Video: Experts Discuss Elon Musk’s Mars Plan

Stanford University Professor (and former NASA Ames Director) Scott Hubbard and Starburst Accelerator Founder Francois Chopard discuss Elon Musk’s transportation architecture for Mars.

Musk Reaches for Mars; NASA Worries About Reaching Space Station

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).


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].


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


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.

Parabolic Arcers Keen to Live on Mars

Musk_Mars_Colony_PollThe results are in on our poll about Elon Musk’s Mars plans. And it seems the majority of Parabolic Arc readers would consider living in the SpaceX founder’s martian colony.

Thirty-three percent of voters want to be in the first wave of settlers on the Red Planet. An additional 40 percent of voters said they might go later once the colony was up and running.

Other readers were less enthused. Twenty-two percent said they really like the big blue marble that is Earth and had no desire to live on a frozen planet.

Another 6 percent of voters already understand what it is like to live and work in a desert and had no desire to live in a Martian one. This group is composed of present and past residents and workers of Mojave, Calif.

A big thank you to everyone who voted in the poll. Please take a moment and vote in our latest poll about former shuttle commander Eileen Collins’ decision to speak at this week’s Republican National Convention.

As I always say. Vote early. Vote often. Just vote, dammit! Vote! And no wagering.


Readers on Lynx: It’s Dead, Jim

Lynx_suspended_pollParabolic Arc readers are not real optimistic about the future of the Lynx, the suborbital space plane that XCOR suspended work on recently when it laid off most of the staff working on it.

Sixty-nine percent of voters believe that Lynx is as dead as a door nail despite XCOR’s pledge to revive work on the program at a future date. Only 13 percent of voters believe Lynx will fly at some point in the future.

The remaining 18 percent of voters just didn’t care, viewing suborbital space travel as being about a dozen years past its prime.

We’ve got a new poll up on the site asking whether you would like to go to Mars on one of the human missions Elon Musk is planning to launch beginning in 2024.

As I’ve said before: vote early, vote often. Just vote, dammit! Vote! And remember, no wagering.







SpaceX Working With NASA on Sending Dragon Spacecraft to Mars

Red Dragon landing on Mars (Credit: SpaceX)
Red Dragon landing on Mars (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX announced today that it would be sending a modified robotic Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018. The company has been working with NASA on key elements of the mission under a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement signed in December 2014 as part of the space agency’s Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities (CCSC) program.


Elon Musk & The End of the World as We Know It

Elon Musk wants to build a colony on Mars to ensure the human race will survive if Earth is somehow wiped out. He argues that putting all of humanity’s eggs in one basket — as they have been for millions of years — is too big a risk.

Is he right? Is settlement on a cold, barren lifeless world that’s trying to kill us six ways to Sunday the only way to ensure our long-term survival? Or would it be better to focus on the actual threats at hand?

Let’s take a closer to look at all the things that could potentially wipe humanity off the face of the Earth. It’s not very pretty. So, if you’re squeamish, stop here. Some of the stuff that follows is kind of disturbing.


The Good, the Bad and the Elon

elon_musk_vance_bookElon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
By Ashlee Vance
392 pages. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers

Is it possible for someone to be too smart for his own good?

That’s the question that echos through Ashlee Vance’s fascinating biography of Elon Musk. The SpaceX founder comes across as a brilliant visionary with a messianic zeal to improve the lot of humanity. His ultimately goal is to establish a settlement on Mars to ensure the the human race survives if Earth gets wiped out.

And yet, his brilliance, massive ego and single-minded ambition put him miles above the mass of his fellow human beings, who he tends to mistreat in the worst ways. At his best, he has the brilliance and charisma of Iron Man’s Tony Stark, at his worst, he turns into The Simpsons’ C. Montgomery Burns. And not in a funny way.


SpaceX’s Philosophy: Reliability Through Continual Upgrades

Remains of a Falcon 9 rocket fall to Earth.

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

To succeed in the launch business, you need to be very, very good and more than a little bit lucky. Eventually, there comes a day when you are neither.

That is what happened to SpaceX on June 28. A string of 18 successful Falcon 9 launches was snapped as the company’s latest rocket broke up in the clear blues skies over the Atlantic Ocean. A Dragon supply ship headed for the International Space Station was lost, SpaceX’s crowded manifest was thrown into confusion, and the company’s reputation for reliability was shattered.


Mars Zero: Finalist Says Mars Colonization Effort Not What It Seems

Mars colony (Credit: Mars One)
Mars colony (Credit: Mars One)

Elmo Keep talks to Dr. Joseph Roche, an Irish professor who is one of the 100 finalists shortlisted for the first Mars One mission to the Red Planet. Roche paints a rather dismal picture of the venture, which hopes to being colonizing Mars in the mid-2020’s.  The article’s summary is devastating:

So, here are the facts as we understand them: Mars One has almost no money. Mars One has no contracts with private aerospace suppliers who are building technology for future deep-space missions. Mars One has no TV production partner. Mars One has no publicly known investment partnerships with major brands. Mars One has no plans for a training facility where its candidates would prepare themselves. Mars One’s candidates have been vetted by a single person, in a 10-minute Skype interview.

“My nightmare about it is that people continue to support it and give it money and attention, and it then gets to the point where it inevitably falls on its face,” said Roche. If, as a result, “people lose faith in NASA and possibly even in scientists, then that’s the polar opposite of what I’m about. If I was somehow linked to something that could do damage to the public perception of science, that is my nightmare scenario.”

I can’t say I’m overly surprised. The entire venture seemed half baked from the start; now it appears to be a gooey mass of bread dough filled with too much hot air and not enough yeast.

So, the questions for you, my faithful readers, is: Do I continue to cover this venture? Do you want to be kept up to date on their progress? Or should I ignore it until it implodes under its own weight?

Please feel free to weigh in below.

Long-Term Russian Space Plans Target Moon

A draft 10-year plan for the Russian space program lays out an ambitious agenda that will see Russian cosmonauts occupying a lunar base in the early 2030’s.

According to Russian media reports, the 2016-25 plan includes funding for:

  • a new super heavy booster to support human deep space exploration;
  • a Soyuz replacement capable of carrying cosmonauts to the moon and other destinations;
  • an extensive program of robotic exploration of the moon that would precede human exploration; and,
  • development of technologies required to build a lunar base in the early 2030’s.


Mars One Launches Interactive Mars Exchange

Mars colony (Credit: Mars One)
Mars colony (Credit: Mars One)

AMERSFOORT, The Netherlands (Mars One PR)  – Mars One is excited to announce the launch of Mars Exchange, an interactive component of the Mars One Community Platform. The first article is an interview with Mason Peck, PhD, who is a professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University, NASA’s former Chief Technologist and a Mars One adviser.

“Mars Exchange will foster a worldwide dialogue and encourage thought provoking conversations on the subject of the human permanence on Mars” commented Bas Lansdorp, Co-founder and CEO of Mars One. “Mars One advisers, NASA scientists, Mars One team members, and even a Nobel Prize winner will contribute.”