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Martian Futures, Will man really colonize the planets?
Guest_DonPMitchell_*
post Jul 16 2006, 11:39 PM
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This started out as a reply on the thread about the Bigelow Aerospace station, and why I think it may be goofy, but it is still a step in the right direction.

Space exploration is a magnet for crank science. It's nearly impossible to talk about something like intersteller propulsion and keep people on the same page as real-world physics and engineering. And it's even more difficult to talk about far-reaching ideas like colonizing planets without drifting into the realm of science fiction. But here I go anyway.

Consider the famous scenes in 2001, where a NASA official flies to a beautiful space station operated by Pan Am airlines and then on to a Lunar colony. You're looking at a simulated trillion dollar infrastructure, but why was it built? Who is using it? Who is paying for it? How does it make money? What are people doing on the Moon that is worth all this? These are issues that science fiction simply overlooks.

As in 2001, the analogy is often drawn between the airline industry and a future spaceflight industry. The difference is, on the Earth there are real destinations to fly to. There are countless social and economic reasons to travel from one populated region to another on the Earth. This is not the same as spending billions of dollars to fly to Mars, pick up a rock and return to Earth. For spaceflight to be practical and large-scale, there must be a reason, there must be a destination.

People talk about things like mining helium-3 on the Moon. Both technically and economically that's nonsense. At present, there is nothing remotely valuable enough to pay for the cost of mining and interplanetary transport. But more importantly, these ideas represents a fundamental misconception about wealth, in the sense defined by Adam Smith. Real estate is valuable because people want to live there and work there. Human activity is the true definition of wealth, and human presence is what makes a destination interesting.

Thus, colonizing space is a bootstrapping problem. it is a problem in economics, not engineering. If Mars had an atmosphere and a population, it would be of incalculable value, and people would pay to travel there and back. But how do reach that point? The technology of cheaper travel and terriforming Mars is fascinating to speculate about. I believe it could be done almost entirely with robotic technology. But that is not what blocks us from proceeding. The real problem is developing a mechanism for funding, when there is a huge return on investment but a turnaround time of centuries. You would have to create a Martian Futures Market that people have genuine confidence in -- a serious enterprise that makes steady progress, backed by corporations with proven expertise and probably at least one first-world government.

Maybe you have to engage people's territorial and competative instincts. Let's say America declared that it was going to unilaterally colonize Mars and annex it? After the obligatory student protest marches all over the world, I believe other nations might start a competing program! And then it's hard for anyone to back down. If both programs make enough progress, investors will want them to merge and cooperate eventually. It is just too expensive to duplicate the effort.
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Guest_PhilCo126_*
post Dec 24 2006, 03:15 PM
Post #2





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And:
http://www.marsproject.com/tour.htm
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Posts in this topic
- DonPMitchell   Martian Futures   Jul 16 2006, 11:39 PM
- - David   Isn't that getting ahead of the game? Coloniz...   Jul 17 2006, 01:15 AM
- - volcanopele   As David alluded to, I think that many of the same...   Jul 17 2006, 02:00 AM
|- - Stephen   QUOTE (volcanopele @ Jul 17 2006, 02:00 A...   Jul 17 2006, 12:33 PM
- - dvandorn   Everyone is making good points, here. Don, you...   Jul 17 2006, 03:52 AM
- - hendric   Tourism is a viable enterprise for many locations ...   Jul 17 2006, 04:10 AM
|- - Stephen   QUOTE (hendric @ Jul 17 2006, 04:10 AM) T...   Jul 18 2006, 07:54 AM
|- - David   QUOTE (Stephen @ Jul 18 2006, 07:54 AM) T...   Jul 18 2006, 05:12 PM
|- - climber   QUOTE (David @ Jul 18 2006, 07:12 PM) How...   Jul 18 2006, 05:34 PM
|- - Stephen   QUOTE (David @ Jul 18 2006, 05:12 PM) How...   Jul 19 2006, 01:18 AM
||- - climber   QUOTE (Stephen @ Jul 19 2006, 03:18 AM) I...   Jul 19 2006, 07:01 AM
|- - climber   QUOTE (David @ Jul 18 2006, 07:12 PM) The...   Jul 19 2006, 11:50 AM
- - hendric   dvandorn, I dunno. There are so many resources ...   Jul 17 2006, 04:18 AM
- - DonPMitchell   I think the science of colonizing Mars is pretty s...   Jul 17 2006, 09:39 AM
- - Stephen   QUOTE (DonPMitchell @ Jul 16 2006, 11:39 ...   Jul 17 2006, 11:19 AM
- - Stephen   A few stray thoughts on Martian colonisation and i...   Jul 17 2006, 11:39 AM
- - DonPMitchell   It is not a foregone conclusion that mankind will ...   Jul 17 2006, 06:05 PM
|- - Marz   QUOTE (DonPMitchell @ Jul 17 2006, 01:05 ...   Jul 17 2006, 09:38 PM
|- - Bob Shaw   Oh, where to begin? There *are* motivations other...   Jul 17 2006, 09:48 PM
- - Toma B   We will never live on Mars...sadly but that's ...   Jul 18 2006, 06:36 AM
|- - djellison   B)-->QUOTE(Toma B @ Jul 18 2006, 07:36 AM...   Jul 18 2006, 06:52 AM
- - DonPMitchell   You might see tourist trade for low Earth orbit, i...   Jul 18 2006, 08:11 AM
- - djellison   Something like the deployed area of the ISS array ...   Jul 18 2006, 08:30 AM
- - climber   I agree on solar panel the way you say Doug. They...   Jul 18 2006, 09:53 AM
- - David   My own imagination of the form that solar system e...   Jul 18 2006, 07:48 PM
- - DonPMitchell   I pretty much agree with you David, although I hav...   Jul 19 2006, 12:25 AM
- - DonPMitchell   I think what most people are agreeing on, whether ...   Jul 19 2006, 03:06 AM
- - ljk4-1   Move Into Space, but Where? http://www.kurzweilai...   Sep 26 2006, 02:07 PM
- - MarkG   QUOTE We will never live on Mars...sadly but that...   Oct 3 2006, 11:55 PM
- - PhilCo126   You can be sure mankind will move to Mars and beyo...   Nov 7 2006, 08:49 PM
- - J.J.   Great post, DonPMitchell. <<Consider the fa...   Nov 11 2006, 11:13 PM
- - PhilCo126   This is nice ! http://manconquersspace.com/   Nov 12 2006, 05:07 PM
|- - Stu   QUOTE (PhilCo126 @ Nov 12 2006, 05:07 PM)...   Nov 12 2006, 05:57 PM
||- - nprev   QUOTE (Stu @ Nov 12 2006, 09:57 AM) Oh wo...   Nov 14 2006, 02:08 AM
|||- - Stu   QUOTE (nprev @ Nov 14 2006, 02:08 AM) Lov...   Nov 14 2006, 06:33 AM
||- - Bob Shaw   QUOTE (Stu @ Nov 12 2006, 05:57 PM) Oh wo...   Dec 24 2006, 11:02 PM
||- - nprev   QUOTE (Bob Shaw @ Dec 24 2006, 03:02 PM) ...   Dec 25 2006, 12:47 AM
||- - Stu   QUOTE (Bob Shaw @ Dec 24 2006, 11:02 PM) ...   Jan 14 2007, 09:01 AM
|- - lyford   QUOTE (PhilCo126 @ Nov 12 2006, 09:07 AM)...   Nov 14 2006, 03:40 AM
- - djellison   I've followed MCS for a few years - the lenths...   Nov 12 2006, 06:10 PM
- - nprev   Oh, man...I'm drooling!!! THIS wil...   Nov 12 2006, 06:32 PM
- - nprev   Yeah...but what a great idea! This is EXACTLY ...   Nov 14 2006, 04:08 AM
- - lyford   Don't forget the cast member-plot device that ...   Nov 14 2006, 07:13 AM
- - PhilCo126   Two more Martian future weblinks: http://www....   Nov 14 2006, 06:00 PM
- - nprev   At the risk of sounding overly optimistic, this fi...   Nov 15 2006, 02:39 AM
- - PhilCo126   Just sharing another great website with superb com...   Dec 8 2006, 08:06 PM
- - PhilCo126   And: http://www.marsproject.com/tour.htm   Dec 24 2006, 03:15 PM
- - MaxSt   http://space.newscientist.com/article/dn10...s-mis...   Jan 14 2007, 07:36 AM
- - Stu   Talking about "Futures", the poet Diane ...   Jan 14 2007, 09:57 AM
- - Myran   QUOTE MaxSt wrote: The figure is a bit off, don...   Jan 15 2007, 05:07 PM
- - dvandorn   Steve Squyres came up with a ratio of MER time to ...   Jan 15 2007, 05:43 PM
|- - JonClarke   QUOTE (dvandorn @ Jan 15 2007, 05:43 PM) ...   Jan 21 2008, 07:46 AM
- - lyford   If you told MER and a human geologist to go sample...   Jan 15 2007, 11:09 PM
- - MaxSt   I believe Steve also said that 2 rovers at 2 diffe...   Jan 17 2007, 03:02 AM
|- - Bob Shaw   Humans and rovers would both have a role to play, ...   Jan 17 2007, 12:47 PM
- - mps   Some more russian pipe dreams. Last time it was to...   Jan 8 2008, 12:13 PM
- - PhilCo126   Colonize Mars? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ne...   Jul 13 2008, 10:32 AM
- - imipak   All these points and counterpoints are well laid o...   Jul 13 2008, 02:02 PM


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