Re: Mars (was RE: true abundance?)

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Wed Jan 31 2001 - 01:48:01 MST

denis bider wrote:
> Samantha Atkins writes:
> > > The reason I am saying this is because some people tend
> > > to have a 'perfectionist' approach: let's make sure
> > > everything is nice and correct right now, and then we'll
> > > figure out what to do next. "Let's not go to Mars
> > > until we have Earth figured out." I think that's the wrong
> > > approach; by the time we have Earth figured out, it might
> > > be too late.
> >
> > It is not that for me. It is more practical of how we will
> > finance the escapade, how it will become self-supporting
> > and whether it will actually do what we would like it to
> > do as far as being a "backup" for instance.
> Agree. But to start with, a significant increase in the public perception of
> the importance of space exploration/colonization would be welcome. Followed
> by a significantly increased budget for organizations like NASA, giving them
> a more central role as a public project, rather than the obscure position
> they currently hold. I think space exploration/colonization projects should
> have at least the significance that they had during the 'space race' in the
> 1960s.

A very sound argument can be made that giving NASA a more centralized
role is largely what got us into the current situation. We need to set
private enterprise free and get rid of some disasterous policies such as
cost-plus bidding and putting all our boost eggs in one basket (which we
partially rescinded earlier in the 90s). It will help to kick out those
aspects of the Space Treaty that make private enterprise in space
extremely problematic legally and that make it difficult to do anything
compliant with the ok of an international committee.

But, a bit BUT, it is not clear that manned presence in space is the
best idea for many of our immediate space goals. It is probably much
more economically viable to expand space robotics to increase space,
lunar, and eventually Martian infrastructure to the point where real
wealth is being generated in sapce and an increased human presence is
both needed and better supported. Sending humans for every or even most
steps is grossly wasteful. It is one of the problems with having put
almost all our eggs into the Space Shuttle basket for so long.

> Regarding who would finance Mars colonization: well, there's 6 billion of
> us. Finance == work. I don't have sufficient global overview to claim that
> we're ready for colonization immediately, but I'm sure the world can afford
> more than 1 human expedition per 10 years. I mean, there's 6 billion of us,
> and we've got a whole planet of resources - and doing this is a matter of
> preserving our civilization! So, can we afford it? Yes, I think we can. I
> don't see resources as a problematic issue - the public perception of the
> importance of such a project is the primary limiting factor.

A major colonization of Mars and the attendant terraforming is first of
all not a short-term project and second of all would take the entire GDP
of earth for many years if we did it on the scale you seem to wish.
That is what I mean by lack of financing. I think you greatly
understimate the cost using current means.

More than one expedition per 10 years is not going to make Mars a backup
for Earth anytime within the century. Mars as a preserver for our
species in less time than that, without drastically improved means, is
a pipe-dream. Do the math.

- samantha

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