The prospects of colonizing Mars

  • Obviously technology will improve, and must improve or we would have colonized off world places more often already. However, once we start to pull new technologies out of a hat,

    I have not pulled any technologies out of a hat. I avoided doing that in the above analysis. I have not speculated much and not proposed anything that is physically impossible. Everything I cite has been proposed and discussed in detail by experts at places like NASA. Other than cold fusoin, most of what I discuss is a straightforward extrapolation of existing technology. The space elevator is a good example. It cannot be made now, but it is within reach. It violates no laws of physics.


    Conditions on Mars are now known in great detail thanks to the Martian explorer robots. The weather there and the hazards are well understood. We know that people can survive in space, because they have -- in the space station. We know that robots can "withstand a large temperature interval, it must be impervious to dust and various kinds of radiation" because they do that already, in space telescopes and on Mars. The make-up of asteroids is less well known, but we know that they have a great deal of precious materials, and we know approximately how many there are.


    We know that mining in 20 years or 50 years will be almost all be done by robots, because it is already, in first-world mines. The trucks drive themselves. The excavators are mostly automatic and they take only one person, replacing hundreds of people.


    People won't probably be beamed to Mars, etc, but maybe they will. (Star Trek used beaming people to places as a device to eliminate television

    Obviously that is impossible as far as anyone knows. Nothing like it on any scale has been accomplished, unless you count quantum cryptography and spooky action at a distance. Which, I suppose you might count, but the scale is different.


    I did not include antigravity in the discussion. If we had it, LEO access and planetary exploration would be a cinch. We could do it on an industrial scale in ten years! It would be great, but as far as I know antigravity machines are impossible.


    I find discussion like this more interesting when you stick to known technology and near-term extrapolation. I do not even bet heavily on helium-3, because the experts dispute how much there is available on the moon, and how well a helium-3 reactor might work. Many of them say it is promising, so it should be noted.


    Okay, I did let myself go, here:


    "If you could assemble elements, it would be nifty to build a Dyson sphere, capture solar wind, transmute it, and use it to assemble entire planets. That's thinking big! That would be a handy material to make the sphere itself out of, since it happens to be headed out in all directions anyway."


    Ya' gotta love Dyson spheres! Every solar system should have one.

  • Well mass, velocity and inertia haven't gone out of style.

    Voyager 2 popped through the asteroid belt from Earth in something like 80 days, was moving at something like 55000 km/hr, but was quite small and light (720 kg) compared to a decent sized (worth getting) nickel-iron asteroid, and had no means to slow down, stop, and turn around (two out of three of which need to happen on both ends in order to deliver an asteroid).

    True that a lump of metal-rock can be pushed around a lot harder without breaking it, but a lot more pushing is needed to move it and 'stop' it effectively also.


    There must be a cool spreadsheet or graphic display somewhere that lets one fiddle with the parameters to see what would be required in terms of time, energy, accelerating and decelerating, etc. for moving heavy objects from one place to another in the solar system.

  • Well mass, velocity and inertia haven't gone out of style.

    Voyager 2 popped through the asteroid belt from Earth in something like 80 days, was moving at something like 55000 km/hr, but was quite small and light (720 kg) compared to a decent sized (worth getting) nickel-iron asteroid, and had no means to slow down, stop, and turn around (two out of three of which need to happen on both ends in order to deliver an asteroid).


    I wasn't suggesting that a massive object such as an entire asteroid might be propelled at 1 G, or 20 G. I meant space ships. That would take much less energy than propelling an entire asteroid. I do not suppose they would be in a hurry to deliver an asteroid for processing. It could take months or years. Actually, I suppose the processing will be done on site, and only the precious metals or nickel iron steel delivered. You would leave the rest behind.


    Perhaps thousands of years from now people will have the ability to propel massive objects such as asteroids at 1 G continuously. I cannot imagine how! Perhaps with anti-matter? I suppose that would also give people the ability to send manned missions to nearby stars. I believe you could reach Alpha Centauri in about 5 years at that acceleration (5 years for the passengers). I do not think fission or fusion rockets with conventional propellant such as hydrogen could operate continuously for 5 years. The mass of propellant is too large. But I think they could operate for interplanetary distances and times.


    Someone posted a handy table of interplanetary travel time at 1 G:


    Not assuming any time taken for orbital maneuvering, turning halfway 180° to decelerate, assuming closest distance of planets (and Luna) to the Earth, and not accounting for fuel burn (i.e. literal constant 1g acceleration):

    • The Moon / Luna:
      Closest to Earth: 356,577 km
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, no deceleration): 2h 22m 12s
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, decelerating halfway): 3h 20m 24s
    • Mercury:
      Closest to Earth: 77.3 million km
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, no deceleration): 1d 10h 52m 48s
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, decelerating halfway): 2d 1h 19m 12s
    • Venus:
      Closest to Earth: 40 million km
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, no deceleration): 1d 1h 5m 2s
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, decelerating halfway): 1d 11h 28m 48s
    • Mars:
      Closest to Earth: 65 million km
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, no deceleration): 1d 7h 58m 5s
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, decelerating halfway): 1d 21h 13m 1s
    • Jupiter:
      Closest to Earth: 588 million km
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, no deceleration): 4d 0h 11m 2s
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, decelerating halfway): 5d 16h 2m 2s
    • Saturn:
      Closest to Earth: 1.2 billion km
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, no deceleration): 5d 17h 25m 1s
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, decelerating halfway): 8d 2h 20m 24s
    • Uranus:
      Closest to Earth: 2.57 billion km
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, no deceleration): 8d 9h 6m 0s
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, decelerating halfway): 11d 20h 24m 0s
    • Neptune:
      Closest to Earth: 4.3 billion km
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, no deceleration): 10d 20h 7m 48s
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, decelerating halfway): 15d 7h 52m 48s
    • Pluto:
      Closest to Earth: 4.28 billion km
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, no deceleration): 10d 19h 31m 12s
      Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, decelerating halfway): 15d 7h 1m 12s

    https://space.stackexchange.co…ast-will-1g-get-you-there

  • That's how people respond to science and innovation these days. The only real progress we see is at places like Google, in a narrow range of immediate use engineering such as AI and self-driving cars. Nothing really far out or risky. Self-driving cars are thanks to DARPA in any case. That is why cold fusion was crushed in the cradle. As Schwinger said, this sort of thing will be the death of science.

    I agree, and it is reported by some.

    Today, beside some crazy tycoon like Musk (or in a way Gates, he is disruptive for the charity mindset, I don't even want to discuss it here as it would launch fire), most of money is managed by managers.

    This is the position of Faycal Hafied in SuperCroissance

    (translated)


    in this comment they report it that way:

    Quote

    "secular stagnation is the measure of our ignorance" and "the new frontier of our risk aversion. After showing the benefits of serendipity -"birth of new inventions through chance and contingency. - he criticizes the institutional and intellectual headwinds of growth, such as the overabundance of regulations.

    This interview is more radical and blame "managers" for not investing in risky innovation.

    Quote

    You identify another brake on growth: the " chilly capital ". What is it about ?


    As I explain in my book, capital has never been so abundant in the world. This is largely due to the aging of our Western societies, which results in massive savings storage. The problem is that all this money does not come to finance the "radical innovations", which are very greedy in capital but also very uncertain. Because of the Basel regulations , banks and insurance companies are encouraged to buy risk-free assets, including government debt, rather than finance the economy. In addition, innovative projects are often unclear to bankers, and credit scoring methods unsuitable for start-ups.


    Anyway, he states that it will change.

    If it change, all we predict on impossibility to go to mars, but also to develop GM crops anymore, to creat new airports (heard from a air company bos... he bets on Notre-Dame-Des-Landes effect), impossibility to build dams (Sivens effect), impossibility to develop new immunizations, to develop new nuclear energy, to develop LENR (you can interpret the lack of LENR research as "chilly research funding"), will collapse...

    All that would please a guy from 1900, from 1950, would be popular again... and going to mars will just be risky and feasible.


    This idea resonate with the idea of Masslow window. Clearly we are not there, and if recent history have told me, we are digging quickly to block any promethean way of mind, using high technology, regulations, social science, data intelligence... It's my daily fight today, and I'm desperate to see everyday a lost battle, and luddites fortress established everywhere there is possibility of progress.


    21stcentury waves sites tried to promote that idea, but like me with LENR, they are late

    http://21stcenturywaves.com/20…ow-for-the-new-space-age/




    one point I share with Jed is that I predict the first step of Mars colonization will be by drone and AI.

    The pilgrim fathers of mars will maybe be radical pseudo-religious groups, challenging the dominant Luddites of today, but they will probably make their war against oppression like US make war against terrorism... with drones, comfortably installed in a warmed shelter. They will maybe terraform Mars, or at least prepare the minimum infrastructure for settlement and cruise, and why not for return.

    Virtual pilgrim father...


    My position about prediction is that we should not use today's way of mind to predict mars colonisation, as when you extrapolate current mindset evolution about technology, not only we won't go to mars anymore, but our civilization will collapse . Hopefully, the collapse will be so clear (there are some weak signal about "going straight in the wall") that I expect that mindset will adapt, like some African societies abandoned traditional medicines after Ebola outbreaks, starting to burn and isolate the virus. We are still not enough in trouble to stop shooting our feet.

  • More thoughts on this --

    If you tap into the energy of the descending cars with something like a conventional electric railroad or maglev, you can use the electricity generated by the descending cars to drive the ascending cars up. The net cost is practically zero, assuming the mass of freight is the same in both directions.

    I suppose it might be many centuries before a mag-lev version is possible. That would call for a heavy track on a solid tower. The designs they are talking about now would be with sheets of material about the width of a newspaper, very thin. They would flap in the wind. Cars would climb them with friction rollers.


    With a friction roller version, perhaps you could accomplish this with something like a battery or fuel cell. It would discharge while climbing, and recharge while descending. The net energy expended would be roughly the same as on a 36,000-mile long horizontal track, with no wind resistance.


    A massive tower with mag-lev tracks would be much faster with higher traffic capacity.


    I do not think the mass of freight would be the same in both directions. At first, most of freight would go up, as planets are colonized and large space stations are built. Decades later, I suppose there would be massive heavy industry in space. That seems like a good place to put it. The rent is free, space to build factories is unlimited and rent-free, and raw materials such as steel will eventually be far cheaper and more abundant. I suppose things like automobiles, robots, steel beams and other heavy equipment will be manufactured in deep space or in geosynchronous factories and then lowered to earth, with a net positive energy balance if you can recover the energy, instead of using friction brakes. Not that we would need the energy, but why not use it if the net flow downward is in the same range as today's containership trade (1.7 billion tons per year)?


    I also predict that most field crops will be grown in space, and shipped as finished product, such as flour. This makes more sense than growing it in food factories on earth. The light is free; there is unlimited space; and you can more easily make the atmosphere CO2, which the plants prefer. Assuming we have cold fusion, the light will cost nothing to generate in a food factory on earth, but the LED lighting equipment will cost something, and it will be an engineering problem. Food factories work best with 24-hour lighting, which is what you get in geosynchronous orbit at zero cost with no equipment. Growing tomatoes or roses in space would be more difficult because they have to brought to market more quickly, although a large fraction of cut flowers sold in the U.S. today are growing in giant plant factories in Europe, and shipped on airplanes, so it might work.


    I predict that outdoor agriculture will be extinct in 50 to 100 years. It already makes no sense. Food will either be grown in food factories on the ground or in orbit. Not outdoors. The U.S. is the world's largest agricultural exporter. Number two is . . . the Netherlands, which has practically no land area, because they use indoor food factories. The potential savings in land area, water, energy and fertilizer are tremendous.


    I hope that meat is grown in vitro. That is cleaner and healthier than today's factory farm animal production, and less cruel. It takes up little space and it does not call for light, so I suppose it will be mainly on the ground.


    Space based factories are also a good place to manufacture computer chips and other products that require a vacuum and clean room. It is pretty clean in deep space! Not a lot of dust or gas.


    As I said, the concept of pollution or cleaning up mine tailings is meaningless in deep-space extraction and manufacturing. That is another reason it would be cheaper. I suppose you would set up shop on a large asteroid and then extract iron and nickel, purify it, and fabricate steel beams, engines, automobiles or whatever was called for in purchase orders from Earth or Mars. You ship the finished goods. You would keep doing that for decades or centuries until the iron is played out and the asteroid was reduced to rubble. Then you abandon it. Any toxic pollution or mine tailings would be left orbiting where they have been since the solar system formed. Perhaps if there were newly created radioactive garbage or gaseous material that might possibly reach a populated planet, it would be safer to drop the whole thing into the sun. The point is, pollution as we know it would be meaningless.


    You would not want to create massive amounts of tailings or dangerous pollution in a geosynchronous factory. You wouldn't want to accidentally drop something like 10 tons of arsenic or plutonium back on earth.


    The concept of energy efficiency and conservation would also be meaningless. It would mean something with cold fusion, because the reactors would cost money and they would wear out eventually. But if you used something like solar energy concentrated with Mylar mirrors as a blast furnace, you could easily tap gigawatts of heat at practically no cost. The mirrors would probably last for centuries. There is no dust or wind.


    Finally, the earth now has tons of dangerous radioactive waste (radwaste) from fission reactors and nuclear bomb manufacturing. People are wondering what to do with it. They are talking about building structures that will last for 10,000 years. I see no need to do this. Assume that a space elevator is constructed, and then improved, and improved, until hundreds of years from now it is a tower structure with mag-lev propulsion. Assume that it has become far more reliable than any mode of transport today; it has gone for a century without a single serious accident. At that point, you can package up the rad-waste in heavy lead-lined containers. You could probably make them so heavy they would survive falling back to earth by accident. Anyway, you ship them up the elevator. You might store them on the Moon if anyone thinks some of the radwaste might have economic value and it might be extracted someday. If people decide it is too dangerous and will never be worth anything, maybe drop it into the sun. Or bury it in a played-out asteroid mine.

  • More thoughts on this --

    I suppose it might be many centuries before a mag-lev version is possible. That would call for a heavy track on a solid tower. The designs they are talking about now would be with sheets of material about the width of a newspaper, very thin. They would flap in the wind. Cars would climb them with friction rollers.


    With a friction roller version, perhaps you could accomplish this with something like a battery or fuel cell. It would discharge while climbing, and recharge while descending. The net energy expended would be roughly the same as on a 36,000-mile long horizontal track, with no wind resistance.


    A self-supporting solid tower could theoretically be built with a carbon fiber structure. But in addition to its own weight the tower also will have to carry the major part of, if not all the weight of the mag-lev rail. The magnets and supporting structure for the rail will weigh in at several hundred kilograms per meter. Multiply this with 100 000 000 meters and you will find that the the cost and weight of the rail will be prohibitive (leaving science fiction out of the argument). The enormous weight of the rail will also increase the cost for the supporting tower to a level that on its own will make any budget snap.


    Regenerative breaking storing the energy going down would require a very heavy energy storage. An alternative is to beam the energy down to earth, This would require a very heavy laser and an elaborate aiming mechanism. The conversion efficiency would be low and an advanced cooling system would also be needed.


    So why would it be important for humans and their robots to zip around in space to the extent that you are suggesting? It depends on our ultimate goal and this is a goal that we must set up. If we don't watch out we may make ourselves superfluous. Half of the world's silicone would be turned into interconnected processors covered by the rest of the silicone turned into photovoltaic cells feeding the processors. This type of world wide web would be tended to by superintelligent mobile maintenance units, while it spends the millennia probing the meaning of 42.


    No, that is not what we want and, I imagine, never will want. May I suggest that we focus on our world wide living web. The common aspect of all members in this web is that their existence is DNA based. Thus all living entities belong to our extended family. Family members should be treated with respect and care. Why? Because it is advantageous for the web of life, and therefore we are primed to like it, it makes us feel good.


    Perhaps the natural selection made a mistake when it endowed us humans with the cognitive capacity to outcompete the rest of our DNA family. It is easy to make a mistake when you are a blind watchmaker. I chose the word "outcompete" instead of "outsmart", because outsmarting is what we are doing to ourselves when we spread all over the globe one billion at a time. The bible says: "And you, be you fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein." And I say: "Enough now!"


    Many of the human activities that are harmful to Earth are related to collection of energy to fuel our needs. Energy is the generalized food that enables our lives. Therefore it is easy to draw the conclusion that access to a limitless non-polluting energy source would be beneficial for our planet. But this would be premature. Energy is used to collect and process limited natural resources like metals and this will put other restrictions on population size and their extended extraction will cause more harm to the environment.


    In the name of survival the natural selection has made it enjoyable to eat. When something edible is within reach, gobble it up. If not immediately needed we store it as fat for a meagre day. In USA about a third of the population are carrying around an unhealthy load of fat waiting for a for a food shortage not seen in the last few generations. Mother Nature has also been very efficient in solving the problem of procreation. The drive to procreate comes in on a good second place after eating. And it is easy too, a blink of an eye may be sufficient to start to the process. The present result of this is that not only is the human population too fat, it is also too numerous.


    Let us also dedicate a thought to the unlucky ones that win jackpot on the lottery. "Half of it I spent on women, gambling and liquor, the rest I squandered." The spirit is strong but the flesh is weak. Or perhaps the spirit is weak too.


    A practically free and unlimited source of energy could be compared to a jackpot on the lottery, a thing that many could not handle in a sensible manner. They are better off to work for their money and economize with their monthly paychecks. Besides, working can be fun, I tried it for many years.


    The conclusion seems to be that humanity needs external restrictions to some of its inherent urges. When we soon are expelled from the energy paradise of fossil fuel we should turn to harvest our energy by the acre instead of by the barrel of oil or ton of coal. Turning to energy from the sun will solve many problems. It will be the ultimate distributed clean energy system. The solar energy is FREE and lasts a billion years. But the collected energy will not be free, which is a good thing since this creates meaningful jobs around the globe and also limits the energy available to individuals, curbing the human greed. Just let us hope that we will not cut down the rain forests to plant wind mills instead.

  • A self-supporting solid tower could theoretically be built with a carbon fiber structure. But in addition to its own weight the tower also will have to carry the major part of, if not all the weight of the mag-lev rail. The magnets and supporting structure for the rail will weigh in at several hundred kilograms per meter. Multiply this with 100 000 000 meters and you will find that the the cost and weight of the rail will be prohibitive (leaving science fiction out of the argument). The enormous weight of the rail will also increase the cost for the supporting tower to a level that on its own will make any budget snap.


    Or, as Arthur Clarke put it, blimps will never fly faster than the speed of sound. Yes, we know that.


    So why would it be important for humans and their robots to zip around in space to the extent that you are suggesting? It depends on our ultimate goal and this is a goal that we must set up.


    The goal is obvious to me. The goal is to increase or knowledge, power and wealth a million-fold. As I said, it is the same goal that led prehistoric people to occupy northern Europe, and to cross the Pacific ocean. It is what we do. It is why our species did not go extinct millions of years ago. The only thing we have going for us is our insatiable curiosity and our drive to make things, do things and go places no one has gone to before. All species have this drive to some extent. In college, I worked on a project measuring this exploratory behavior in guppies. But we humans do not have many other survival skills.

  • Quote

    The goal is obvious to me. The goal is to increase or knowledge, power and wealth a million-fold. As I said, it is the same goal that led prehistoric people to occupy northern Europe, and to cross the Pacific ocean. It is what we do. It is why our species did not go extinct millions of years ago. The only thing we have going for us is our insatiable curiosity and our drive to make things, do things and go places no one has gone to before. All species have this drive to some extent. In college, I worked on a project measuring this exploratory behavior in guppies. But we humans do not have many other survival skills.


    The main drive humans seem to have is for uncontrolled reproduction. And that will probably be their undoing, long before Mars is available to colonize and even if it were, how long would it take to overpopulate it also without a lot more enthusiasm than we already have for birth and population control?

  • The main drive humans seem to have is for uncontrolled reproduction. And that will probably be their undoing, long before Mars is available to colonize and even if it were, how long would it take to overpopulate it also without a lot more enthusiasm than we already have for birth and population control?

    Reproduction is not uncontrolled. The population boom is largely over. The cohort from age 0 to 20 has been stable for the last 20 years in most of the world, and elsewhere it is growing slowly. The population as whole is still increasing rapidly, but that is because older cohorts over age 40 are living longer. Once those cohorts reach natural longevity (around age 80), the population will stop growing, and it may even decline slightly. To put it another way, the birth rate in the third world, and infant mortality, are now at the same level they were in the U.S. in 1963. The health care gap and longevity gap between the first and third world is rapidly closing.


    Infant mortality is the best predictor of population growth. The lower it falls, the more children survive, and the less likely it is that parents will have many children. To reduce population growth, you must reduce infant mortality and increase education for girls. Once you accomplish that, the problem largely solves itself. It also helps to reduce poverty. Worldwide poverty has been reduced tremendously in the last 50 years, especially in the last 30 years. Extreme poverty may be extinct in another generation. This has been accompanied by increased education: over 80% of the adult population in the world is now literate. Illiteracy among people of normal intelligence will soon disappear.


    For details, see:



    More material wealth and less pollution would enhance these trends. If we had food factories capable of feeding everyone with as much food as they wanted at a much lower cost than today, and in vitro meat production, then poverty and infant mortality would decline rapidly. Granted, obesity would increase -- as it has in Mexico, China and some other countries. Also, farm employment would fall drastically. That would be a problem. It is the kind of problem we should prefer to malnutrition. Solutions always have drawbacks.


  • By The Holy Zarquon!


    That's a real BAD movie.

    BAD in the meaning of it's just a stupid Hollywood approach to MARS.

    If somebody finds that movie entertaining... Well, that depends on the preferences of each individual :-)


    Try "The Mars Mini TV-Series" by National Geographics. (YT-Link for selected countries)

    (Hint: Elon Musk has a cameo there)

    If it is not free in your country or from your TV-Provider, it's worth buying it.

    I've watched that twice.

    The intro is written by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis and tells you everything/make you feel what you can expect on Mars :-)

    (182 seconds is the smallest distance from Earth to Mars for EM-Signals. ~3 Minutes.)

  • bang99,


    Let a fantasy be a fantasy. All space adventure movies are fantasies. Some lay claim to be realistic but in fact they are pseudo-realistic and may implant false ideas in peoples mind about the possibilities of space travel and extraterrestial colonization.


    On of the hurdles waiting in space is to cope with the van Allen belts. So as a future space traveler you may be interested in reading up a bit on them: https://www.space.com/33948-van-allen-radiation-belts.html


    With radio antennas in your ears you can hear the song of the belts: