George Dvorsky, Futurist and Transhumanist, has written at Gizmodo that Humans will never colonize Mars. This is an interesting position from George who wrote in favor of Dyson Spheres in 2012.
George wrote in favor of self-replicating space probes modifying the galaxy. George’s predictions for the future are not consistent. A tiny fraction of Dyson Sphere capabilities or self-replicating probe technology would make Mars colonization trivial.
The “no human colonization of Mars” will likely end up getting retracted if George Dvorsky and Gizmodo are still around in 10-40 years. The NY Times had to famously retract a 1920 article mocking Goddard and his early rockets. The NY Times retracted the 1920 article about the dismissed the notion that a rocket could function in a vacuum after the 1969 moon landing.
George notes the lower gravity and atmospheric pressure that is 140 times less than on Earth. He also notes the extreme temperature ranges.
George says he believes humans will eventually visit Mars and even build a base or two, the notion that we’ll soon set up colonies inhabited by hundreds or thousands of people is pure nonsense, and an unmitigated denial of the tremendous challenges posed by such a prospect.
There is some fuzziness over where things cross over from we will build a base or two on Mars and the impossibility of colonies of hundreds of people. Parsing the words it seems that the international space station has had thirteen people on it at one time. So two bases with 13 people on Mars would seem to qualify as doable according to George but 200 people in a long-term colony lasting over four years would be impossible.
There are currently dozens of permanent and summertime bases sprinkled around the Antarctic. McMurdo has up 1,000 people in it in the summer and about 200 people year round. It had a 1.8 megawatt reactor for ten years many years ago. George is clearly saying that we cannot and will not setup McMurdo scale colonies on Mars.
Historically the Jamestown colony started with about 100 people in 1607 and then only a few dozen lasted until 1610 when they were resupplied and 150 new settlers joined. Jamestown lasted until 1698 when a fire and the capital went to Williamsburg.
George also dismissed projections by astrobiologist Lewis Darnell, a professor at the University of Westminster. Darnell projects substantial numbers of people have moved to Mars to live in self-sustaining towns with 50 to 100 years. The United Arab Emirates is aiming to build a Martian city of 600,000 occupants by 2117. George is clearly stating that thousands of people by 2100 is impossible.
Mars Colonization Details
Elon Musk wrote a 16-page article that described a plan to reduce the cost to bring one person to Mars down to $100,000. Elon Musk has a ballpark assumption that allocating one-ton of mass is enough for the passenger, supplies, and luggage.
In 2017, Purdue University engineers created a 331-page analysis for the Mars City. They looked at Mars food production, mining and the use of large cyclers.
Purdue’s Project Destiny was to validate the claim that a colony of 1 million inhabitants
can be feasibly established on the surface of Mars within 40-100 years using the SpaceX
architecture presented. They accomplish this by developing a colony that minimizes cost and the number of launches to build the actual colony. We then will evaluate 3 different methods of delivering this colony based on SpaceX architecture. The plan would need to be updated with more recent SpaceX Starship Super Heavy designs.
Purdue restricted their Mars City Colony design to reject the use of future technologies that are not likely to be in production within 30 years.
The initial 300 colonists consists of a skilled construction crew whose primary objective is to layout and deploy the larger colonies architecture prior to the larger population’s arrival. Once the cargo has been confirmed as to have landed on the Mars surface and is awaiting crew arrival, the initial 300 colonists will board either the next Mars vehicle.
George is saying even the 300 person construction base is impossible and any of the mining and industrial operations and improvements upon what Purdue has proposed is not possible.
They had a high cost of about $4 billion for each SAFE-800 nuclear reactor for cycler power.
The cost of nuclear reactors for space could be greatly reduced with the Kilopower reactors and the Los Alamos Megapower reactor which could be built as the Westinghouse eVinci reactors.
The eVinci could have about thirty times the power level as the SAFE-800. The eVinci could produce 25 megawatts instead of the 800 kilowatts of the SAFE-800.
Purdue’s Cary Mitchell has led efforts to improve human ability to grow food in space for over 40 years. He has improved lighting for crops to testing the ability to grow leafy greens, fruits and vegetables that will keep astronauts nourished and satisfied on their long trips.
SpaceX architecture for Mars are:
* Fully Reusable Launch System – This could be achieved in 2020-2022 with the Starship Super Heavy. The SpaceX Falcon Heavy has flown three times and would be over 90% reusable with all three booster and the fairing reused.
* LEO refueling – NASA has just funded a SpaceX-NASA project to develop this capability.
* Propulsive Landings – done
* Direct flight – this is just the plan for Mars flight
* Hyperbolic Trajectory between Earth and Mars
* Return capability of landing vehicles through fuel production on Mars Surface using a
methane/LOX fed propulsion system.
Low Gravity Solution
Dr. Joseph Parker presented a gravity solution for living on the moon or Mars. We need to have people live in one gravity pods on a circular hyperloop like track.
A one-kilometer radius track going at 360 kilometers per hour provides on one G. The actual moon or Mars tracks would have pods or trains going a bit slower and on an angle to get the right gravity. It is a 70-degree angle on Mars.
People and their children would live on these large trains. A smaller train will dock with the habitation train and they will load supplies. People will go onto the docking train to go to work in the lower gravity and then return to one G living and sleeping.
This train solution aligns with Elon Musk’s development of the Boring company and Hyperloop.
So Technically Feasible But What About Economics and Why Mars Colonization Will Happen
Clearly, it is technically feasible to build a Mars colony and city.
Elon Musk and SpaceX are headed for massive income and revenues.
SpaceX has successfully deployed sixty production versions of the Starlink Satellite. They are targeting six Starlink launches through the next six months. Those six launches will place 360 Starlink satellites into orbit. The pace of Starlink launches will increase with six more launches by the end of April 2020. This will enable SpaceX to generate a lot of revenue for service to North America, Europe and Asia. The revenue will be from reducing latency in financial trading communication.
SpaceX and Elon Musk will be made financially secure by 2023 and will have the $20 billion per year budget of NASA. If Elon has a 30X on his 54% share of SpaceX, then with Elon would have 30 times $10 billion in 2024 (50% of $20 billion in 2024). This means Elon would be worth over $300 billion without including any valuation for Tesla.
SpaceX will start generating substantial revenue in 2020 equal or slightly exceeding launch revenue. This was based upon 2017 SpaceX revenue projections from a 2017 Wall Street Journal article.
Elon Musk is a true believer in Mars Colonization. Elon and SpaceX with $50-100 billion per year in revenue will be able to fund a Mars colony. Just as Jeff Bezos is funding Blue Origin with $1 billion per year from his Amazon wealth, Elon Musk would be able to sustainably devote $5-10 billion per year for Mars colonization.
This amount of money will be able to fund a dozen SpaceX Super Heavy Starships every year that are fully reusable. Each individual Starship would be able to transport and support 100 colonists on Mars. The colonists could live in the Starship.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.