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Context: SpaceColonization

ElonMusk (via his company SpaceX) is pushing for humans to go to Mars.

Quora Answer : Do you share Neil deGrasse Tyson's skepticism of Elon Musk's Mars plans?

Nov 18, 2016

Yes. Of course. He's 100% right.

There is no profitable model for space exploration or Mars colonization right now. Musk is basically taking a punt with his own money as a philanthropic exercise. But even he knows that there's no way that he can afford to fund it by himself.

Musk is basically hyping up his Mars trip in the hope of recruiting orders of magnitude MORE billionaire "play money" to fund the same vision. Without that, he's not going anywhere.

Quora Answer : 2025 is Elon Musk's goal to land humans on Mars, what's your realistic view in terms of time?

Feb 8

2025 is plausible to get a ship with a human in it to Mars.

I think the chance of getting a ship with a live human in it to Mars in that time-frame is pretty low.

There are a fuck-tonne of things that can go wrong somewhere out there in the emptiness between Earth and Mars. When we send unmanned ships there, they are pretty much inert, and doing very little, during most of the voyage. But if we send a human, we have to have a bunch of very active and very busy life-support systems working correctly to ensure air and heat and food and water and light to the passengers. There's no turning back or bailing mid voyage. So all those systems need extra backups. Probably several layers of backups because you have at least 7 months out there. Which is a lot of time for things to go wrong.

Basically I'd want to be sending a few unmanned test ships, with all those life-support systems first, as a test, to demonstrate we can make things that can keep working to keep people alive during the whole trip.

Quora Answer : Do you think Elon Musk will send humans to Mars?

Sep 28, 2016


I think he's right that it's technically possible.

And I think he's genuinely committed enough to spend a tonne of his own money on trying to make it happen.

But by himself, he's orders of magnitude short of the money needed. See his current estimate of it costing 10 billion dollars per person to go to Mars. And that 10 billion per person is for a one way trip. (Update : since writing this I believe he has a much lower estimate, see comments.)

To make any kind of life worth living for potential Mars colonists you need to send around 100 people ... much fewer and we're condemning them to loneliness and inbreeding and a high risk of the colony being wiped out.

So that's a trillion dollars. (Update : less, but still a lot) Private philanthropy can't afford that. Governments can't afford that. And there's no way that the first 100 Mars colonists are going to generate enough profit to make that trillion dollars a legitimate private investment opportunity.

The numbers just don't add up.

Personally I'm sceptical that we'll ever become a space-faring species. But if we do, I think it's more likely to be after we've had a couple of hundred years of sending robots out to do the preparations for us. We'll have robot asteroid mining and space construction. And perhaps even farming on Mars. Long before we can practicably send humans there.

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