Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Red Dragon capsule landing on Mars

Statements made at the Space Tech Expo in Long Beach raise new questions about the Mars One project.

Mars One, which has received a good deal of publicity, is a non-profit European project that wants to establish a settlement on Mars. Mars One has stated that it will rely heavily on rockets and capsules being developed by Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). Musk himself has similar plans and would no doubt be glad to cooperate with Mars One, if Mars One had significant money, which it doesn’t at present. That may change in the future, but right now, it’s hard to see why SpaceX needs Mars One.

One of the ways Mars One has generated publicity is by compiling a large database of would-be Mars settlers, who pay $75 to be listed. The number of applicants (80,000 at
Last count) is indeed impressive, although the amount of money raised won’t get Mars One very far toward its goal.

Mars One wants to send its first crew of four to Mars in 2023, but Mars One founder and CEO Bas Lansdorf told the Space Tech Expo that it would be irresponsible to send pregnant women to Mars.

“We are not in the business of telling people what to do, but astronauts are very responsible people,” Lansdorp said. “When they realize they are living in a dangerous place, they will know what to do, that it’s not right.”

That statement raises questions about the purpose of the project and points to major gaps in our knowledge. At present, we don’t know if it’s possible for humans (or any vertebrates) to conceive and carry a baby to term in Martian gravity. There are also concerns about radiation and the toxicity of the Martian regolith.

A true settlement requires the ability to reproduce and raise children. Without that, Mars One would never be more than a very expensive retirement home.

The biomedical questions need to be answered before any definitive plans for space settlement are made. If we discover that it’s impossible to raise children in the Martian environment, then we must look to other places, such as orbital habitats, for settlement locations.

Written by Astro1 on May 23rd, 2013 , Space Settlement

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COMMENTS
    Dave Klingler commented

    I’m very glad you wrote this editorial, although it will be pooh-poohed or ignored by most space enthusiasts. Most space enthusiasts tend to think that humans need planets.

    In fact, humans would do better without planets, with the exception of Planet Earth. The tether length required to set up a 1G environment is just under 900 meters, rotating at one rpm. Shielding is a problem, but it’s a much more solvable problem than inventing ways for humans to exist and procreate at lower gravities than the Earth’s.

    As Gerard O’Neill pointed out, the biggest barrier is in our minds. We grew up on a planet and we tend to use that as a starting point.

    Reply
    May 23, 2013 at 6:23 pm
    Ken Brandt commented

    “…The biomedical questions need to be answered before any definitive plans for space settlement are made…” No, the biomedical questions can only be answered while exploring-that is part of the nature of risk in this type of undertaking. Sure, the first mission to Mars shouldn’t be a child-bearing one, but there’s no reason to think that this couldn’t happen somewhere down the line-say Mars three or four? As I see it, the most important thing MarsOne is trying to do is to facilitate us becoming a multi-planet species.
    Out of all the things Bas has said, to ferret out this one quote seems petty on your part.

    Reply
    May 24, 2013 at 10:26 am
      Dave Klingler commented

      Why do we need to become a multi-planet species?

      Reply
      May 25, 2013 at 12:00 am
        Astro1 commented

        You should have watched Babylon 5. In the words of Commander Sinclair:

        “There’s a simple reason why. Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics, and you’ll get ten different answers. But there’s one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on: whether it happens in a hundred years, or a thousand years, or a million years, eventually our sun will grow cold, and go out. When that happens, it won’t just take us, it’ll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-tsu, Einstein, Maruputo, Buddy Holly, Aristophanes, and all of this. All of this was for nothing unless we go to the stars.”

        If we are not going to become a multi-planet species, what is the purpose of exploring Mars? Anything we learn will be forgotten, when the Earth becomes uninhabitable and Man becomes extinct.

        Reply
        May 25, 2013 at 12:44 am
          Dave Klingler commented

          Babylon 5 took place inside a cylinder and its inhabitants enjoyed 1G gravity, light years from Earth. Strangely enough, although some Babylon 5 episodes took place on Mars, the gravitational pull of the planet had somehow increased. Other planets in Babylon 5 also had 1G gravity.

          B5, Star Trek and other science fiction generally show 1G gravity on other planets to avoid the complication of attempting to portray what life would be like without it. In reality, humans would do well to avoid being “multi-planet” to spread throughout the solar system; there may not be any payoff for living in a gravity well if we can create our own real estate with a spinning colony. Operations would be cheaper, the atmosphere would be what we want it to be, and the weather would be predictable.

          Reply
          May 25, 2013 at 12:13 pm
            Astro1 commented

            And you completely miss the point.

            What is the purpose of spending billions to explore space, if humans are never going to settle there?

            You didn’t answer that question, because there is no answer.

            May 25, 2013 at 12:28 pm
            Dave Klingler commented

            Well, no, it is you who completely missed the point. 🙂

            Your unquestioned assumption, without examination, is that if humans are going to settle in space, they must settle on planets. In short, you are what Space Studies Institute people call “planet-centric”; because you have always lived on a planet, you imagine that humans must live on planets.

            When I rewatched Babylon 5 last year, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed the first time I watched it, that B5 was indeed an O’Neill free-space colony. Yes, of course, I’d noticed that before, but this time I fully grokked it. I’d just re-read “The High Frontier” (available for free download, by the way), and I’ve realized how much more advantageous it is to stop assuming that planets are necessary for humanity’s future in space. In fact, it is easier for humans to settle in space without planets.

            Space exploration does not equal space colonization. I’m all for exploring the planets, but I don’t believe we’ll ever settle on them. There are more resources floating around off-planet than on the *surfaces* of Earth, the Moon and Mars combined. There are many disadvantages to planetary colonization, and few advantages.

            May 25, 2013 at 1:29 pm
            Astro1 commented

            You haven’t read my words. I did not say “humans must live on planets.” Just the opposite.

            Your statement about “Space Studies Institute people” is unintentionally funny. I am a senior advisor to SSI.

            May 25, 2013 at 2:35 pm
            Dave Klingler commented

            Ah, then I completely missed your point. 🙂

            May 25, 2013 at 2:53 pm
          Dave Klingler commented

          “If we are not going to become a multi-planet species, what is the purpose of exploring Mars? Anything we learn will be forgotten, when the Earth becomes uninhabitable and Man becomes extinct.”

          If you are advocating free-space colonies, I completely miss the point of this paragraph.

          Reply
          May 25, 2013 at 3:00 pm
        Tom Jolly commented

        “Why do we need to become a multi-planet species?”

        If you don’t care about the eventual extinction of humans on Earth, then we don’t need to. If you do, then you need to realize that Earth is a potential single-point failure for humans, be it from giant asteroids, climate change, pandemic, bad television, or whatever. The Earth has a great track record for making macroscopic species extinct, like 99.9 percent even before humans came on the scene. So it really boils down to whether you think it’s worthwhile to preserve humans as a lifeform in the universe…so far it’s the only technological one we know of.

        Reply
        May 25, 2013 at 12:41 pm
          Astro1 commented

          A retirement home will not ensure the survival of the species. That will only be ensured by going someplace where humans can reproduce.

          Reply
          May 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm
            Tom Jolly commented

            What, exactly, is it that makes you think that humans couldn’t reproduce on Mars (versus any other extraterrestrial environment)?

            May 25, 2013 at 2:30 pm
            Astro1 commented

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16479487

            Even Bas Lastrop acknowledges that human fertility on Mars is unproven.

            May 25, 2013 at 2:40 pm
            Tom Jolly commented

            Sorry – your comment suggested you knew absolutely that it wasn’t possible to reproduce on Mars, vs not actually knowing either way. And the best way of finding out is, of course, to try. Since we don’t appear to have 1/3G facilities here on Earth.

            May 26, 2013 at 11:23 am
            Astro1 commented

            We don’t need to go all the way to Mars to learn whether it’s possible to live and reproduce in 1/3g. That’s the sort of research ISS was supposed to be doing, before the centrifuge facility got canceled. See Introduction to G-Lab.

            May 26, 2013 at 11:34 am
      Dave Klingler commented

      Importantly, most of the biomedical issues, other than GCR, aren’t present with free-space colonies. A shirt-sleeve atmosphere and 1G gravity do wonders.

      Reply
      May 25, 2013 at 12:56 pm
    Tom Jolly commented

    I think the main point of Mars-One, besides the advertised point of establishing a second “home” for humans, is to develop a financial model that can get humans into space without going through a government bureaucratic process. If the financial model to raise funds involves reality TV program advertising and toy licensing, Mars is a much better choice than an orbital habitat of any sort, and arguably a heck of a lot cheaper to kickstart. Once on Mars, you have the extensive funding garnered from exploration (once again, sold as entertainment and more advertising). In an orbiting habitat you have, what, exploration of the kitchen? So their model has to be based on garnering as much advertising income as possible to fund the mission; Mars does that. What do you think Pepsi will pay to have their logo on the first Mars One lander, versus, say, an L5 module? Mars also offers a lot of raw materials, shielding, and water to start a civilization; in space, someone has to pay to take it all there.

    While you certainly need kids (eventually), I think the first few batches of humans should be somewhat expendable (old guys like me) and sterile. They will be there to build the infrastructure required for later settlers. Besides, can you imagine the problems that a growing kid in a spacesuit introduces?

    Reply
    May 24, 2013 at 11:43 am
      Astro1 commented

      An orbital habitat is much cheaper and easier than a Mars colony. That’s why NASA has astronauts living in Earth orbit and no one on Mars.

      It’s nice to imagine that Pepsi will fund your retirement home, but real business plans are based on market research. That’s something G. Harry Stine drummed into us 20 years ago. It’s not what you think Pepsi will pay for a logo, it’s what the research tells you. Unfortunately, the new kids don’t want to bother with stuff like that.

      Reply
      May 24, 2013 at 7:36 pm
        Tom Jolly commented

        I believe there has been extensive research on the subject of public and advertising funds for Mars landings; just in the On to Mars book from Apogee (2002), there were at least 7 articles specifically on that subject. I can’t believe that the amount of research in the last 10 years has decreased on this subject, or that Mars-One would go into this project without a business plan that takes into account prior research. Consider that 100 million people watch the Superbowl and commercials were $4 million for a 30 second spot, while 600 million watched the moon landing live. And that’s only a teeny fraction of the money pie (to say nothing of the fact that they could milk the crap out of the entry, landing, first step, habitat building, etc, and spend the money to record it all in 3D format so you could sell it all over again in theaters). What do you think the moon landing footage would be worth if people had been paying a royalty every time the copyrighted clip was rerun on TV?

        Reply
        May 25, 2013 at 1:36 pm
          Astro1 commented

          What you believe or disbelieve is irrelevant. Bob Zubrin’s book is not marketing research.

          Pepsi does not pay billions of dollars for a Superbowl ad. It pays millions of dollars. You are vastly overestimating the value of a logo.

          Pepsi is a youth-oriented brand. You’re proposing a retirement home. You haven’t even looked at the demographics.

          Reply
          May 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm
        Tom Jolly commented

        The key point I mentioned is “cheaper to kickstart”, that is, to allow for growth through self-sustainment and access to raw resources. It doesn’t matter how much manufacturing equipment you send to a space-hab; there are no raw resources to tap. You can’t go hydrolyze water from the local ice pit to create more oxygen, you can’t mine anything; everything you need or want has to be brought to you for $100 million per payload. There is no potential for self-sustained growth on a space-gab without expensive external support.

        Reply
        May 26, 2013 at 11:29 am
          Tom Jolly commented

          Dang…replied to the wrong comment.

          Reply
          May 26, 2013 at 11:30 am
          Dave Klingler commented

          Of course there are raw resources to tap: NEOs. Those resources aren’t stuck down in a gravity well; they’re right out where we need them.

          When we get to a scale where we need more than several hundred metric tons annually and NEOs aren’t enough, we’ll probably have the infrastructure and logistical support to put a mass driver and a base, if it’s desirable, on the lunar surface. That’s probably decades down the road, though. In both cases, free space colonies are easier, cheaper and more flexible, and they can have 1G gravity, something that a lunar or Mars colony can probably never have.

          Reply
          May 26, 2013 at 5:03 pm
          Dave Klingler commented

          Regarding advertising, generally the time to do your market research is while you’re putting together your business plan, design document, work schedule and budget, not after you’ve announced your plans to the public. There is a discipline to putting together a successful business, and one sign of discipline is keeping your mouths shut until you’ve done your planning.

          Reply
          May 26, 2013 at 5:12 pm
    jim brown commented

    Yes they will act when they see danger just as one of our more famous astronauts Adan Shepard. He wants one rocket explode and burn on the launch pad. Just a very short time later he was on a nearly identical rocket. They were having problems and delays. His response after waiting a few hours was “Light this Candle”. Did he run from danger. I do not think the Mars one will go unless they have a reasonable chance.

    There is big money in sport programs, reality programs and such. The expect to make a few billion dollars that can be spend doing the Mars Mission and give them what they need to survive there.

    Hopefully the first trip includes some plants, and at least one pair of animals that can reproduce. Possible tiny mice, or rabbits. This can prove that most of reproduction works. That plants can supply food, and human reproduction will likely be as successful as on Earth. The first crew should be somewhat elderly but still able to take care of themselves and do useful work. The second crew should be somewhat young adults wanting to have children. They should not have children until they also prove they can grow food, and such.

    Reply
    May 24, 2013 at 1:08 pm
    la-a commented

    why are they living there? after they go

    Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 9:21 am
    Name Me commented

    why should they go to mars forever? why cant we just wait until we have all of the research for us to come back from mars

    Reply
    April 9, 2014 at 9:32 am
      Astro1 commented

      Why did people move to North America? Or California? No one lives “forever.” Everyone has to die somewhere. Why not Mars?

      Reply
      April 9, 2014 at 1:43 pm
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