Making Human Settlement of Space a Reality

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

By John Holdren and Charles Bolden

Today, President Obama outlined a vision to CNN for the future of space exploration.  Echoing what he said in the 2015 State of the Union address, the President wrote, “We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time.”  Later this week, many of the Nation’s top innovators will come together in Pittsburgh at the White House Frontiers Conference, where they will further explore, among other things, how American investments in science and technology will help us settle “the final frontier” – space.   But today, we’re excited to announce two new NASA initiatives that build on the President’s vision and utilize public-private partnerships to enable humans to live and work in space in a sustainable way.

In April 2010, the President challenged the country – and NASA – to send American astronauts on a Journey to Mars in the 2030s.  By reaching out further into the solar system and expanding the frontiers of exploration, the President outlined a vision for pushing the bounds of human discovery, while also revitalizing the space industry and creating jobs here at home.

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Schiaparelli Readied for Mars Landing

Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)
Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

DARMSTADT, Germany (ESA PR) — This week, the commands that will govern the Schiaparelli lander’s descent and touchdown on Mars were uploaded to ESA’s ExoMars spacecraft, enroute to the Red Planet.

The Trace Gas Orbiter has been carrying the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator since launch on 14 March. Upon arrival on 19 October, Schiaparelli will test the technology needed for Europe’s 2020 rover to land, while its parent craft brakes into an elliptical orbit around Mars.

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Musk Reaches for Mars; NASA Worries About Reaching Space Station

soyuz_seat_costs_2006-18
While Elon Musk was in Mexico last week wowing the world with his plan to send a million people to Mars, NASA officials north of the border in Houston were contemplating a more mundane problem: how to continue sending a handful of American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

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Elon Musk, Wernher Von Braun and Gigantism: What is Old is New Again

Interplanetary Transport System at Enceladus. (Credit: SpaceX)
Interplanetary Transport System at Enceladus. (Credit: SpaceX)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Elon Musk’s obsession with making giant leaps forward in technology and how the approach has likely contributed to some of the company’s problems. I posited that SpaceX needs fewer leaps and more plateaus so its employees can consolidate what they have learned and get really good at it before moving on to the next level. [SpaceX: Giant Leaps, Deep Troughs But No Plateaus].

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Detailed Information About Elon Musk’s Mars Plans

A view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)
A view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

Below is a detailed summary of Elon Musk’s talk on Tuesday.

Why Go to Mars?

  • Need to establish a civilization of Mars to ensure continuation of human race
  • If we stay on Earth, we risk all life being wiped out in a catastrophe
  • Colonizing Mars is different from Apollo because it’s about minimizing existential risk to human and having a sense of adventure
  • We could go to the moon, but Mars is much better suited for human life
  • Can grow plants on the surface, higher gravity than the moon
  • Can eventually terraform the planet
  • Terraforming would take a long time and be up to the citizens of Mars

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NSS Space Settlement Campaign Supports Elon Musk’s Mars Settlement Plans

A view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)
A view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON, DC, September 27, 2016 (NSS PR) — At today’s meeting of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, Elon Musk, CEO of Space X, announced his bold plan to build a city on Mars. For over 40 years the National Space Society has led advocacy for space settlement.

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Oh the Places You Will Go….

Interplanetary Transport System at Jupiter. (Credit: SpaceX)
Interplanetary Transport System at Jupiter. (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk wants to take SpaceX’s Interplanetary Transport System well beyond Mars, which will keep animators employed until some distant time when he can actually do so.

Int3erplanetary Transport System at Saturn. (Credit: SpaceX)
Interplanetary Transport System at Saturn. (Credit: SpaceX)
Interplanetary Transport System at Europa. (Credit: SpaceX)
Interplanetary Transport System at Europa. (Credit: SpaceX)
Interplanetary Transport System at Enceladus. (Credit: SpaceX)
Interplanetary Transport System at Enceladus. (Credit: SpaceX)

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How Will Musk Sell His Mars Plans?

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)
Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Later today, Elon Musk will stand on a stage at the International Astronautic Congress in Mexico and reveal his plans for sending humans to Mars and making humanity a multi-planet species.

His talk will be webcast on Tuesday, Sept. 27 beginning at 2:30 pm EDT. To access the webcast, please click here or connect on one of these websites: IAF website, IAC 2016 website and AEM website. Musk will hold a press conference afterward; it’s not known whether it will be webcast.

The description of the talk on the conference website gives us a hint about what lies ahead.

SpaceX Founder, CEO, and Lead Designer Elon Musk will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for sustaining humans on the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.

There are three questions that loom on the eve of the speech: What exactly is he going to propose? Who will pay for it? And how will he convince people it’s worth doing? A bit of parsing of the above description gives us some clues.
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Senate Commerce Committee Approves NASA Transition Act

Florida Senator Bill Nelson
Florida Senator Bill Nelson

WASHINGTON (Senate Commerce Committee PR) – The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today approved five bills, including the NASA Transition Authorization Act which advances deep space exploration, the journey to Mars and the International Space Station for fiscal year 2017.

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), committee chairman, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), committee ranking member, offered the following statements on the NASA Transition Authorization Act approval:

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IAF to Webcast Elon Musk’s Mars Speech Next Week

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)
Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Editor’s Note: Good news, everyone! For all those who can’t make it to Mexico next week to hear Elon Musk’s big Mars talk on Sept. 27, the IAF is offering it free online. For the first time, it will be webcasting all plenary sessions. See the press release below for details.

The International Astronautical Federation is pleased to announce that for the first time in IAC history, all Plenary Events as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 67th International Astronautical Congress to be held from 26–30 September 2016 in Guadalajara, Mexico, will be live broadcasted.

One of the main components of this year’s IAC is telecommunications and, as one of the great benefits of this technology, an unprecedented number of people will be able to have access to the state-of-the-art knowledge shared on this premier event.

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Elon Musk Ponders Renaming Mars Colonial Transporter as Crew Dragon Slips

Elon Musk has began to tease a talk he is set to give on Sept. 27 in which he is to reveal his plans for sending people to Mars. Musk will deliver his talk, titled “Making Humans a Multi-planetary Species,” during the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. According to the program

Elon Musk will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for colonizing the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.

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SpaceX: Giant Leaps, Deep Troughs But No Plateaus

Credit: USLaunchReport.com
Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Out of the blue and into the black
They give you this, but you pay for that
And once you’re gone, you can never come back
When you’re out of the blue and into the black.

My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)
Neil Young

In his book, “Mastery,” George Leonard provides a fascinating explanation of how people master new skills.

The mastery curve (Credit: George Leonard)
The mastery curve (Credit: George Leonard)

“There’s really no way around it. Learning any new skill involves relatively brief spurts of progress, each of which is followed by a slight decline to a plateau somewhat higher in most cases than that which preceded it,” Leonard writes. “The curve above is not necessarily idealized. In the actual learning experience, progress is less regular; the upward spurts vary; the plateaus have their own dips and rises along the way. But the general progression is almost always the same.”

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NASA to Launch InSight Mission to Mars in 2018

Mars InSight lander (Credit: NASA)
Mars InSight lander (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is moving forward with a spring 2018 launch of its InSight mission to study the deep interior of Mars, following final approval this week by the agency’s Science Mission Directorate.

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