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.
Elon 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.
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.
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?
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.”
Endemol-owned Darlow Smithson Productions (DSP) will exclusively follow the selection and training of the world’s first one way astronauts to MarsCandidates chosen from over 200,000 applicants will be tested to the extreme in one of the most extraordinary and challenging job interviews ever seen
The winners will be the first to make the 300 million-mile journey to establish permanent human life on the red planet
DSP’s landmark production will be broadcast around the world and further announcements are due to follow soon
LONDON, June 2, 2014 (Mars One PR) — Mars One and multi-award winning factual producer DSP (an Endemol company) today announced they have entered an international partnership to screen the mission to send the world’s first one way astronauts to Mars.
Amersfoort, May 5, 2014 (Mars One PR) – Mars One announced that 353 hopefuls from around the world have been eliminated from the selection program to become the first human Mars colonists. The number of people remaining in this once in many lifetimes opportunity is now just 705.
Amersfoort, The Netherlands, 27 March 2014 (Mars One PR) – Mars One is excited to announce the launch of a simulation project to replicate the future Mars human outpost here on Earth.
Mars One will soon begin the process of construction of the first simulation outpost, which will be used for training selected astronauts and teams. The main purpose of an early version outpost is for potential crew members to gain early experience in the actual environment which will become their home on Mars.
It looks like Lionsgate TV has won the sweepstakes to produce the Mars One reality series, which will chronicle the effort by “eccentric Dutch billionaire entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp” to colonize the Red Planet.
Mars One calls for new groups of four to be sent to Mars every two years, beginning no later than 2024. Announced last year, the scientific project already has received almost 300,000 applications from all over the world, which are being whittled down. Lionsgate TV is expected to start its own casting search, with the two selection processes ultimately merged.
Today Parabolic Arc begins a semi-regular feature looking at various space-related crowd sourcing fund-raising efforts out there.
Rocket Thermodynamix, LLC
This side company founded by Luke Colby, technical lead of Scaled Composites’ Rocket Propulsion Group, is attempting to raise $25,000 to purchase a CNC lathe. And what do you get for your contribution? A shot glass in the shape of a rocket engine combustion chamber. Learn more
Mars One is attempting to raise $400,000 to help fund its plan to build a permanent colony on the Red Planet. With six days to go, they are up to $188,880. Learn more
Penn State Lunar Lion
The Google Lunar X Prize team has launched a campaign to raise $406,536 on RocketHub. With 36 days left, they have raised $6,170. Learn more
Bob Bigelow — I’ll be somewhat controversial today — that got applause…
Space business is about to change….a new gunslinger in town, he’s not American, and he’s aiming at Solar System monopoly….he’s started to play the game, but we’re not even aware it’s happening…
In about 15 years, that game will end…
America has become weaker, not stronger, over the last 20 years….we will spend the next five years trying to recover from the recession…Are we weaker than we were in 1969, how close are we to being relegated to the number 2 position in the world across the board…
Who will be in the charge as the dominant force? China
enormous cost of entitlements
overly generous retirement system
poor results of education program
pathetic lack of skills, honesty and ability in our government
Talulah Riley: how to marry a billionaire London Evening Standard
Talulah Riley has made her new husband a promise. ‘I’ve told him I’ll retire with him to Mars,’ she says matter-of-factly. ‘If he has colonised it by then.’ She smiles, but she is coolly earnest. She was once a starlet from Hertfordshire, but she now moves in interplanetary circles. Her husband is the internet billionaire turned space entrepreneur Elon Musk, and her future home is an environmentally controlled pod on Mars. Elon will zoom around outside on rockets, while she makes their biosphere cosy. ‘I’d love to get involved with designing habitat systems on Mars â€“ like housekeeping on a grand scale,’ she says dreamily.
Black Apollo As part of preparations for the Apollo landings, NASA needed to get detailed imagery of potential landing sites. Dwayne Day reveals a partnership between NASA and NRO that proposed using Apollo spacecraft equipped with reconnaissance satellite cameras to provide those images.
Year of the solar system While most of the recent attention NASA has received has been on its human spaceflight programs, its robotic missions also are noteworthy. Lou Friedman contrasts the impending milestones for the agencyâ€™s missions with the fiscal issues some of those programs face.
Space colonization in three histories of the future Space settlement has long been a core tenet of space advocates, who have offered a range of scenarios about how it would work. John Hickman examines these proposals and highlights the flaws in their historical analogies. NASAâ€™s extended limbo Last month the president signed into law a NASA authorization bill that reoriented the agencyâ€™s human spaceflight efforts. However, as Jeff Foust reports, budget delays and implementation questions keep NASAâ€™s future plans uncertain.