Kim Stanley Robinson: Musk’s Mars Scenario “Not Believable”

The Interplanetary Transport System compared with other boosters. (Credit: SpaceX)
The Interplanetary Transport System compared with other boosters. (Credit: SpaceX)

Science fiction author Stanley Robinson of Mars Trilogy fame says he finds a lot of familiar elements in Elon Musk’s plans for Mars. But not necessarily in a good way. Below are excerpts from a Q&A he did with Bloomberg News.

Q. It’s 2024. Musk figures everything out and gets funding. He builds his rocket, and 100 people take off. Several months later, they land (somehow) and have to get to work remaking a planet.

I have to note, first, that this scenario is not believable, which makes it a hard exercise to think about further. Mars will never be a single-person or single-company effort. It will be multi-national and take lots of money and lots of years.

Musk’s plan is sort of the 1920s science-fiction cliché of the boy who builds a rocket to the moon in his backyard, combined with the Wernher von Braun plan, as described in the Disney TV programs of the 1950s. A fun, new story.

Q. What needs to happen for the Mars colony to live sustainably and give humanity the lifeboat Musk envisions?

It’s important to say that the idea of Mars as a lifeboat is wrong, in both a practical and a moral sense.

There is no Planet B, and it’s very likely that we require the conditions here on earth for our long-term health. When you don’t take these new biological discoveries into your imagined future, you are doing bad science fiction.

Read the full interview.