Here’s to the Explorers

Elon Musk is getting a lot of media coverage when he repeated his statement that it will be very risky for the first people who go to Mars. This is an obvious statement of fact. I heard radio hosts at KGO 810 radio talking about this statement with great surprise. The hosts were disparaging of Elon Musks Mars plans. They did not believe the goal of getting the first humans to Mars by 2026 would be achieved.

The radio hosts were talking about how they believe we are nowhere near making space travel like an Airbus passenger plane. Elon Musk and SpaceX are working towards the goal of rocket travel that is as safe as a passenger jet. The goal is to reach this level around 2030. Getting there will be difficult and will require increasing the number of rocket flights by tens of thousands of times. Also, the goal of frequent and safe rocket travel has to be improved many thousands of times. The first human mission to Mars could happen by 2026 but it will involve a lot of risk.

Any space explorer going to Mars or moon will have all of the risks of going to orbit plus the extra risks of going to the Moon or Mars.

As of 2020, there have been 15 astronaut and 4 cosmonaut fatalities during spaceflight. About 30 astronauts and cosmonauts have died while training for or attempting dangerous space missions. Eleven died during training or on a launch pad test.

There will be substantial risks going to Mars in the early human missions. It should be safer than the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration (1897-1922). However, help from Earth would be three years away.

Risks will be reduced by sending supplies and extra habitats before the human expedition.

Any space explorer going to Mars or moon will have all of the risks of going to Orbit plus the extra risks of going to the Moon or Mars.

Currently, there have been about 550 people who have gone to orbit. This means that the risk of deaths has been about one in 25. The risks were higher in the initial missions.

The new SpaceX Dragon has been tested so that the risk of loss of crew is about one in 150. This is about five times better than the Space Shuttle. However, it will not be clear if risks are truly at that level until more missions have been flown.

About half of the 49 Mars Missions (robotic) have ended in failure. There have been launch failures and failures attempting to land. Recently, the odds for robotic missions seems to be improving to about one in ten Missions failing.

There are many risks short term and long term health risks for explorers to Mars.

Antarctic Exploration Deaths

Deaths during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

Twenty-two men died on Antarctic expeditions during the Heroic Age (1897–1922). Another five men died shortly after returning from the Antarctic.

Deaths Climbing Mount Everest

Climbing Everest (to the Summit) results in death one out of every ten times (as of 2006). This has improved slightly. The main reasons for people dying while climbing Mount Everest are injuries and exhaustion. However, there is also a large proportion of climbers who die from altitude-related illness, specifically from high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE) and high altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE). Climbers attempting Everest have 8000 metres’ climbing experience. Climbers are not climbing beyond their ability but instead beyond their altitude ability. It is difficult to get the experience of what it is like climbing above Camp 3 (8300 metres) without climbing Everest. Climbers invariably do not know what their ability above 8300 metres is going to be like.

By 2019, 300 people have died trying to climb the world’s highest mountain, and some 4,500 have summited.

SOURCES- Wikipedia, NASA, SpaceX, Elon Musk
Written By Brian Wang,

11 thoughts on “Here’s to the Explorers”

  1. They will test it a lot and of course send pre mission – non crewed Starship without any people and enough of equipment up front so it will be tested and they will have what they need before they launch from Earth or at least most of it. Oxygen production was already tested in Mars, ISS has a long history of operation and tests. A lot of simpler missions were already sent to Mars and had successful landings. Starship landings are something else, but they will do non crewed one before any humans will go there. Moon missions are also planned. Some people are born explorers and won't mind the risk, will gladly accept it, it is their choice. But you cant hide in a house and be afraid to go across the street, similar like Mr. Jean Baptiste said.

    It will probably be less riskier that it was in the Apollo days and all that test pilots,… How many people go to war, which is so dangerous or climb k2 or Everest?
    So many people die in the mountains, if you compare that to astronaut missions which are much more valuable to the humanity.

  2. So the mainstream media, the same people who hype any possible bit of news into being the most dramatic story they can possibly come up with, have hyped this obvious statement into be a dramatic revelation?

    One could accuse NBF of hyping a perfectly normal event into being more of a big deal than it is.

  3. To be fair, there are a lot fewer monarchs, aristocrats, fascist regimes etc. than there used to be.
    Usually we see this as a good thing.

  4. I'm fairly sure that Richard Branson, Red Bull, and Elon Musk, are all major sponsors that are doing wild stuff to this day. They still exist.

    I do agree that risk taking is a lot less common among those people who actually have the resources to do big stuff.

  5. Until I got married, I'd have gladly volunteered for a one-way space mission, so long as I was assured of resupply.

  6. shame on the big monarchs, aristocracies, autocracies, fascist regimes and such not wanting to spend untold billions on stamping their legacy on a planet, moon-based dominion, or other eternal NEO. Ah to live 100 – 400 years ago when ego was a big deal and people cared enough to show it… heard one could still buy a NEO 'name' for some small honorarium.

  7. yeah. too much emphasis on glory-seeking, not enough on private and discrete research, testing, and first-attempts — the media can learn about it post-success. Better to eschew the limelight and tell the story after.

  8. agreed. whatever happen to Red Bull, that Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson guy, and other such high-risk, high-drama investors?? now its about return timeline, brand infamy, tech spin-off and patenting…

  9. Easy to point to the Vanguard and seek out the adrenaline junkies, the fed-up-with-lifers, nothing-to-live-fors, blaze-of-glory-ites, and other such noble creatures, but I think it is more about the investors – the public entities always in the journalists' sights, larger corporations that will need to re-seek funding which may or may not also have to seek favor with shareholders, the billionaires that only have so many billions, the partnerships with immortality-in-name-seeking members-easily distracted, etc., that need to be convinced, lured, and driven. And regulations… who can fling what up into space and evidence of reasonable testing and success. Test pilots are a dime-a-dozen, but wealthy visionaries who cheer-lead behind the scene – they are the 'diamond in the rough'.

  10. For a risk free life, stay hidden under your bed.

    But you know what? even there you will die one day.

    Alas, life is a 100% lethal condition.

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