they're large they're called adults (except when they're called Donald Trump) so small kids it is.

    3. Pedigree-Pete
      Mushroom

      Re: Plan details how to get 1m humans to Mars

      RE: Kids on Mars. They can't be bigger than Marvin. He has a height complex and an illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator. PP

  16. Mage Silver badge
    Alien

    So many flaws

    Sending "ships" back is stupid. Better and cheaper to make more and use them as ready-to-use materials at destination.

    However the very idea is arrogant, elitist, unpractical.

    We need to make fairer (the USA, less than 13% of world population, consume 75% resources) and better use of this planet rather than trying to colonise a totally unsuitable one, with an elite of less than 0.0001%, probably more likely 0.0000001% of people.

    1. Mark Dempster

      Re: So many flaws

      >We need to make fairer (the USA, less than 13% of world population, consume 75% resources) and better use of this planet rather than trying to colonise a totally unsuitable one, with an elite of less than 0.0001%, probably more likely 0.0000001% of people.<

      There's no reason to believe that these people will be the 'elite'; they'd be giving up very comfortable conditions on Earth for a lifetime of hardship, after all. But the point you're missing is that Musk is talking about protection against an extinction-level event; massive asteroid impact, global nuclear war, or whatever. No matter how nice you make Earth before such an event, it doesn't help; the only chance of survival is simply not being there.

      But that does assume that the Mars colony reaches a point where they're no longer reliant on resupply from Earth, of course...

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: So many flaws

      > However the very idea is arrogant, elitist, unpractical. We need to make fairer (the USA, less than 13% of world population, consume 75% resources) and better use of this planet

      We could do that (and indeed Musk puts effort into reducing the resource and environmental cost of terrestrial transport - Tesla, Gigafactory for batteries, and Hyperloop). But it'll be for nowt if a huge damned asteroid hits our planet.

    3. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: So many flaws

      (the USA, less than 13% of world population, consume 75% resources)

      The USA has 4% of the global population and uses 25% of current global resource production.

      Please, if you're going to make stupid arguments at least attempt to get some simple facts right.

    4. Patrician

      Re: So many flaws

      And if a bloody great space rock hits your "fairer" Earth? If the human race didn't expand to other planets in the Solar System it would stand a chance of becoming extinct at that point.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        Re: So many flaws

        My guess is with the money we'd spend on this scheme, to save a tiny fraction of the population, we could build a system to detect and deflect asteroids that would save all of it.

        That's the problem with these schemes. By plowing money into going to Mars instead of averting global catastrophe, you're implicitly saying six billion people's lives are expendable as long as a few thousand survive somewhere else.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: So many flaws

          My guess is with the money we'd spend on this scheme, to save a tiny fraction of the population, we could build a system to detect and deflect asteroids that would save all of it.

          Surely some of the technologies would be the same though? To be able to divert an asteroid we need to get the tools to it in time, and reliably so.

    5. Brangdon

      Re: Sending "ships" back is stupid.

      The ships are horribly expensive. They have to be, to be large enough for the job. However, they are reusable, so the cost of bringing them back is essentially the cost of the fuel. Hence it is much cheaper to bring them back than to leave them there.

      It also means the people sent to Mars don't have to die there. It can be a return trip. That will encourage more people to go.

  17. Jungleland

    Be careful what you wish for

    No one would have believed in the last years of the 21st century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

    1. Trollslayer Silver badge

      Re: Be careful what you wish for

      "Weeeooooo weeeooooo", cue Richard Burton.

    2. Michael Hoffmann

      Re: Be careful what you wish for

      What hogwash!

      The chances of anything coming from Mars, are a million to one, I say!

      1. Richard 81

        Re: Be careful what you wish for

        But everyone knows that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Be careful what you wish for

          But everyone knows that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.

          I love your take on statistics :)

  18. JRW

    One Way Trip

    The trip there would mess people up enough. The return trip would likely finish them off. It makes no sense to bring the ship or people back - the resources involved would be massive. If we were to ever colonise Mars it only makes sense as a one way trip.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: One Way Trip

      The trip there would mess people up enough.

      How/Why?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: One Way Trip

        Radiation on a trip to Mars (outside of the Earth's magnetic influence which largely protects astronauts in Earth orbit) is likely to do you some damage, in addition to known effects of living in micro gravity. The trouble with shielding is that it is heavy. However, the scaling laws that govern surface area (your shielding facing the sun, a square power) against volume (where the crew reside, a cube power) mean that bigger ships with more crew would be best.

        Potentially, shielding could be the drinking water for (and later, waste products of) the crew. Some very early research has also been done in generating artificial magnetic shields - though I stress *very early*.

        1. israel_hands

          Re: One Way Trip

          There are various ways to provide spin which can drastically reduce the effects of micro-G (also, any time under thrust) and as for radiation damage, as you noted you can use water as a very effective shield (as a bonus it's got an acceptable mass and has other uses) and even if you need something more substantial, you only need to shield the crew compartment, not the entire frame + payload + fuel tanks.

          I don't think an (optimal) 80 days under those conditions would be unbearable, especially if you selected colonists with appropriate psychological profiles (and given the nature of the mission waiting at the end of the trip you'd be fucking mental not to).

        2. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: One Way Trip

          Radiation on a trip to Mars (outside of the Earth's magnetic influence which largely protects astronauts in Earth orbit) is likely to do you some damage, in addition to known effects of living in micro gravity.

          I've heard talk about water being used for shielding. Had forgotten about gravity issues (though if you send a couple of politicians that won't be an issue! :) )

          I had the feeling the OP meant something else but ICBW.

        3. Brangdon

          Re: One Way Trip

          The journey time is around 3 months. That's short enough for microgravity not to be a big issue (people have stayed on ISS for over a year). Radiation comes from two sources. General background radiation is weak enough that some shielding will suffice for the short flight duration. Solar events are stronger, but can be shielded by orienting the engines and propellant tanks etc between the Sun and the passengers. Their chances of cancer will probably increase by a few percent.

  19. GrumpyOldBloke

    From a pollution point of view his idea needs more work. Perhaps an environmentally friendly way of getting into orbit might be his first task if he plans on moving a million people.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Hence Musk's work on reducing the pollution costs of terrestrial transport - the Hyperloop train using far less energy than an aeroplane yet gets there faster (for some distances, due to its faster acceleration), his battery Gigafactory (which he's said he will open source in time) to reduce the cost of batteries, and Tesla to help popularise electric cars.

    2. 's water music Silver badge
      Joke

      From a pollution point of view his idea needs more work. Perhaps an environmentally friendly way of getting into orbit might be his first task if he plans on moving a million people.

      Zipwire FTW

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Or indeed an urban network of smoothly concreted walkways, so people can scoot or skateboard efficiently in all weathers, whilst enjoying themselves and keeping fit (thus reducing medical costs as a bonus).

        Changes in working patterns (see: autonomous technology) would play a part - if people have more free time they will be in less of a hurry to get places, and might choose to walk (and smell the flowers) instead of drive a car). What Bertrand Russel called 'Active Leisure' is good for the mind, body and soul.

  20. DrXym Silver badge

    Perspective

    SpaceX has spent 5 years producing a version of their Dragon capsule capable of shuttling a handful of astronauts to the ISS. This will be an important milestone when it is completed but it demonstrates how unrealistic it would be to think a manned trip to Mars could be achieved in a decade. Let alone 100 people strapped to an enormous rocket.

    1. Richard 81

      Re: Perspective

      Well, humanity went from first man in space to first man on the moon in just eight years, so it's not impossible. Granted, there was a bit more drive back then, but if a big moneybags like Musk has the will then there are enough boffins that can give him the way.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Perspective

        "Well, humanity went from first man in space to first man on the moon in just eight years, so it's not impossible."

        It was also incredibly expensive and required hundreds of thousands of people. A Mars trip will be a project that's one or two orders of magnitude bigger of a project. The board at the Power Trust was willing to support D.D. Harriman in putting the first person on the moon, but wanted details on how he was going to make it pay on a long term basis. If I were an investor of SpaceX, I'd want to know how a trip to Mars was going to be financially justified or even just financed. Elon can't print money like the US government can.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only 1 million?

    I'm sure you'd find more than that who are trying to escape the Oragu-trump.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Only 1 million?

      It would be much cheaper to send him by himself. He's been unhappy to discover that the president has checks on his power, that it isn't unlimited like when he was CEO of the family business. On Mars he can have unlimited power over an entire planet - that ought to appeal to his ego!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Only 1 million?

        It would be much cheaper to send him by himself. He's been unhappy to discover that the president has checks on his power, that it isn't unlimited like when he was CEO of the family business. On Mars he can have unlimited power over an entire planet - that ought to appeal to his ego!

        Hmm, I don't know. Can we handle a war with mightily pissed off Martians?

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Only 1 million?

          Hmm, I don't know. Can we handle a war with mightily pissed off Martians?

          Don't worry, we'll build a wall around the Earth and make Venus pay for it.

        2. Captain DaFt

          Re: Only 1 million?

          "Hmm, I don't know. Can we handle a war with mightily pissed off Martians?"

          So you're saying that fossilized bacteria will reanimate and crash evolve into interplanetary warriors if we send Trump to Mars?

          Geez, he's bad, but not quite that bad... I hope!

      2. IT Poser

        Re: Only 1 million?

        It would be much cheaper to send him by himself.

        While I'm not one to be overly concerned with planetary protection that is far too much contamination risk.

  22. tfb Silver badge
    Boffin

    Carbon

    I wonder what the carbon cost of sending a million people to Mars is? This is a serious question: I don't have a real feeling as to what the answer is, and it obviously depends on the fuel you choose and how much of it is burnt in the atmosphere, and how little mass you can afford to lift as well as the people. (A hydrogen/oxygen rocket which uses solar or nuclear electricity to crack the water is, I guess, carbon-neutral in theory).

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Carbon

      There are other areas of human industry that use a lot of fossil fuels in a very polluting form - cargo ships, for example, use fairly dirty fractions of oil. Technologies exist that can reduce pollution from these sources.

      1. tfb Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Carbon

        Technologies don't exist, in fact, or not in a usable form: if they did then global warming would be a non-problem (and let's just ignore the denialists).

        As an example, consider something like Apollo. Let's assume the whole first stage is burnt in the atmosphere: the fuel and oxidizer load of an S-IC is about 2,000 tonnes, and about 7/10 of this ends up as CO2 (based on C12H24 + 18O2 -> 12CO2 + 12H2O and using atomic masses of 1, 12, 16 for H, C, O). So about 1,400 tonnes of CO2 ends up in the atmosphere. I will gratuitously round that up to 1,500 tonnes because now I can divide by 3 and get 500 tonnes per person (also the load is a little more than 2,000 tonnes in fact).

        So, for a million people this is 5E8 tonnes of CO2. This is about 10% of the annual emissions of the US, or rather more than the whole annual emission from the UK. So this is bad, but not catastrophic.

        I don't know how much better you can do than an S-IC: the obvious trick, as I said in a previous comment is to burn hydrogen and oxygen and crack those with solar power, but I am not sure if such a thing is viable as a first stage.

        1. IGnatius T Foobar

          Re: Carbon

          global warming would be a non-problem (and let's just ignore the denialists)

          That's like saying "we are assuming the Earth is flat, because it is (and let's just ignore the denialists)"

          1. tfb Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: Carbon

            Fuck off, why don't you?

    2. Mikel

      Re: Carbon

      I don't know if you heard, but Musk is pretty big on carbon reduction. No doubt he has a plan to compensate.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Carbon

        tfb misunderstood me. I meant that there are alternatives to burning low grade dirty oil to power container ships, such as less dirty oil, solar and wind. I wasn't saying that there are alternatives to using rocketry to get to orbit.

        Someone crunched the numbers, and the carbon emissions of terestial transport are many, many orders of magnitude greater than those of rocketry.

        If tfb wants to push his point, he's free to show his numbers and his working.

      2. Alan W. Rateliff, II
        Joke

        Re: Carbon

        I don't know if you heard, but Musk is pretty big on carbon reduction. No doubt he has a plan to compensate.

        The purchase of carbon credits alone would jump-start the global economy.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Carbon

          "The purchase of carbon credits alone would jump-start the global economy."

          Elon is going to have a bunch of extra carbon credits as other auto manufacturers in the US are going to be purchasing far fewer from Tesla as they release their own electric cars and can offset the huge SUV's that they make the best margin on.

    3. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Carbon

      Does someone about to parachute out the emergency door care if they depressurize the airplane in the process?

  23. Kiwi Silver badge
    WTF?

    Wonder....

    How much pollution will be created by all this?

    I am happy for people to be making an attempt to colonize Mars, and hope to see Man stretch his legs across the stars, but what will the pollution cost be?

    Especially for his "25 minutes to anywhere on earth" delivery service.

    Didn't he get pissed at some dude who walked out on some anti-pollution yabfest or something? Nothing hypocritical in that?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Wonder....

      See above.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Wonder....

      Sending a million people to Mars might be the trigger for life on Earth to become unsustainable - a self fulfilling prophecy!

  24. TRT Silver badge

    That diagram reminds me...

    of a Dalek cutaway diagram for some reason.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Methane can be made on Mars

    Sounds like they'd be better off sending a branch of Chipotle rather than a Pizza Hut.

    1. Alan W. Rateliff, II

      Re: Methane can be made on Mars

      Sounds like they'd be better off sending a branch of Chipotle rather than a Pizza Hut.

      Does it matter which?

      http://greatideas.people.com/2015/02/18/chipotle-menu-items-calories-fat-unhealthy/

      But then, from where would Chipotle obtain its locally-sourced ingredients? With the market cornered on bugallo, the Wongs would likely cause Chipotle to be out of the price range of the average worker.

      1. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

        Re: Methane can be made on Mars

        I think the joke was missed, might've been on a SpaceX flight.

        But for maximum efficiency, I suggest Taco Bell. Where the Pu is not plutonium!

  26. Simon Harris Silver badge
    Coat

    Creating fuel on Mars.

    I don't think it's very likely they'll produce enough fuel to launch a ship for the return journey...

    They must have looked into the chances of anything coming from Mars.

    Mine's the one with the complete works of H.G. Wells in the pocket ------>

  27. IGnatius T Foobar
    FAIL

    Another taxpayer-funded Ponzi scheme

    Thanks Elon, now go get it funded without spending taxpayer dollars.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Another taxpayer-funded Ponzi scheme

      Musk will soon be saving US tax payers money by undercutting United Launch Alliance, who currently get US hardware into space for about $400 million per launch - though the contract with ULA was drafted so to make comparisons difficult.

  28. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    Trip Advisor Review

    After a long journey, my companions and I were ready for a meal, so we visited the Red Planet Pizzeria. Service was good, and food excellent. Not much atmosphere though.

  29. sisk Silver badge

    10 years? Normally I'm optimistic about Musk's projects, but I think the necessary radiation shielding for a viable, long term Mars colony is more than 10 years out. And then we need to figure out a way to grow enough food for a million people there. Sure, you've got free fertilizer a la Matt Damon once you get rolling, but that's going to take some time to build up the levels you're going to need.

    Sadly the rocket to get people to Mars en masse is nowhere near the only technical challenge here.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      The shielding is largely governed by the square power if the radiation is largely from the sun, whilst the inhabitable crew volume is governed by the cube power. This means that for a bigger ship and more populated ship less mass of shielding is required per passenger.

  30. Mike Flugennock
    Alien

    Stop me if I'm wrong...

    ...but aren't there at least a dozen NASA studies from the 1970s - 1990s which at least partially suggest what Musk is suggesting here? In situ propellant/resource utilization and creation, tanking in orbit, ferry ships in "cycling" orbits, etc etc?

    I could be wrong.

  31. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    Downvote all you like but... it won't make us "more likely to survive"

    Imagine some example probabilities for a second. Just as an example.

    You have a perfectly good bus, fully serviced and no dents. With 100 people on it. It's got a 99% safety rating, and we want to make sure no one dies from a blow out, and it does not have an engine fault.

    To cover that 1%, we pack 15 people into a broken shed on wheels, with a 0.5% safety rating. Now is our "survivability" greater or less than before?

    The entire population, of people sitting in vehicles, has better chance of survival should *one* of those break. However, in total, for each individual, we have lowered the chance of survival on average (as we almost certainly will have a shed failure).

    Living on Mars, and Mars survival rating for an asteroid, IMO is much much less than on earth. So going to space would not solve the problem, mainly as Mars will be in need of help from earth for the foreseeable future (100s or 1000s of years?). Until you terraform (1000s to millions of years?) you are increasing risk, not reducing.

    (In response to those saying getting off this rock helps our survival. It helps knowledge, but not necessarily survival)

    1. Brangdon

      Re: Downvote all you like but... it won't make us "more likely to survive"

      This is not about survival of individuals, but of the whole human species. The Mars colony is more likely to be wiped out then Earth, but it's still less likely that both will be wiped out at the same time.

      The premise is that the Mars colony will be self-sufficient. I expect that to take over 100 years, but it's hard to see it taking more than 200 years.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Downvote all you like but... it won't make us "more likely to survive"

        "The premise is that the Mars colony will be self-sufficient. I expect that to take over 100 years, but it's hard to see it taking more than 200 years."

        We've only scratched the surface of Mars and done some cursory geology of a few select locations that were chosen in large part for the best likelihood of being able to get a lander/rover to the surface in one piece. There is water, but not a very precise estimate of how much and how it's distributed. It's already known that the chemistry could be an issue and, just like on the moon, fines and dust will be problematic due to the lack of a water cycle to help aggregate those fines and knock the sharp edges off. The moon dust is more like pulverized glass than sand and it was found to be eating away at the space suit joints and seals. The Mars regolith is much the same.

        Soil will need to be constructed to support plant life or perhaps some way to make a growing matrix such as is used in hydroponic systems where they use coconut husk. An HP set up will require the manufacture of fertilizers to supply the nutrients to the plants in the way soil bacteria does on Earth. New varieties of food plants will need to be developed that will thrive with different lighting and gravity. Initial work would be easier to do on Earth as there won't be the work budget to support many full time plant biologists on longer term studies. It's very likely that it will take a few tries to hit on varieties that work the best and shipping from Earth is only every couple of years.

  32. Bandikoto

    Methane? Forget the pizza

    Mars colonists are going to be eating a lot of beans.

  33. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Coat

    Pizza on Mars... yeah, yeah, that's cool. What about a fry shop on Venus?

  34. Dale 3

    What will they do?

    I just wonder what all those million people out there will do. Not initially, obviously, as I'm sure they will be building and sciencing and exploring and, well, populating. But after a while I'd imagine a lot of them would get terribly bored. I mean, here on Earth we can go to the beach, climb a mountain, visit beautiful and exotic locations, play golf, do gardening, whatever, literally thousands of different things we can do outdoors and in. On Mars, you're basically stuck indoors all day watching TV. Oh sure you can put on a suit and go explore the planet but it's all basically the same wherever you go and, whereas a holiday to the Namib desert might be exhilarating the first time, if that's the only holiday you can ever have you're going to get tired of it pretty quickly.

    I guess a million is a large enough group that there will be incredible diversity of people and skills, and over time they will come up with all manner of entertainment and pastimes, probably even some that cannot be done on Earth, but you're going to have to choose a million indoors-type people because most, I would think, would still occasionally enjoy being able to look out over a different landscape.

    Long term I don't worry so much. If they and succeeding generations make it, they could in time build huge structures to contain enough of an atmosphere to replicate some of the outdoor activities we take for granted, but I doubt that could happen for several decades at least. It's those first few decades before you can get the big stuff in place, that I wonder about.

    1. Carpet Deal 'em
      Holmes

      Re: What will they do?

      There are plenty of outdoor activities that can be done indoors with a little effort(or money, rather), so not being able to leave the building won't be as big a problem as it sounds at first blush. You'd likely need to shrink things like sportsfields, but we already have indoor variants of both footballs. If you bring grass seed along with UV lights, you can even have something resembling a park.

      That said, at some point "self sustaining" is going to include maintaining the population without without bumming people off earth - and history has shown that boredom is an excellent population increaser.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: What will they do?

        Both footballs?

        You mean both blow and table? Or Aussie & Canadian?

  35. IT Poser

    Real story is coming

    As others have noted this is just a re-release of last year's presentation. Rumor(Well Musk did twit that it is coming but I stubbornly refuse to use twitter as a source) is that Mars Plan V2 is coming out soon.

    1. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

      Re: Real story is coming

      and he'll keep "re-using" it to generate hype for as long as it works-he gets credit for "designs" and "plans" as if he's already completed them.

      Sure odds are better with Musk than many others, but FFS save the champagne cork popping till AFTER actual hardware has been flown?

      Cuz if "save the humans" comes off as proportionally late as the Model X and Model 3, there won't BE a million humans left to put on Mars anyway. Kinda hard to launch after the asteroid hits and not very effective.

      Will the nerdy pigtail girl and the huge guy with metal teeth be allowed in this New Corporate Utopia?

  36. Rattus Rattus

    That's basically the exact same plan

    as I used in Kerbal Space Program to put a crew on Laythe and bring them home again.

  37. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

    straight outta Dystopian Future Sci Fi

    an entire colony world where *everything* including water, air and heat, is solely available from The Company Store.

    Didn't I just watch a new Dr. Who episode about hypercapitalists and corporate control over life-necessary resources?

  38. MachDiamond Silver badge

    A few hurdles

    Getting a group of people to Mars hale and healthy will be a bigger achievement than coming up with a way to liberate Oxygen and make fuel in-situ. The human body deteriorates when in zero G for extended periods of time. When ISS astronauts return, they spend a long time getting back into shape even though they work out while they are in space. A person on a Mars mission is going to have to hit the ground running from day one with no on-site support staff to help them with health issues. If things don't go exactly to plan, broken bones, death of some of the crew or other health problems, the healthiest of complement are going to have to work even harder.

    Mental health will be an issue as well. For anybody that has seen an Apollo moon capsule in person knows just how tiny they are. A Mars crew capsule will have to be bigger, but the space will still be less than a budget New York apartment. With no way to avoid crew mates, the team better be highly compatible. NASA has studiously avoided confronting the inevitability of sex among space travelers, but they will have to sort that out before a Mars expedition. Is it best to send couples? Married? A "pan-mixia"? or a single sex crew? Pregnancy and children better be addressed. It's not known if a child will develop properly in 1/3 G. Mice/rats and other studies can provide some insight, but nothing will be known conclusively until the final human trial and it could have a sad outcome that needs to be anticipated.

    People will be the biggest challenge in a Mars Mission and a small base on the Moon first will teach us a lot about how many assumptions are being made in both hardware and meat-space with a good possibility of returning a crew to Earth on short notice or being able to send needed supplies quickly.

  39. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Zis not nuts...

    "Zis is super nuts!"

    Oh well, they'll find out...

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