Space Policy

Elon Musk has said we can land a man on Mars by 2025

I believe that.  I believe it would also be largely a waste of money.  

I have already made the case that sending a man or series of men like we did with Apollo would be impressive and certainly would be attention grabbing. However, it would get us virtually nowhere to our goal and likely delay significantly our eventual colonization of Mars which is Elon Musk’s stated goal. 

Maybe this is what we end up doing.  I think there is a great desire to just do it.  Get there soon. Be the first.  Maybe in doing so it will somehow convince some people who otherwise wouldn’t agree that building a colony is good or viable.  

I would personally hate if we did this.  Besides the waste of money and time it would convince taxpayers and others that the space program is nothing more than an ego boost. I think we can get an ego boost for less than 100 billion dollars.  

Another approach that Elon may be thinking about is to send humans soon but instead of using robots use humans physically themselves  to do the work of establishing our base. 

I think this approach is really unbelievably risky and expensive.  Supporting humans in space or Mars will drive up the costs by a huge factor.  

Humans need super safety so everything  has to be tested and planned 10 times more than for robots.  We need to bring all their supplies and the equipment and tools for human. survival right away.   This is also incredibly expensive. 

There is enormous risk the humans can’t do much when they get there because the right tools aren’t there.  They will spend enormous amounts of time doing things related to keeping themselves alive.  

If we learn anything we may end up losing them all.  If we find something that could be useful we didn’t plan for it will take years to get them the equipment and supplies to do it.  What are they going to do for the years they are sitting there absorbing radiation? 

I personally find the human desire to be the center of attention unnecessary and incredibly wasteful.   I want humans on Mars in a colony as much as anyone.  I simply recognize that doing it too soon is simply  impractical,  dangerous and extremely costly.   

All that means that sending humans too soon risks the whole endeavor.   The US and whoever is funding this will lose patience if it ends up costing too much or too many people die it will be dismissed as a crazy idea and we may not go for 100 years again.  

The question is can Americans be convinced to fund billions and billions of dollars for a robotic program for an extended time.  Will we get the thrill of accomplishment and see the objectives being achieved by demonstrating our ability to deploy systems that operate largely autonomously and explore for us virtually?  

We could make the experience far more compelling.  For instance, if we have a high speed data network to Mars which would be extremely cheap to build and deploy GPS satellites (also cheap).  We could outfit rovers and robots with hidef VR (virtual reality 4K) 3D level cameras that when the data is delivered back to the world (4-10minutes minimum delay) would give people en masse the ability to explore Mars as if they were there. 

With 3D virtual reality every person could be part of the rovers, on them traversing the terrain and seeing back and forward up and down.  Such an experience would bring home space travel much more than the Apollo craft did to Everyman.  

We all experience the space missions from afar.  Some of us have a bigger vision and appreciate the technology challenges as well as the meaning in the larger sense for man. However a lot of people don’t get it.  

Everyone can appreciate actually being there via such a VR experience.   

Eventually as we correlate GPS coordinates with video and put together the maps one could literally put a “Google Mars” together so that you could bring up on any mapping program Mars and point and see what’s there and explore as if you were personally on Mars in a spacesuit.  

This kind of experience is so visceral and compelling I can’t believe it wouldn’t be awe inspiring and interest many in exploring it themselves.  We don’t have to put a man there ourselves and see pics of another person experiencing this.  We can all participate.  

Doing this is vastly cheaper than sending a human to Mars initially.  It also wouldn’t waste any money because this is something we would need to explore and learn how to eventually colonize Mars.  Our robots can do this work at 1/10-1/100th the cost of trying to send a human too soon to Mars. 

2025 is 9 years from now and is a long time.  You may ask can’t we do the robot program in 9 years?  Possibly if we really punched it right now we could be there and ready for real colonists to occupy Mars.  However, my program calls for at least 10 years from 2020.  That means 2030 is the first realistic date I have for getting a colony established.  

In the intervening 14 years we are in a big preparation phase.  As I’ve mentioned in the 10 steps to Mars outline there is a lot of stuff we have to do to be prepared.  

We could dissect every piece of my plan and figure out how to do this or that later and push to get colonists there sooner.  It’s possible but it entails greater risks and more resupply missions sooner for humans.   

I believe that we should be certain that when we send humans we are at almost zero risk of them needing to come back soon and that we are on a clear bootstrapping process not a maintenance process that leaves the Earth perpetually having to supply the colony with the majority of its supplies.  
I am not sure exactly where to draw the line and possibly such a line can be drawn before 2030 but 2025 is extremely aggressive and I don’t believe it is wise or doable.  I think 2030 is pushing the limits of practical. 

Elon Musk is famous for setting aggressive dates and missing them.  However in the end he achieves his goals usually with spectacular results.  This 2025 goal may simply be an exercise in setting people up for a hard goal to push us to move fast.  He may not believe himself 2025 is achievable.  

I will think about my plan and adjust it a little to be more aggressive and see if I can come up with a date sooner than 2030 that still meets my objectives.  

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