Re: Mars: Go now, or wait?

Forrest Bishop (
Tue, 13 Apr 1999 00:12:03 -0700

Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 12:14:57 EDT
Subject: Re: Mars: Go now, or wait?

In a message dated 99-04-01 01:56:39 EST, (Spike Jones) wrote:

> 1. Who believes we should wait for nanotech to start a Mars colony?>>

Not I.

> 2. Who believes we should wait for bio-suspension?

Negative- it is not at all necessary.

> 3. Who believes the point is to *have* an exocolony before these
> other things come online?

It would be a smart thing.

> 4. Who believes we have the technology now and should start now,
> even if it requires great discomfort and sacrifice on the part of
> the first colonist(s)?

We have the tech but not the working knowledge nor a viable business plan, nor
economic launch capabilities. Fortunately, these things are all being addressed
now, after a thirty-year hiatus.
For an example of a ludicrous plan, see the MIT student proposal titled "Think Mars" It appears to be more of an indoctrination into the ways of the areospace culture than
an actual, serious study.
As part of my proposal, tentativly titled "Venture Mars", I have been asking people
"Would you be willing to risk dying on Mars in exchange for the opportunity?", or
"Would you die for Mars?"
I am receiving very roughly a 50% positive response.

<<As a long-time space enthusiast
<>, my thinking about "Big Projects" in space development has undergone significant
evolution over the years. Thirty years ago I certainly would have pushed for
an early Apollo-style project for a manned Mars mission, and a government-funded Mars base as soon thereafter as possible. Now I'm very,
very opposed to such an idea, because I'm sure it would do more harm than
good, in the long run.>>

I concur- just as the Space Shuttle has set us back a quarter century, so too
would yet another government-sponsored, corporate welfare program. Indeed,
the space station (ISS, Alpha, Freedom, or whatever it's being called today),
by sucking up crucial resourses for ill-defined goals, is repeating the ongoing shuttle
disaster. Just the cash blown on studies over the last 20 years could have purchased
and launched a fleet of heavy-lift vehicles, large enough and cheap enough to
put up several stations with relaxed design constraints.

<<The transhumanist vision has been key in transforming my feelings about space
development in one way more than any other: I now feel that patience is a
PERSONAL virtue in my desire to reach the stars. Every year the technology
for space development gets better and better and the cost for achieving any
particular goal off-earth drops more and more. If I have a realistic expectation of a significantly lengthened life span, then it makes sense to
be patient. Now, does this mean that I've postponed my expectations until
after some magical nanotechnology breakthrough? No. Instead, I see a positive feedback with technologies that don't require such a complete breakthrough that puts the solar system into humanity's grasp in a realistic
time-frame. >>

Again, it's not a question of the technology, but of the economics. If a resourse
were discovered on Mars that would fetch $10^9/kg (dilithium crystals or whatever),
how long do you think it would take to establish a mining colony?

<<"Early nanotech", meaning the kinds of material science we can expect without
a full-blown Drextech assembler within the next 20-30 years, coupled with a
maturing MEMs technology, should lower the strength-to-weight ratio of spacecraft >>

Although strength-to-weight is a crucial parameter in some aerospace applications,
I prefer to think in terms of "synergistic-capability-per-dollar" for most hardware.
Also, a diamondoid ("Drextech") assembler is totally unnecessary for full-blown,
strong nanotech.

<<so significantly before 2030 that we can realistically expect major advances in near-earth economic development in that time frame. Establishing a large base on Luna and a largely self-sufficient small Mars
colony by 2040 or so >>

I think it will be much sooner than this, perhaps even within 15 years.

Forrest Bishop
Interworld Productions, LLC
Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering