Ed Hudgins

SpaceX's Entrepreneurial Triumph!

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SpaceX's Entrepreneurial Triumph!

by Edward Hudgins

May 25, 2012 – Today SpaceXbecame the first private company to launch a spacecraft, its Dragon capsule, into orbit and berth it with the International Space Station. This is not only a triumph for Elon Musk, the company’s founder and visionary, and his team. It also is a giant step toward a future in which space is open to all humanity through the efforts of the private sector.

Space is a place, not just a government program—a place for science, research, industry, tourism, exploration, settlement, and every form of human endeavor. Yet for half a century transportation into space and most other activities has been the province of governments. The dynamism of entrepreneurs in a free market offering goods and services—the dynamism that produced the communications and information revolutions with personal computers, the Internet, and smart phones—didn’t occur. Tangles of government regulations effectively kept private providers chained to this planet.

NASA achieved a great human and technological triumph by landing astronauts on the Moon. But the price was astronomical and unsustainable. NASA’s Space Shuttle was supposed to bring the costs of access to orbit down. In fact, costs went up, with each launch consuming as much as $1 billion in taxpayer money. The station was proposed in the mid-1980s at a cost of about $8 billion with projected completion a decade later. After redesigns and downsizings, the station was only completed recently, and with a nearly $100 billion price tag.

Governments simply can’t commercialize goods and services—that is, bring costs down and quality up. Only private entrepreneurs in free markets can do that.

In the past decade even the federal government has acknowledged this. It has been eliminating many—though not all—regulatory barriers to commercial space activity. And the government has started to be a consumer of space services rather than a provider. NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program sought to contract with a private company for access to orbit. SpaceX was chosen as the supplier, and has now proven that a private company can do what it was thought only a government was capable of.

Other private firms are opening space as well. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will soon offer suborbital flights to paying customers. As private companies like SpaceX begin to offer human flights to orbit, Bigelow Aerospace will orbit private habitat modules at a fraction of the cost of the government station. In the end, there will be no need for a NASA.

Today we celebrate the achievement of SpaceX and look to the spirit of entrepreneurs to make us a spacefaring civilization!

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Hudgins is director of advocacy for The Atlas Society, which will feature SpaceX Director of Advanced Projects Steve Davis at its Atlas Summit, June 29-July 1.

For further reading:

Edward Hudgins, editor, Space: The Free-Market Frontier. Cato Institute, 2002.

Edward Hudgins, "When We Walked on the Moon." July 17, 2009.

Edward Hudgins, "The Spiritual Significance of Mars." August 12, 2003.

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Ed:

Well, well someone finally noticed this critical event wherein the private sector will establish it's conclusive efficacy over the state in the delivery of achievement and profit.

Adam

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Edward Hudgins, "The Spiritual Significance of Mars." August 12, 2003.

I read the piece. There are several problems.

1. Mars has no magnetic field so it cannot hold an atmosphere for any great length of time. Any atmosphere artificially produce will be solar blasted away. Terraforming mars is a practical impossibility.

2. We do not have proper propulsion systems and will not have them for some time. Trips to Mars take way too long with current burn and coast propulsion schemes.

3. The only profitable use for Mars is as a base camp for asteroid mining. Again we have not got the propulsion systems (yet) to sustain that operation.

On the other hand we can use the Moon profitably.

a. The Moon is a source of Helium 3. That is the only hope of achieving practical controlled fusion reactions. Any Helium 3 extracted from the Moon can be sent home in a matter of days. A trip to Mars is minimum 9 months with current propulsion

b. We can support underground habitats on the Moon from earth. The Moon is a four day trip with current burn and coast technology.

c. The Moon is a shallower gravity well than Mars. It can be used as a jump off point for further exploration

d. The Dark Side of the Moon is the best place in the Solar system for humans to construct observatories. Think of telescopes ten to one hundred size of the Hubble.

If we are going anywhere we should go to the Moon first. Eventually when we get decent propulsion systems we can go further. When we get trips to Mars down to a month or two it will be feasible to build underground habitats on Mars.

Once more. Forget terraforming Mars. As planets go it is a shit hole, The only use I can see for it is, as I have said, a base camp for asteroid mining.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Private enterprise has a long history in space exploration. The Guggenheim Foundation funded Robert Goddard. By analogy, I point out that three times as much money and as many personnel are engaged in private security, but all we hear about is the public agencies - and private agencies are ridiculed as "mall cops" in the mass media. So, too, with space exploration. The private sector made it possible, and pursuers of profits were always involved.

It was the "Germans" (ahem) i.e., the extreme governmentalists (to be more polite than they deserve) who held the attention of the US government, especially, the DoD. NASA was supposed to be a non-military agency, but of course, the from the first astronauts to the lowest engineer who speaks of being "TDY" (temporary duty) when posted to Houston from the Cape, NASA follows the military model of govern-mentality.

If anything, the famous movie, Destination Moon, based on Robert Heinlein's The Man Who Sold the Moon, spurred the government to keep industry away.

Gerard K. O'Neill's The High Frontier (Morrow Books, 1976) launched a new interest. T. A. Heppenheimer's Colonies in Space (Stackpole, 1977) demonstrated the commercial viability of books about privatization. But neither of them was the first. The American Astronautical Society published proceedings on these topics for professionals in the aerospace industry and of course for academic researchers.

But, again, by analogy, robotics saw the same sort of activity: for many years the most profitable application in robotics was the sponsoring of conferences about the coming applications in robotics. Spot-welding car bodies is just not that sexy. Yet, like aerospace technology and space exploration, the mundane applications were the launch engines.

In 1979, Loompanics hired me to write Space Colonization: an Annotated Bibliography. At that moment, Robert Truax (an engineer credited with the development of the Polaris missile for the Navy), operated an enterprise to build a "Volksrocket." Andy Griffith played the same role in a short-lived TV series, Salvage. The first episode was about a private launch ... that had to be rescued by NASA... Good old Andy of Mayberry, protecting the public at public expense, if only all cops were like him...

Speaking of "Germans" OTRAG (the Orbital Transport Aktiengesellschaft), attempted to build a launch facility in Kinshasa to compete with the "Arianne" (no kidding) of the European Space Agency, but Kinshasa was invaded by "communists" (go figure...) and OTRAG had to flee.

If you want to know the real hidden secret of space exploration, check out the Amateur Radio Relay League. The ham radio operators built several satellites that NASA launched. This isn't rocket science.

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For all you space colonization buffs consider this question. Where will the Colonists shield themselves from extreme solar radiation? We earthlings got away with it because of the strong magnetic field that surrounds our planet. On the Moon, Colonists will have to live underground most of the time. Ditto for Mars. But Mars is nine months away from earth. How will the Colonists support their lives that far away? And will a minimum of nine months exposure to cosmic rays and zero g aboard their vessel leave them in any shape to survive when they get there?

Of which speaking, the brave astronauts who spent as long as 4 days on the Moon were taking a rather large risk. If there had been a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) during their stay they could very well have been fried.

Ba'al Chatrzaf

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Well, I dunno... how about generating a strong magnetic field? ...

I am always puzzled at the hardship suffered by Columbus's crew. There they were in the middle of a bountiful ocean, hungry enough to boil their shoes. A hundred years later, the only reason for going to Canada was to see what was on the other side of the cod harvests. Beaver! You know how those Euopean men love beaver. ...

Colonization has some history going back to the Greeks. The Peloponnesian Wars started as a squabble between colonies. Koeln in Germay was founded as Colonnia Agrippina. So, oddly enough, perhaps, there were Jews in Germany before there were Germans in Germany. Today, in India, with one billion people of whom 25% speak English at home as their preferred language, more people speak English at home in India than in the USA and five times more than in England. Colonization often plays out differently than it begins.

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Well, I dunno... how about generating a strong magnetic field? ...

I am always puzzled at the hardship suffered by Columbus's crew. There they were in the middle of a bountiful ocean, hungry enough to boil their shoes. A hundred years later, the only reason for going to Canada was to see what was on the other side of the cod harvests. Beaver! You know how those Euopean men love beaver. ...

Colonization has some history going back to the Greeks. The Peloponnesian Wars started as a squabble between colonies. Koeln in Germay was founded as Colonnia Agrippina. So, oddly enough, perhaps, there were Jews in Germany before there were Germans in Germany. Today, in India, with one billion people of whom 25% speak English at home as their preferred language, more people speak English at home in India than in the USA and five times more than in England. Colonization often plays out differently than it begins.

Suffering from thirst and scurvy is easy compared to what cosmic rays and solar radiation do to the cells of the body.

Humans are not naturally equipped for long space voyages at zero - g. What the cosmic rays don't do, long term existence in zero - g finishes. It wrecks the bones. Exercises performed in flight are not sufficient for long term exposure to zero - g.

ruveyn

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Bones are over-rated.

Imagine what fish would have said 650 million years ago: Without water to support your fins, on land you would collapse, unable to move, even if you could breathe, which you cannot as the atmosphere is nearly devoid of water for your gills. Without the ocean of water to protect you, the sun will fry your scales. Plus, what would you eat? Take it from me, there is no future on the land. Stay in the ocean where life has adapted to its natural habitat.

You have no idea what the future will be like. Myself, I can only hope to have my mind downloaded into a computer and set into a spacecraft to explore the cosmos. Like being in heaven... except real.

I just posted about private space exploration to my blog and in doing the research for that, I found that the ARRL's Oscar-1 was launched in 1961 before AT&T's Telstar in 1962.

See Wikiepedia here on Space Tourism.

(Listen Tom Lehrer

on Wernher von Braun. "I Aim at the Stars" ... but I only hit London.)

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Baal – The lack of a magnetic field would not so much make an atmosphere impossible as it would expose inhabitants to radiation during severe solar storms. I defer to Robert Zubrin’s "The Case for Mars," which suggests even this problem can be dealt with.

Zubrin’s innovative mission design includes creating return fuel out of the CO2 in the Martian atmosphere—an unmanned lander can do this in advance of a manned mission—which would reduce the weight of the manned craft since most of that weigh is carrying return fuel. Zubrin’s mission would cost $25-$50 billion, a fraction of the NASA cost. Also the stays on Mars would be long—why travel that distance to plant a flag, pick up some rocks and leave in a month?—so that the Earth would be better aligned for the return mission.

And the Moon, as you rightly observe, offers a lot of promise as well.

Michael – Good overview. I have much of that in my book. Let’s hope Heinlein’s vision in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is right!

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Baal – The lack of a magnetic field would not so much make an atmosphere impossible as it would expose inhabitants to radiation during severe solar storms. I defer to Robert Zubrin's "The Case for Mars," which suggests even this problem can be dealt with.

\

You and he are both Dead Wrong. Our magnetic field is what keeps high velocity charged particle mostly blocked from getting to the surface. Without our magnetic field we would be as dead as Mars. Our atmosphere would have been solar blasted away a billion years ago.

Even so every now and again a gigantic coronal mass ejection does lots of damage. The CME of 1859 blew up batteries operating the Morse telegraph systems and made sparks jump from the telegraph wires. Several telegrapher were severely burned. In the few years following there are auroras in Mexico and the Carribean. Apparently the sun was super active around that time and our magnetic field was not sufficient to keep the charged particles at bay.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Michael – Good overview. I have much of that in my book. Let's hope Heinlein's vision in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is right!

Ah, yes.

In Space: The Free-Market Frontier, leading experts analyze how we can move from the current situation of limited access to space and truly make space a place where people can work, play, and live. This book considers how we arrived at our current situation, what signs hold the promise of a free-market future, and which policy changes might enable space to become the next free-market frontier.

I thought it was a Cato paper. I did not realize that it is a book.

Cahners Business Information © 2003

Outer space will languish as an economic vacuum until private enterprise is given its head, according to this dry and doctrinaire collection of papers from a conference sponsored by the libertarian Cato Institute. The contributors include congressmen, lawyers, business executives and an astronaut, and cover such topics as NASA's history, cheaper space travel, opportunities for and barriers to space investment and legal and property rights in space. The essays are sprinkled with sermonettes on the virtues of free markets and the evils of "central planning"; and NASA's "self-perpetuating bureaucracy." But most writers are not free-market purists; their main agenda seems to be to channel government space spending to private companies in the form of tax breaks, loan guarantees, prize competitions, lucrative NASA outsourcing contracts and other "government-private sector partnerships." A look at the proposed space businesses shows why extraterrestrial commerce still needs the booster rocket of state subsidy. There are fuzzy schemes to "expand our economy" to the Moon and asteroids and beam solar energy from space, but hopes seem to ride primarily on space tourism and gimmicks like a logo-festooned "space sail" and a lunar rover webcam; how profitable any of these ventures would be, given the expense of operating in the vast distances and inhospitable climate of space, is not discussed. Apart from the already mature satellite business, it doesn't seem like there's much to do in space that's both financially rewarding and feasible, which is why this blueprint for a capitalist cosmos looks more like a welfare program for the aerospace industry. (Jan.)

Cahner's is an interesting group of publications. Back before President Reagan signed the Berne Copyrights Agreement, I had an article for Loompanics on Soviet Computer Technology. (Nice help from the CIA on that. The Soviet Embassy suggested that I shop at some bookstores they liked in Washington DC.) A Cahner's editor for Defense Computing took the article for reprint because it did not have a © copyright mark. After some moral suasion, she sent me a check for $100.

Be that as it may, most of the books and articles I have or have read including AAS conference reports such as The Commercial Utlization of Space (May 1-3, 1967, Dallas, Texas) are pretty much as described above. Basically, if there is a market, you don't need to induce people to exploit it. Heck, drug runners use submarines and bribe whole police departments and entire armies to look the other way.

I understand fully how government intervention and monopoly supress markets. One of my favorites is an ad in a Scientific American from like 1954: "He's away from the office, but his phone is being answered!" It was for an answering machine from AT&T. In a 1960s TV show, the flashy detective Mannix had a "car phone" i.e. a cell phone. It was not until Judge Bell's Modified Final Judgment broke up ATT that we finally got all the stuff promised - and more. Ma Bell never offered me a phone that takes pictures and plays music and tells me where on Earth I am.

That last, of course, is an example of the commercialization of outer space. As Cahner's noted, the satellite business is mature. And as I pointed out on my blog the Amateur Radio Relay League launched its Oscar satellite before Bell and British Telecom launched their Telstar.

So, yes, getting the government out would be the way to open the markets. But, again, whatever we imagine is not necessarily the way it will be. No one fishing for cod off Newfoundland in 1580 could have seen what was going to unfold.

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Michael – Good overview. I have much of that in my book. Let's hope Heinlein's vision in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is right!

I assume you mean that space colonists free themselves from poilitical control from Earth, not that we have to commit crimes to get to the Moon... I look at the books by Melissa Snodgrass and Allen Steele. A certain reality sets the parameters. Distances are what they are and mining the asteroid belt seems like being alone in space, free from controls... and water and food and air... A lot has to happen first.

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Our magnetic field ... Without our magnetic field ...

As I said, and as you ignored, we can generate magnetic fields. Small ones protect space stations or planetside colonies. Maybe a big one for all of Mars. Maybe not. But to say that this is insurmountable is to say that America will never be colonized because it is 3000 miles wide and would take months to traverse or that given the world of 1850, by 1950 there will be more horses than people in New York and London.

When you define the problem completely, you suggest a solution.

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Our magnetic field ... Without our magnetic field ...

As I said, and as you ignored, we can generate magnetic fields. Small ones protect space stations or planetside colonies. Maybe a big one for all of Mars. Maybe not. But to say that this is insurmountable is to say that America will never be colonized because it is 3000 miles wide and would take months to traverse or that given the world of 1850, by 1950 there will be more horses than people in New York and London.

When you define the problem completely, you suggest a solution.

The solution starts when we give up burn and coast propulsion technology. The closest thing we have are low specific thrust electrical ion emitters which can be constructed in orbit (an ion drive will never left a heavy vessel from the ground to low orbit). Or we can figure a way to make a very big sail to use sunlight as a propulsion energy sources. Until then we are not going to be able to launch both men and the equipment to generate a sufficient magnetic field to protect against massive CMEs.

Even with we did solve the magnetic field protection problem we still do not have the means to launch a large manned vessel that can spin and generate sufficient pseudo gravity (centrifugal force, for example) to keep the bones of astronauts from turning into chalk on a year's journey to Mars. If we are going to Mars we have to get their quick, within a few months at most.

Space does not like us. We are not particularly well equipped for long journeys at zero g.

We are beings who evolved in an atmosphere well protected from the sun's nasty CME's by our magnetic field (and even that is not sufficient against really massive CMEs).

We are decades away from a propulsion system that can generate enough thrust long enough to get men to Mars in good health.

Mars is a shit-hole planet. It is too far away most of the time and there is not (at this juncture, at least) a way of using Mars to generate enough profit to pay for the development of technology. Better to learn how to settle on the Moon, which can be turned to good and profitable use. With current technology and technology that we can afford to develop in a few decades Mars is a one way suicide trip away.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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As I said, bones are over-rated. I see a race of space beings who never come down in to a gravity well. They can send robots down if they need to fetch up solids, liquids, or gases. Sure, maybe among them would be profiteers who then reengineer themselves to live in gravity and make their money by direct exploitation of Europa or Mars or Titan. Maybe they can even give themselves big balloons to float about Jupiter and Saturn. But in the main, most people will be ships, singular beings. They will be largely self-sufficient as we all really are, breathing and thinking for ourselves, but will evolve divisions of labor we can only imagine in science fiction and imagine wrongly for the most part, just as Sir Thomas More, Edward Bellamy, Alduous Huxley, George Orwell, and John Campbell all imagined futures based on their presents. The present is all we know. Most so-called historical fiction and science fiction is just mainstream fiction in dress-up.

Spinning for gravity is just silly. "Centrifugal force" motion has its uses even here and now in manufacturing and laboratories and will in space, also, for analogous applications. But as much as I liked the movies 2010 and Misson to Mars, the image of one part of a spaceship rotating while the other part is stationary is like a star ship that pulls up to a point in space and stops... relative to what? Anyway, once you spin up like that you stress stuff all over the place.

A thousand years ago, we used to go to Cedar Point amusement park and they had this whirling thing that spun you and the floor dropped away and everyone was pinned to the walls. Our gang of nerds was not nearly the first to ask if we could have the ride to ourselves. The operator heard it a thousand times from high schoolers wanting to do physics or football or both... But that's my point: why don't we use that now to train athletes, make them live in 1.1 or 1.5 g to build up their muscles for the Olympics? The answer is because we don't have kitchen utensils or plumbing for that.

So, too, with spinning in space. Once you are there, take advantage of zero-G.

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So, too, with spinning in space. Once you are there, take advantage of zero-G.

We cannot live in zero g. Our bones need gravity to hold together.

We can fake it for a while with centrifugal force, but only one thing produces gravity and that is sufficient mass.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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For the third and final time, bones are over-rated. You don't need them in zero-g.

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Our magnetic field ... Without our magnetic field ...

As I said, and as you ignored, we can generate magnetic fields. Small ones protect space stations or planetside colonies. Maybe a big one for all of Mars. Maybe not. But to say that this is insurmountable is to say that America will never be colonized because it is 3000 miles wide and would take months to traverse or that given the world of 1850, by 1950 there will be more horses than people in New York and London.

When you define the problem completely, you suggest a solution.

for all of Mars a rather large internal molten iron core is required. The core of Mars cooled and died over a billion years ago which is why it has no magnetic field. Mars has 1/3 the mass of earth so it cannot hold onto an atmosphere in the absence of a magnetic field.

The best we can do on Mars is build underground habits and generate a viable environment within these habits.

For the long term we would have to access what little water there is on Mars (most of it was solar blasted into space a billion years ago).;

Forget planetary terraforming. It cannot be done by any reasonable technology. At best we can build habitats on planet with a limited duration operating interval. The only thing that could generate enough profit for such an enterprise would be using the planet as a base camp for asteroid mining. Mars could be used as a place for building mass drivers which could send the metals back to earth to be picked up in earth orbit. (Mars is a fairly shallow gravity well).

As a -permanent- habitat for humanity, Mars is a shit hole. And unless we can ramp up to profitable operations there it is not worth our time.

Guys like Zubin really swallow that bullshit about how humanity must explore to survive. Nonsense. As long as Earth remains habitable mankind will survive. And Earth is and will remain more habitable than Mars even given our widest technological wet dreams.

If you want a place to set up off world, go to the Moon. It is closer, it can be supported from Earth and if Helium 3 works out as a feedstock for controlled nuclear fusion it can be made economically viable. It also has a military use. Whoever can build mass drivers first on the Earth Side of the Moon is in a position to throw large rocks down upon Earth from the High Ground.

Short of asteroid mining, Mars is a rather large waste of time and resources. It will never become a second home for the human race.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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"Killing the Dragons, Avoiding the Sirens"

"In olden days, before the Earth was well explored, map makers used to decorate unknown regions of their maps with various imaginative creations, not the least of which were menacing dragons that could swallow a ship whole, and delightful but equally dangerous Sirens would could lure sailors to wreck on rocky shores by the temptation of their sweet songs. The dragons may have been imaginary, but even imaginary dragons can and did prey upon the minds of would-be-voyagers, and by doing so stifled human exploration for centuries. And Sirens never did need to be real in order to be heard, and heard they were, drawing many a hopeful vneture fatally off course.

"Well, things haven't changed that much today. Today, those who hope to raise a mission to Mars find their charts filled with dragons too. Reports of horrible beasts with names such as Radiation, Zero-G, Human Factors, Dust Storms, and Back Contamination intrude into the discussion of mission plans, and do their worst to terrorize would-be mission planners, (somewhat successfully), and would-be mission sponsors (very successfully). A Siren is there, too, named Diana, the Moon Goddess, and her songs can be heard calling the Martian Mariners to divert their ships once more to a barren destination. If we're going to get to Mars, we're going to have to clear the maps. The dragons, Cyclops, and other monsters of the mind must be killed, and the Siren exposed for the fraud she is."

-Robert Zubrin, The Case For Mars

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For the third and final time, bones are over-rated. You don't need them in zero-g.

You need them when you get out of the ship and walk on solid ground.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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For the third and final time, bones are over-rated. You don't need them in zero-g.

You need them when you get out of the ship and walk on solid ground.

Ba'al Chatzaf

I guess break a leg will have a whole new meaning...and luck will not be involved in it!

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For the third and final time, bones are over-rated. You don't need them in zero-g.

You need them when you get out of the ship and walk on solid ground.

Ba'al Chatzaf

We went through this with the fish considering evolution and their role on land. See above.

To expect that we can only inhabit class-M planets around G-type stars is like saying that we can only live in Kenya. You take the most brilliant flint-knapping homo erectus of 50,000 YA and tell him that the Arctic awaits. Tell them that he can make a fortune in gold (explain that) carrying big blocks of salt (explain that) on camels across the Sahara (does not exist yet, but describe it to him - and also explain the domestication of camels...) from Timbuktu (does not exist yet) to Egypt (not yet).

All I am saying is that we have no idea what the future holds, but that we can and must pursue it. It is not folly. It is destiny. And there are strong reasons for predicting success along paths you deny. Once in space, you never need to come down into a gravity well. You can live in space as a spacer.

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Baal - Just curious. Have you read Zubrin and the decade and a half of literature since then The Case for Mars? Saw Bon yesterday but didn't get around to talking radiation exposure. I'm reviewing hos new book and we talked about that.

Ed

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Baal - Just curious. Have you read Zubrin and the decade and a half of literature since then The Case for Mars? Saw Bon yesterday but didn't get around to talking radiation exposure. I'm reviewing hos new book and we talked about that.

Ed

Yes. And I don't buy his crap. He wants an adventure paid for by someone else.

I would invest money in setting up a Moon base. I would not invest a cent in a trip to Mars with current propulsion technology. Not a penny. It is money shot out into space never to be seen again.

Mars is a shit hole and not worth our time until we have the technology to use it as a base camp for mining the asteroids.

Right now a trip to Mars is the equivalent to crossing the Pacific on a hollowed out log. And when we get to the other side we have nothing to live on.

Where is the water? Can we get to it at a price we can afford? I think not. With the moon we can ship water. It is a four day ride.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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While Zubrin wouldn’t mind NASA adopting Mars Direct as its mission, he has looked for entrepreneurs to fund such a mission from the beginning. Elon Musk is one entrepreneur who says his ultimate goal is a mission to Mars. And if the efforts of him and other entrepreneurs—see Peter Diamandis’s group aimed as mining asteroids—bring down costs, this could indeed happen in decades to come. (If any of these individuals ask me whether they should approach Ba'al Chatzaf for funding such a mission, I such, of course, tell them that they will receive a negative response!)

Mars indeed does not offer the commercial potential of the Moon, with Helium 3 for example. But the initial goal of those who want to go to Mars is not commercial. It is to explore and understand the Red Planet. And yes, ultimately settlement.

Concerning radiation, I suggest you read Zubrin’s chapter again. He shows that the danger for a long trip to Mars would be similar to a long stay on the Space Station. The greatest dangers would be from solar storms, which you point out adversely impact the Earth as well. On Mars you’d have a similar situation.

As for water, perhaps you should reacquaint yourself with the data and information from probes over the past decade that give very strong evidence of water in the regolith. See this photo, for example:

MGS_gullies_medium.gif

Oh, and pardon me but I’ve failed to conduct his exchange in the tone that you have set. So shit, crap, dagnabbit! There!

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