Re: why 30? one good woman will suffice/SPIKE

Spike Jones (
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 21:48:14 -0800

> Spike Jones wrote: ...> Mars colony now. I say lets go!
> Billy Brown wrote:
> Does this mean you disagree with my recent post on this topic?

Parts of it perhaps. Lets take it a piece at a time:

>...If we could afford to spend 50
>years on the project it would be a lot more plausible....

I agree with if-we-could-afford-50-yrs part, and I would go further in saying that is probably the right way to do it. However, the public and venture capitalists have a notoriously short attention span. And besides, I would like to see it happen while I have plenty of natural life left. {8^D Wouldnt you?

>...Mars is probably easier to colonize than anyplace else we
>could get to, and much easier than orbital space....

Agreed. Mars has more basic materials than the moon, especially carbon, and everyplace has more materials than orbital space.

>...Ultimately, it must be able to build all of the equipment it needs to
>survive, and all of the tools needed to make that equipment, and
>the tools to make those tools, ad infinitum.

Yes, and what I have in mind here is that the first colony would be very machine rich and human lean. But I have in mind starting a colony before nanotech is in place. Please read on:

>...Also, nanotech only addresses the manufacturing issue. We still need to
>locate resources, mine them, maintain our equipment, and so on. We still
>need people to operate all that equipment, and *lots* of specialists just to
>make sure that we have someone who can design any given thing....

This may be where you and I disagree. (I hope I did not mix your views with the other post to which you were replying.) All these specialists I agree will be needed, but in my scenario, they stay earthbound. The problems will be directed to them by the first Mars colonist, who will most likely be hanging on to survival by the thinnest of margins. She will be there to repair and maintain equipment, and to operate force multiplying equipment that may need to be built on site for the most part. It will not be an easy task, nor one quickly accomplished. But the single Mars colonist need not master every known field of engineering. She could rely on software and hardware specialists back home.

>...but we still have to have the whole gaggle
> of scientists and assorted other workers...

We probably could not afford to send an army of humans to Mars. Not before we have strong nanotech, and then the whole problem is transformed. Im looking short term, next 40 yrs, assuming nanotech is not yet ready by then.

>...That means we're spending
>around a million dollars apiece just to land people there (counting a
>pressure suit and minimal personal necessities).

Yes, but this estimate is more optimistic than mine by an order of magnitude at least. Once you consider the other necessities, I am surprised if we could land and sustain a nominal human on Mars for less than 100 million apiece, and even that may require some optimistic assumptions on sustainable food production once you get there. Let us calculate this and reconvene next week on a cost and weight estimate.

>...Equipment is a real problem - the minimum mass for indefinite-
>duration life support is probably going to be measured in tons per person...

Yes. So then, now you see why I was proposing heroic measures for reducing the human cargo. The Boeing-commie rocket fired from the sea platform last week was a success, and that may lead to lower payload costs, but still it will be mind numbing expensive.

So: let us consider, how can we make people smaller and lighter, eat less and produce less waste? Would not all the requirements scale to the size of the crew? Could we not imagine a person who is 25kg? how about 20kg? What is the record for the lightest adult human? Would it be ethical to create such a person? What if we found an eager 10 yr old who was willing to eat antigrowth hormones? Is there such a thing, medics?

> ...The real question is how big does the colony
> have to be to be able to maintain itself long enough to grow into a new
> civilization. No one person could possible know enough to even maintain the
> equipment of a
> Mars base. She certainly isn't going to get a new civilization going on her
> own.

The colony may need to be large to sustain itself *without help* but it need *not* be large to survive *assuming help* from the earth, which it would surely have. We could do the whole thing with small robots, but having even one person on site would be worth the costs of getting her there and sustaining her. Imagine a situation where we had a number of small (but not nano) robotic devices that would collect Martian soil, bring it to an automated foundry, the process being mostly controlled from earth, and making materials from which other robots would build other manufacturing robots (perhaps larger ones) which would then build pressure vessels to contain vegetation, etc. The critical real time feedback and control might be handled on site by the single colonist, while all that *can* be done by us *is* done by us. Most of the task of the astronaut might be to manufacture additional humans in her womb, while the machines work outside.

So, Billy, how small can we make that human payload?