Category Archives: Mars

The Case Against Mars

We are, to put it mildly, no fans of the colonization of Mars and instead we favor orbital space settlements. In the video below Simon Whistler of the TopTenz YouTube channel gives a nice summary of the challenges people will face on Mars.

It is not to say that orbital space habitats will be easy to build but given the particular difficulties Martian settlers will face, it will be the better alternative.

Of related interest: Interesting Engineering has an in depth article on the challenges of building human settlements on Mars.

Numbers vs. Mars One

A day has  24 times 60 equals 1440 minutes, which means that you have to watch 200,000 videos each of 1 minute, it will take you 138.8888… days (about 4.67 months) to do this. At least if you are watching non stop. But since a human has to sleep around 8 hours a day, one should be able to watch for up to 16 hours a day. Under this assumption you will need 208.333… days (about 7 months) to complete the task.

Of course, even 16 hours a day non stop watching videos, is a very unrealistic scenario. A more realistic scenario would be watching videos for about 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, which would allow you to watch 50×60=3000 videos a week. An in order to see all 200,000 videos would take you 66.67 weeks.

Question: who would actually do such task in the first place? The answer: the people behind Mars One. On September 9th, 2013, they claimed to have received 200,000 applications for a one-way trip to Mars. As part of the application procedure, people had to submit a one-minute video. According to September press release, these 200,000 applicants were to be screened by the Mars One Selection Committee, and that the procedure would be finished by the end of 2013.

But as we have seen, it’s very unlikely that the committee could have watched all 200,000 videos within a year. Of course, the committee does not exist of one person, but even if they had three members, who would each watch a third of the videos, it would take them 22 weeks to complete their job. But given the importance of the selection, would you base your decision to select (or not) one for a Mars mission on the judgement of a single individual? No serious space agency would base any decision of importance on a single judgement, at least two persons should be involved.

Yesterday Mars One has announced to have selected 1058 candidates for the next selection round. According to the Dutch Public Broadcast, Mars One has not revealed any details about the selection procedure. So we cannot verify whether they have watched all application videos, but we expect they have not done so, given the very unlikelihood of this. Personally I believe the people of Mars One have simply taken a random sample of all applications, and have based their selection upon the sample.

The fact that they keep their selection procedure secret, might be an indication that something is stinking at Mars One. I rest my case.

A few notes on Mars One

Mars One is organization based in the Netherlands aimed at sending four people to Mars in 10 years from now. In previous posts we have discussed the feasibility of their mission plan, and we are a little bit sceptical about it. Perhaps it’s good to discuss their progress.

Curious as we are, we check from time to time their website. The first thing we have to notice is the surprisingly small amount of information it provides. In regard to general information about the colonization of Mars, Wikipedia provides more or less the same amount. But more importantly is the lack of any details about Mars One’s own program.

Nevertheless, the information the site does provide, is of no less importance. Mars One has a road map lined out on their site. According to this, Mars One intends to build “a replica of the Mars settlement on Earth” by… 2013. Though I always thought that in order to build a replica, you have to build the original first, this piece of information is quite interesting. MO claims that this “replica” settlement is meant as both the training facility for their astronauts and as testing ground for the equipment. Because reliability, this “replica” has to be built in an environment similar to Mars (there are enough of such sites on our planet).

Of course, this is actually a good plan: test your stuff here before you send it on the long way to the Red planet. However since it’s already August 2013, we have to ask one simple question: how far is Mars One with building this “replica”? The news section on their site does not refer to any progress in regard of this. Actually MO gives news only quite irregularly. But one would suppose that the start of construction of the testing-and-training facility would be important enough to make an official press release. Hence we might conclude that MO hasn’t been able to establish the replica yet.

It’s unclear whether MO intends to start construction of the “replica” settlement or they want to have it operational by the end of this year. Since Mars One has been subject to severe critique from around the world, it is essential that they will build this facility as soon as possible. If MO can have it operational before 2015, they have something to show their criticisers. But if they fail, then it’s game over. But having an operational Mars base on Earth, is just only the easy part (it will also be a TV studio). The difficult part is actually sending the supplies to Mars, before the intended arrival of first settlers.

So Mars One should provide the world answers to the following questions: Has MO selected any particular site or sites for the prototype settlement already? If so, has MO commenced the procedures to purchase or to lease this site? Or has MO already completed these procedures? When does MO expect to start with the construction and when will it be finished?

Evading these questions is no option, at some point Mars One has to show world something. Otherwise their credibility, already not quite high, will collapse.

Another point of interest, is the following: their most recent update in regard with the progress of their program is dated May, 7th 2013. It states that by then 78,000 people have applied for the mission already. As far as we know, people can give themselves up until August, 31st, and their target is 500,000 applications. Why haven’t been there any further updates? Wouldn’t it be great to know that by now already more than 100,000 or 250,000 people have applied for a one-way trip to Mars? Note they have issued an official press release to let everyone know that 78,000 people had applied.

Honestly, we suspect that the number of additional applications is quite low. The most enthusiast supporters of Mars One have submitted their applications during the first month of the application period. Thereafter only a few people would have submitted an application. Those who didn’t apply, will not do it in the future, because either they are not interested or they are sceptical about Mars One’s credentials.

It would be a huge setback for Bas Lansdorp, if he has to announce that only less than 100,000 people has applied for a one-way journey to the Red planet. Of course, this wouldn’t jeopardize his ambitions to put a man on Mars by 2023, but it would demonstrate his lack of realism.

The Mars One Hoax continues

It seems that some 78,000 people have submitted an application for an one-way ticket to Mars by Dutch organisation Mars One. It’s no secret were highly sceptical of these organisation and the colonization of Mars in general.

One of the reasons why projects aimed at the colonisation of Mars get more attention than the deserve is the gross lack of knowledge among journalists. Too many journalists are unfamiliar with the subject of space colonisation and only a very few of them are aware of Gerard O’Neill, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky or John S. Lewis. Because they lack the knowledge to critically analyse Mars colonisation plans, they are easy prey for ruthless people as Bas Lansdorp.

One of the more peculiar aspects of the Mars One program is their reality TV show. We have to recall that Mr. Lansdorp is a Dutchman and that the Netherlands is the birthplace of reality TV (Big Brother).  So we have to ask whether the whole talk about colonising Mars is in fact nothing more than a pretext for the reality show. The applicants will be televised while they are thinking they will go to the Red Planet.

Of course, no reality TV show will ever raise enough money to fund the whole project (6 billion dollar according to Mars One, our own calculation estimate the project on 7 to 10 billion dollar). So do they have additional funding? Their site does not mention it. Therefore we suspect that it is all about the TV show.

It would not surprise us if Bas Lansdorp will tell at the end of the series, that the whole thing is nothing more than a hoax. So wannabe Mars colonists be aware!

See for more about Mars colonisation.

Mars One and the Olympic games

Bas Lansdorp, the founder and director of “Mars One”, thinks that it will be possible to fund a manned mission to Mars through a reality soap. In order to defend this Mr. Lansdorp is tireless in referring to the Olympic Games. However Mr. Lansdorp ignores the financial reality of the Olympic Games.

If you are seeking an opportunity to invest your money, the Olympic Games are a very, very bad choice. According to The Guardian the estimated costs of the 2012 Olympics were at least 11 billion pounds, and according to Wikipedia the 2012 Olympic had no net loss OR profit. The article also shows that most OGs since 1976 were break even, or had a profit of a few million USD.

Of course, we aren’t sure how reliable these figures are, but these and other data suggest that the Olympics have a very low or negative return on investment. The reason why we are sceptical in regard of the figures of the costs/profits of the Olympics is that both politicians and the IOC have interest to lie about the real costs of the Olympics.

The truth is that the IOC is able to run “profits” from the games, whilst all costs resulting of the externalities caused by the Olympics are shifted to the government. All great part of the costs of the games are hidden, indirect costs. These are often hard to estimate and easy to keep out of the books. And more importantly the IOC never takes responsibility for them.

When Mr. Lansdorp is referring to the Olympics, he takes great risks. More and more people are realising that the Olympics are, financially speaking, a huge scam, where the IOC takes all earning, whilst shifting all costs to the taxpayer. By associating himself with ruthless criminals, he gives not only the Mars movement but the general Space movement a bad name.

See also our post Mars One for a critical review of Mr. Lansdorp Mars program.

Why colonizing Mars is a bad idea

Again someone has announced a flawed plan to send people to Mars, this time the person is Denis Tito (who is famous for being the first space tourist). It appears normal these days for people to have their very own Mars programs, and unfortunately the mass media gives them more coverage than those fanatics deserve.  Because it is important that people learn about the arguments against Mars, I will give a view links to articles and youtube videos, in which is explained in plain language why colonizing Mars is a bad idea.

The following YouTube videos are from Hank of Scishow

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1aggLqdbd0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiCDQ_91Pks

The following article is from Eric Drexler:

The Case Against Mars

The following articles are our own posts on the subject:

Colonization of Mars

Mars one

Elon Musk’s Mars plan scrutinized

 

 

Elon Musk’s Mars plan scrutinized

South African entrepreneur Elon Musk announced his plan to colonize Mars some time ago. In this post I will critically review his plan and I will compare with that other plan to colonize our Red neighbour by 2023. Of course, we of Republic of Lagrangia are quite sceptical about any plan of colonizing Mars, however for a discussion of our position we will refer to this post.

The Huffington post devoted an article to Elon Musk’s plans. According to this article Musk wants that prospective colonists should pay half a million dollars for their ticket to Mars. This amount is both too low and too high. First I will explain why it is too low. We all know that (manned) spaceflight is a very expensive enterprise, for comparison: it takes 7.5 million USD a day to keep one man on the International Space Station. Actually Dennis Tito got a huge discount for his trip to the ISS, he paid 20 million USD for something less than 8 days on the ISS.

We might assume that the costs of a manned trip to Mars will be at least of the same order, perhaps a little bit more. An educated guess for the costs of a Mars mission might be 15 million USD per crew member a day. Further Musk wants to start with 10 people, most Mars missions assume a minimal mission duration of 501 days. Total costs will be 7.515 billion USD. If Musk is seeking to fund his colonization plans with the sale of tickets only, he has to raise the price enormously or he has to find additional funding.

On the other hand the ticket price is much to high. Only multimillionaires can afford to pay this without being declared bankrupt. Unfortunately the number of multimillionaires willing to pay such amount of money in order to emigrate to an extra-terrestrial desert, will be probably very low. It would surprise me, if it would be more than a few hundred (on the whole planet).

And why should the very wealthy want to emigrate to another planet anyway? History learns us that it are the poor and disadvantaged who are most likely to emigrate, looking somewhere else for better chances in life. Yes, rich people emigrate also, but mostly to places with high and expensive services, which Mars totally lacks.

The people who are most willing to emigrate to Mars are educated young people who have not much money, and therefore almost nothing to lose. How would these people be able to pay their ticket? Not at all. Of course someone else might pay for their ticket, but why? Well it might happen that the multimillionaires who are willing to emigrate to Mars, are looking for personal on their Martian estates.

In the early days of the colonization of the America’s there was an institute called indentured servitude. Under this system young people were transported from Europe to America, while their journey was paid by someone else, mostly by a ship captain. However this was not a gift but a loan, which had to be paid off. So in return for the trip, the so-called indentured was obliged to work for several years, usually seven, in order to repay the debt. When an indentured servant arrived in America, the ship captain usually sold the indenture to people who were looking for cheap labour.

In fact indentured servitude is a kind of (voluntary) temporary slavery. It’s not hard to imagine how a spacecraft is launched from Earth with a crew of ten, of which nine are the servants of the tenth person. Since 500,000 USD for each immigrant is a lot of money, even for the very rich, those who are paying someone’s else ticket will see this as an investment. And investments are motivated by return on investment, so it’s more than likely that wealthy Martians will make their indentured servants work hard.

Maybe this is what Musk really wants: a Mars covered by large domed estates, owned by wealthy terrestrial tax-refugees, on which (nearly) all work is done by contract slaves. Sounds to me as a quite feudalist society.

Of course there are other ways to fund Musk’s dreams of establishing a colony on the Red planet with 80,000 residents. Since we can safely assume that no one will pay 500,000 USD for an one-way ticket to Mars, he should think of lowering the ticket price. However this means even less money to fund his expensive ambitions.

One solution is to use a lottery system. Suppose that there on this planet some several hundred thousand to a few million people who might be willing to emigrate to Mars, but we know there is only place for ten on the first manned spaceflight to the Red planet. Now it is possible to sell lottery tickets to everyone interested, instead of winning a large sum of money you will win a trip to Mars. What would be the price of such lottery ticket? Selling one million tickets for 10,000 USD would raise 10 billion USD, which would be enough for a manned mission to Mars (this amount is higher than 7.5 billion I mentioned above, however that was a minimal estimate).

If Musk managed to collect enough funding for his Mars program, he has only enough for sending people to Mars and setting up a colony. However he lacks any idea how such Mars colony would survive economically, the colonists should still need to import stuff from Earth. This is especially true if the colony only has a few dozen members, but also in case of just 80,000 colonists. This means that the Martians should have to export stuff to Earth in exchange for the necessary imports. The only suitable economic activity we can think of on Mars, at least in first decades after the first landing, is mining. (Transit time between Mars and Earth make space tourism very unlikely.) However mining on Mars would never be able to compete with Asteroid mining.

Our conclusion is that Elon Musk’s plan for the colonization of Mars is just another heavily flawed proposal for a manned mission to Mars by private “space” groups. Musk shows no sense of realism, either in regard of the total mission costs or what people are reasonably willing to pay for a ticket. Actually we believe that Musk suffers from what is known as planetary chauvinism, a very dangerous condition.

Mars One

Recently much attention has been paid to the Mars One initiative, a Dutch “space” organization devoted to bringing humans to Our Red Neighbour in 2023, by the blogosphere. As any regular visitor of our site will know, we of Republic of Lagrangia are very sceptical about any plan involving the colonization of the Moon or Mars. In this post I will discuss why we believe that Mars One is almost certainly deemed to be a failure. However, I will not touch the question whether Mars One is a hoax, which would imply that the people behind this group are deliberately pursuing a fraud, a sever accusation. Instead I believe it will be sufficient to deal with the relevant arguments only.

As I said Mars One aims to send four human beings to Mars by the year 2023, that is ten years from now. The idea is that those people will stay on the Fourth planet for the rest of their lives. Some people will be shocked by this idea, but it makes perfectly sense if you are really interested in colonizing outer space; in this case there is no real need to go back to Earth. This is a big difference between Mars One and projected manned missions to Mars of, for instance, NASA. After a successful first manned landing, they intend to launch four-men crews each two years. In fact the whole scheme as pursued by Mars One is not originally, it has essentially copied from Robert Zubrin’s Mars Direct proposal.

Unlike other space settlement initiatives, Mars One will be entirely funded though private means, e.g. no government involvement and no tax money for this project. This raises of course the question how to fund this program. Essentially Mars One intends to collect money from the public, however they realize this will not be enough, therefore they have thought about a source of revenue for funding their project. One of the “theorems” of space colonization is that the creation of a source revenue is essential for space colonization, because investors wants to make profits (see also this post).

How does Mars One plan to generate revenue? Well, their idea is to use the whole thing as the subject of one great reality TV show, and to sell the broadcasting rights in order to fund the entire project. You will not find another suggested source of revenue, other than just begging for donations. Actually this “business plan” is just silly. Why? Because the team of Mars One grossly overestimate the total revenue what can be collected this way. There are many reasons to be sceptical whether this finance strategy will generate enough money to fund the whole mission. First we have to ask how many people are actually going to watch this reality show, whether they will watch the entire series, at least whether they will watch regularly instead of just watching a few episodes. Since the trip to Mars will take some one or two years, during this time the astronauts will be locked up in their space craft and almost every day will be much the same, it is reasonably to assume that a lot of prospective TV viewers will become bored after just a few episodes. Also we have to consider that a lot of people will only watch the launch and landing of the crew, while ignoring the intermediate episodes.

Even if the first mission to Mars could be funded through this reality show, we have to ask whether the subsequent missions can be funded in the same way. Normally TV series, including reality TV, are cancelled after a few seasons (if not earlier because of declining rates) and only a very few shows manage to survives more than five seasons. And if manned Mars missions are becoming more common, more people will lose their interest to follow the whole mission, with the exception of a few die hard fanatics. While series like Deadliest catch can survive with a relatively small base of hard core viewers, Mars mission cannot.

Not only Mars One does not have a sound business plan, their very schedule is in our opinion quite optimistic: a manned landing on Mars in 2023. That’s in ten years from now. This may seem as no big problem, a closer look at their entire schedule, however, reveals another story. They plan to launch a supply mission in 2016, just in three years from now. Such supply mission is necessary (and is again derived from Zubrin’s plan), and any delay will also delay all other dates. Due to the orbital periods of the Earth and Mars, there is every two years, a so-called launch window for mission to Mars (whether they are manned or not), so if you miss the first you have to two wait at least two years. Of course you can launch a spacecraft to Mars at any time, but then you have to take into account a much longer travel time, and additional fuel costs and so.

According to their own schedule, Mars One has to start in 2014 with the preparations of the supply mission. If there will be a delay in this phase, then they will miss their 2016 launch window and subsequently miss their “2023” target. Whether they will get their preparations finished on time, is partially depended on whether they will be able to get sufficient funding for their enterprise. Our conclusion is therefore that the schedule of Mars One is too ambitious and too optimistic. Its rigidity will ultimately be the downfall of Mars One.

Manifesto part 6

No involvement with Lunar or Mars colonies

There are a lot of organizations devoted at the colonization of the Moon and/or Mars, we will not participate in their efforts. We do not see any benefit of the establishment of human settlements on the Moon and our red neighbour. Both celestial bodies have the disadvantage of their low gravity, which is bad of human health. But on the other hand the gravity of these bodies great enough, to give them a high escape velocity. Mars has an escape velocity which is about half Earth’s (which is 11 km/s) and the Moon’s is about a fifth, where the escape velocity of asteroids is close to zero.

Escape velocity is of great concern for space colonists, because in order to reach this velocity energy is needed. Reducing energy requirements is saving money, which improves the economical credibility of space settlement programs. When we realize that there are no resources on the Moon or Mars we cannot find on near earth asteroid or comets, we see that it makes no sense to establish colonies on the Moon and Mars.

In fact all resources we can find on Mars and the Moon, are delivered there by asteroids. Some people will cite the (presumed) lunar reserves of helium 3 (a proposed fusion fuel) as a reason for Lunar colonies. We, however, believe that there is no need for helium 3 as an energy source in the Inner Solar System. If the Outer Solar System will be colonized helium 3 extraction from Uranus makes more sense.