Musk to Present Mars 2.0 Next Week in Adelaide

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

ADELAIDE, Australia (IAC PR) — Elon Musk will attend IAC2017 and deliver a short address to delegates on Friday 29 September in the afternoon.  He plans to provide delegates with an update on his plans for settling Mars. His talk will also be live-streamed globally.

The Friday programme will also feature two interesting Late Breaking News on the Mars Base Camp, presented by Lockheed Martin and the Juno mission to Jupiter, presented by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Make sure not to miss these interesting events!

Editor’s Note: I’m hoping this plan is a bit more realistic than the one he presented last year. I thought it to be too ambitious technically. His time and cost estimates were utterly unrealistic (even more so than usual). As to what a settlement on Mars would cost and what it would do was largely missing from the presentation. It was, “well, I can get you there. The rest is up to you.’ Ummm….yeah. Which is to say, no.

The weakest part of the presentation was probably the rationale he put forward. Well, it would certainly be an adventure for humanity. And yes, we’d become a multi-planet species. The former is a given for anything we do beyond LEO. As for the latter….absent an existential threat to life on Earth, there’s no real urgency to it. And not much of a return on investment.

If Musk hoped the presentation last year would influence whoever won the U.S. presidential election, the effort seems to have been a failure. If anything, the Trump Administration seems to be leaning toward a return to the moon as an interim step to Mars. It’s no co-incidence that Musk has been saying nice things about a moon base in recent months.

I’m really curious as to whether Comic Book Guy (aka, Dick Rocket) and the Toilet Bowl Kid (name unknown) will show up again. They were completely cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. (Mr. Rocket seems even more cuckoo these days; of which, more in a future post.) Maybe Morgana the Kissing Bandit will appear as well.

It should be interesting to see what Mr. Musk comes up with.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, Jeff Bezos model of building a Cislunar industrial economy is more practical. I expect the is what Elon Musk will drift into doing once its clear Mars exploration will be restricted to science expeditions.

  • Douglas Messier

    In recent months, Elon has suddenly become all like, moon. I like the moon. Why not. Moon bases are cool.

  • Douglas Messier

    I don’t know. i think he was actually on to something. The infrastructure needs for the number of people he wants to send are not trivial. Water, electricity, food — and yes, human waste disposal — are not cheap to build. And they’re usually govt funded. Large upfront investments needed with continual expansion, maintenance and repairs.

    It’s not what that kid was asking, but he did point to something Elon largely avoided addressing.

  • Douglas Messier

    It’s better than the Union Pacific analogy he used. Still, you need to seriously look at what drove Manifest Destiny (good, bad and ugly) and how applicable it might be to Mars.

    To have any traction, I think Mars settlement might have to involve the kind of land grabs you had when Europe colonized the Americas. The good thing about Mars is that it isn’t inhabited yet. No natives. No genocide.

    Also no compelling set of reasons to colonize Mars. I’ve always imaged going back to ancient Rome of 10 AD and telling Caesar Augustus about the Americas. He would be intrigued at first. Then once he figured out how far it was, and the effort needed just to get there, how much that would cost and the benefits of doing it, he’d quickly lose interest. We’ve been in a similar place with the moon and Mars for nearly half a century.

  • Only failed colonies like the early English, French and Scottish! 🙂

    Somebody is going to sell some snake oil and some colony is going wind up with a bum oxygen generator.

  • Tom Billings

    “The vague future threat that will wipe us all out is not a very compelling reason for governments to fund colonies.”

    There exists no reason for governments to do this that involve political profit, so they will not do it. If it is to be done, then private groups will do it. Some will be successful, and some will not.

    “Meanwhile, large scale migrations of peoples are often in response to dire conditions at home.”

    Dire conditions are one driver. Political environment is another. The flow of Jews from the former Soviet states is one of the most recent examples of this. The voyages of Puritans to New England is another.

    “Think of the mass migrations into the Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries due to the advancing Huns.”

    The reason the Huns were advancing is more significant, that being “the Steppe pump”, in which pastoral people would expand their populations on the steppes in good weather, and in bad weather they would seek to move East or West.This also influenced the Atlantic migrations, in which the year of peak British emigration to America was just 2 years after the year (1828) in which you could look North from wintry Cape Wrath, and see pack ice glittering on the horizon.

  • Tom Billings

    It’s always a minority that accomplish settlement of frontiers. The satisfied need not move.

  • Tom Billings

    “Yes, but the astrobiologists that have built their careers around the
    search for life on Mars will not admit it’s a dead world for decades….”

    Saying that academics have self-interested motives is a lightning rod, Thomas, for now. Still, your suggestion will be taken more seriously as college enrollments here continue to drop, for reason.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    As he was trying to get his point across, I thought along your lines. It’s just that his drug use got between him and his intended audience. Musk has other fish to fry right now. Even though sewage treatment is a fascinating subject, I would not be worrying about it now. If I were Musk at that conference in Mexico I would have told the man to look up Joe Jenkins and his composting toilet technology.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Picture yourself 3 days after getting your drivers license and you have a choice to take a trip to the next town or make the Canon Ball Run from Boston to LA. Which would you feel more ready for?

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Yup, I think a new era of imperialism is coming. If you’re an up and coming power, you want something to prove you’re better than the Americans without running flat faced into the US war machine like the NORKs are now. If you’re a former great power like Japan you want to be great again without stepping on China’s toes. Heck after the Northern Europeans wipe out poverty (and they will if not already have) then they’ll need something to do at some point.

    I think we see a similar dynamic with the tycoons currently making the most progress in aerospace development. Why do this? Looks to me that they want more than just the gawdy and bawdy lifestyles of the rich and famous ala Donald Trump, Kozlawski, Branson, Mnuchin, and the like. I think for some tycoons there’s a life beyond being a Liberachi. I think societies face similar issues at some point.

    There’s nobody to enslave, and darn little that we know of so far to bowl over. If there’s an arena to absorb the imperial energies of humanity we’re just now seeing the real opening stages. There’s a prospect for imperialism that I find very attractive with space. Namely greatness with humility. No matter how advanced we become the universe we act in will be much greater and toxic. Failure will always be staring us right in the face. It’s where we belong.

  • More money is made on mining aluminum than on gold or platinum each year. So, whereas it is true that the price goes down as the supply goes up, the total revenue could go up. But there is a limit at the point where fixed transportation costs prevent any further dropping of the price.

  • Not Invented Here

    In short, he wants a public-private partnership but we have no idea what the total costs will be or what sort of split he is envisioning. So, hopefully he will spell out some ideas on that next week.

    This is to be expected, this is not a SpaceX only show as I argued above, the rest of the space industry is supposed to be involved, as is NASA, so it would be presumptuous for Musk to layout and cost out everything. What should happen is NASA can send out RFI asking the industry: if we have a 100t to Mars surface capability, how much would it cost to setup a base of, say 6 people? Then it can go from there.

    Of course that’s all water under the bridge now since it didn’t happen that way, so I guess it’s the Moon, here we come… BTW, Musk proposing a lunar base is not at all out of character, he has been saying this for years, as has Zubrin. Basically if you have an architecture that can land on Mars, it would be easy to adapt it to the Moon, so you might as well go to the Moon too.

  • I have looked into the “piece of the Moon” jewelry possibility and BOTE calcs indicate that it might be substantially profitable. But I think that it will not be the largest moneymaker. People paying to go and paying for goods and services to sustain themselves will likely be the biggest revenue generator. P.S. Pay-per-view VR of the initial crewed landings is also a revenue source which shouldn’t be sniffed at.

    Historic analogies are often wrong because the relevant factors are often different.

  • Elon laid out his revenue concept in terms the ticket price he was aiming for and how there would need to be a way to increase the intersection of those who wanted to go with those who could afford to go. People seem to overlook subjective desire to go as market demand.

  • It depends upon what is meant by “compelling”. There’s no “compelling” reason for people to take Alaskan cruises in that they don’t really need to take one and there is no profit motive for them to do it. But, obviously their subjective reasons for going exceeds the value of the price. So they go.

    So, I think that it comes down to the question of how many people both want to go and can afford to go. If the cost of going gets low enough then the numbers of people who can go will go up dramatically. On the want to go side of things, it will probably be important to provide technical solutions to ensure a decent quality of life on Mars.

  • Not Invented Here

    Pretty sure Musk is looking at large lunar lander. There’re small companies building small landers, but very few is capable of landing say 10t+ to lunar surface, which is what is needed to setup a lunar base. And BFS is designed to be a Mars lander, so adapting it to the Moon should be easy.

    If you read https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/07/spacex-urges-lawmakers-to-commercialize-deep-space-exploration/, the 3 things SpaceX proposes NASA can do as new COTS program are: cargo to Mars surface, Mars communicate satellites and VTVL on the Moon.

  • If I know my South Park (and I believe I do), when someone publicly says “Steal Underpants” is part of their grand scheme, it means they don’t know how they are gonna do it.

  • Douglas Messier

    You’re talking about individuals taking vacations in settled parts of the world through established commercial companies.

    I’m talking about governments deciding to commit the money, resources, time and political capital to backing a large-scale, multi-decade settlement on a frozen planet far away. If the combination of political, economic and geopolitical benefits are not compelling enough, then there will be little or no effort. That’s where we’ve been with the moon and Mars.

    Elon’s main goal with all his companies is to raise enough money to be able do these missions. More power to him if he can do it. But, he’s said very clearly that he needs government to pay for some of it. How much, we don’t know.

    I would point out that his track record in recent years shows he needed a lot of government money in contracts and subsidies to make SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity possible. I don’t think that’s really going to change with the moon and Mars.

  • To be very precise, I don’t think that Elon has ever said that he will need government money for Mars settlement. It may be that he may need it but if you look at his IAU transcript, he described commercial revenue and personal wealth but when it came to government funding he stated that he thought that PPPs would be how it would work out. That’s somewhat different than saying that it couldn’t be done without government $.

    http://shitelonsays.com/transcript/making-humans-a-multiplanetary-species-mexico-city-2016-09-27

    …starting with the paragraph beginning “We do expect”.

    Don’t ignore Elon’s new company in Seattle. Receiving monthly payments from subscribers could be a lot more lucrative than anything he’s done so far.

    The vacation thing was only an analogy pointing out that sometimes people do things for reasons other than compelling or profit. I’m not saying that people will be taking vacations to Mars. They largely won’t.

    I’m also not saying that the government(s) will finance settlement. I think that they won’t. But the key is to line up the government/public interest with transportation to Mars with the private interest with transportation to Mars. If these things can be aligned then the government may end up footing most of the bill for the development of the transportation system. Think Mars COTS. The government interest is national prestige and scientific exploration.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    It’s not about the size of the vehicle that carries those satellites – it’s about the cost. BFR/BFS could well end up cheaper than F9 for large comms sats to GEO – and keeping F9 just for LEO will also make F9 operations less costly.

  • therealdmt

    Oops! Dang, talk about detracting from my own point!

    Thanks for only noting it as “minor”. “Typo” doesn’t quite cover it, but…oh well. I’m gonna go back and fix it

  • therealdmt

    An interesting thought experiment! (re: 10 AD and the Americas)

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    Ha, oh man I totally forgot how bonkers the Q&A for that talk was! Thanks for the reminder!

  • publiusr

    I wanted the BFR to have more of the focus. The downsizing was either because of the tank rupture, or to go 9-meter and back to metal so he could fabricate his own HLLV cores.

    I wish he’d contact C&C steel, that made the SLS demonstrator–maybe look at sea dragon–push for SPS. That way, money for SPS also gives you a de facto SEP system with minor mods.

  • publiusr

    Then too–without a destination…chicken…egg

  • publiusr

    There are all kind of jerkcasters out there on the web.

  • publiusr

    New Spacers don’t want to admit this–but spaceflight will always be more TVA than MSN

  • Terry Stetler

    The business case for BFR can be made simply by using it to launch entire planes (50-85 birds) of the Starlink constellation per launch. Otherwise you get into 100 to 150+ launches of F9/FH in order to put up the first phase of the constellation.

  • windbourne

    1 BFR is enough to launch the entire constellation. That does not do much good for BFR.
    They need monthly or more.

  • Vladislaw

    That is why the ISS is so important. Once Boeing and SpaceX are operational at the ISS Bigelow can start launching BA330’s. His factory can build 2 per year. At that rate you do not need to worry about 2100 or other mega sized habitats. 2 BA330’s can host 12 people so in less than a decade we can have facilities for over 100 people ..

  • publiusr

    I don’t want ISS de-orbited at all.

    Nice take here
    https://denniswingo.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/architecture-notes-for-sustainable-and-affordable-exploration/

    this laudable goal seems to be in danger in getting swallowed up in a fight between the so called “old space” and “new space” whatever those terms mean to you. This is bad, and unnecessary, and ultimately destructive.
    Part of the fight that is going on between “old space” and “new space” concerns the big rocket program, the Space Launch System or SLS. The question is how to get to a compromise that both the new space and old space people can accept that also allows us to reach a goal of getting humans and robots to the Moon rapidly,

    Rather than spending all of our time and efforts peeing in each other’s shoe to either get rid of the ISS to free up more spending for payloads for the SLS, or to try and kill the SLS in order to create some new architecture with Falcon Heavies or other commercial vehicles, why not integrate the SLS into an ISS centric architecture?

  • windbourne

    That is true that satisfied do not move, but, few that moved west, etc was about gov.
    It was about not liking their current conditions and thinking they could do better elsewhere.

  • windbourne

    Hopefully, he will also transform ITS/BFS quite a bit from what he is talking.
    It makes zero sense to have crew/passengers living in launch/landing section. Instead, the living quarters should be simple add-ons from BA or Axiom.

  • Tom Billings

    “That is true that satisfied do not move, but, few that moved west, etc was about gov. It was about not liking their current conditions and thinking they could do better elsewhere.”

    Sorry, but most who realized their condition was what they wanted changed, knew that government was the biggest restriction on changing their conditions, whether it was local government in New York or in York, U.K.. In any agrarian society the agency costs of government hierarchy rapidly overwhelm its original purpose of benefit to most people and assumes its usual stance of survival of the hierarchy and of its agents’ status. This is as true of a licensing inspector as of real estate commissions controlling land. Their excuses are endless in a species of large obstreperously violent primates.

    That is why settlers simply leave. Mostly they did so to farm in an agrarian world, before the industrial revolution began. In an industrial world they will do so in order to hang out their shingle at professions regulated back home to the point of local oligopoly by regulation. This was impelled faster in an agrarian culture by climate change. The year of peak migration from the British Isles to the US came in 1830, just 2 years after the chance to stand on wintry Cape Wrath and watch the sparkly glitter of pack ice form a white line across the northern horizon. The depths of the Little Ice Age combined with unyielding local hierarchy gave 3 alternatives when local land was all taken:

    1.) Industrialize

    2.) Emigrate

    3.) Starve

    In the event, people did all 3. Where local hierarchies yielded, they industrialized. Where they demanded such total control as to restrict emigration, while denying industrialization, people starved. It is true that conditions are better in our industrializing world, but the presence of those agrarian culture local hierarchies being revived by the progressive movement still slows the advancement of many to the point they want to leave. Conditions are better, but people expect better still. This is especially so for those having children.

  • Vladislaw

    Because federal agency, NASA, is mandated to seek and encourage to the MAXIMUM extent possible the fullest use of commercial space.

    By NASA moving to a LEASING arrangement from commercial habitat providers you create DUAL USE systems that both government agencies and private citizens can utilized lowering the costs for BOTH customers.

  • Lee

    My guess is that the “new” downsized ITS family will look a lot like the Falcon family. I one-core rocket to start, followed by a multi-core rocket once experience is gained on the single-core version. This way he can still build the cores in his existing factories, but ultimately get almost the same performance as his original ITS.