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

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?

> 2. Who believes we should wait for bio-suspension?
> 3. Who believes the point is to *have* an exocolony before these
> other things come online?
> 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)?

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.

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.

"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 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 seems highly possible to me now. And the fact that I will be 83 in 2040 doesn't seem so bad any more . . .

	Greg Burch     <>----<>
     Attorney  :::  Vice President, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide   -or-
                         "Civilization is protest against nature; 
                  progress requires us to take control of evolution."
                                      -- Thomas Huxley