Mars Colonies are a Fantasy

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Oct 21, 2019
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You'll run life support pumps with 19th century bearing technology? You "just" need a Copper mine and refinery, a Tin mine and refinery to produce the bronze. Lucky you found the ore deposits nearby your preferred landing site I suppose? And if you can make bronze bushes, making feedstock for 3D printers - and the printers too - should be easy...
Once again, you choose Strawman Logical Fallacy. As noted, and as any rational colonization plan includes, all the necessary equipment, and spares, will be included in initial supplies. In the event that later on down the road, before local mining and manufacturing are fully up and running, if a part like a bearing fails, replacements can be made from bronze.

Based upon analysis of SNCs, there are deposits of Iron, Aluminum, Titanium, Nickel, Copper, Magnesium, Chromium Molybdenum, Lithium, Cobalt, Zinc, Tungsten, and Gold and other elements on Mars. Meteorites and meteor impacts abound on Mars. Nickel-iron meteorites have been found on the surface.
 
Jan 22, 2020
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You'll run life support pumps with 19th century bearing technology? You "just" need a Copper mine and refinery, a Tin mine and refinery to produce the bronze. Lucky you found the ore deposits nearby your preferred landing site I suppose? And if you can make bronze bushes, making feedstock for 3D printers - and the printers too - should be easy...

I think you are just confirming that you don't have a good grasp of the complexities. Your Mars colony is fantasy.
Have you ever heard necessity is the mother of invention? What makes you think that Mars does not posses all of the same ore that Earth does? Why is it so outrageous that we might be able to mine it and process it? We have that tech right now. Nobody is planning on showing up to Mars before they're is enough gear on the ground to get the job done. With the development of AI and robotics we could have things well under way before we even arrive. Not saying it's a walk in the park but how can you declare something like this as impossible? To say it can't be done is absurd...
 
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Dec 29, 2019
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Have you ever heard necessity is the mother of invention? What makes you think that Mars does not posses all of the same ore that Earth does? Why is it so outrageous that we might be able to mine it and process it? We have that tech right now. Nobody is planning on showing up to Mars before there is enough gear on the ground to get the job done.
Mars may well have many of the same ores but all? I don't think anyone knows. Coal and gas and oil? Unlikely in the extreme. But are the ores you absolutely have to have conveniently located near your proposed colony? Do those at a distance come with transport infrastructure? No.

Complex technology draws on materials and products from all over Earth and that works because we have low cost transport across large distances. Mars colonists will not have that, let alone cost effective transport between Mars and Earth.

It is not enough to know how to, for example, smelt iron and make high quality carbon steel in the absence coal for coke and oxygen. Hydrogen based smelting is currently being trialed because we need to reduce emissions but any iron and steel making involves a lot of heavy equipment that cannot be made on site. I think pretty much every kind of refining will need to be remade for the conditions and will be interdependent with an economy's worth of others, not independent.

We know how to mine and process pretty much everything a Mars colony would need - on Earth under Earth conditions. Mars does not have Earth conditions and that makes a lot of necessity for invention. Given the deadly environment and the time and costs for getting stuff from Earth to the ground on Mars I suggest that the inventing has to come before the necessity.

I think the enthusiasts for Mars colonisation seriously underestimate the amount of gear needed on the ground for self reliance as well as how much getting it on the ground will cost. They also seriously overestimate the ability to finance loss making, feel good ventures on that scale.

With the development of AI and robotics we could have things well under way before we even arrive.
Hoping for AI and robots to do the difficult stuff isn't really a plan. The more advanced the technology, the more comprehensively capable the supporting economy needs to be; it cannot replace that in-depth economy.
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I want to see efforts go into things that will work, not ones that won't. Mars won't work.

Asteroid mining might work, although I think nickel-iron is currently the best existing opportunity there is. I think the bottom line would be delivering it to Earth at costs competitive with local suppliers of nickel-iron alloys; a few thousand USD per ton perhaps.

Extracting the higher value metals that get the hype - or even the nickel from the iron - is not simple but it might be something that can be done economically... on Earth. Use in space or refining in space, that reduces the costs of delivery to Earth makes sense but there is no separate space economy; those activities in space need to make money as part of the greater Earth economy and do it in a sustained, long term way, before they can possibly achieve self reliance.
 
Oct 21, 2019
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Complex technology draws on materials and products from all over Earth and that works because we have low cost transport across large distances. Mars colonists will not have that, let alone cost effective transport between Mars and Earth.
You have just identified why you do not understand how the Mars colonies will be self sufficient once they are up and running. Their survival and self sufficiency will be based upon producing extremely basic necessities such as food, water, air, clothing, shelter etc. None of that is complex technology. Of course they will have radio communication, computers, monitoring equipment etc. which they will bring with them, but most of the work will be done in farming/gardening, irrigating, cleaning, preserving, and other things much as the pioneers did on Earth. Mars will naturally entail many disadvantages, but will also provide many advantages.
If the thousands of miles of lava tubes that are expected to exist in Olympus Mons can be utilized, entire cities could be built with very little effort.
 
Jan 18, 2020
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Thank you for proving you don’t understand the technology required. Although the necessary pumps would be sent initially, they can be repaired locally with a machine shop. Bronze bearings, which are easy to make, have served as pump bearings for centuries.
Well, then, being a "machinist" that has been studying extra-planetary technology for 20 years, how would you handle the microbiome problem (one of thousands of problems any Mars 'colonist' would face)?

They couldn't even do this successfully with the Biosphere I and Biosphere II
projects in the Arizona desert--both designed to test enclosed environments for long-term space survival, and both of which were miserable failures.

FACT: Pregnancy would not only be incredibly difficult to achieve at 1/3G, the fetus would likely die in utero after the first few weeks.

Lots of people are fond of saying, 'Well, if the ISS astronauts can live there for long periods of time in space, why can't we do the same on Mars?'

They apparently know nothing about the Van Allen Radiation Belt.

Ultimately, with a plethora of very substantial--so far insurmountable--technical problems in practice, as Ken Fabian points out, there is no business case. All the billionaires in the world couldn't afford to build an actual, functional, long-term habitat on Mars. And why would any government want to do it? A sightseeing trip might be fun, but other than that, who the hell would even want to live there anyway? We haven't even been able to stay on the Moon more than a few days. Why? Because it has no value to anyone.

I do, however, applaud that good old, frontier-style, can-do spirit, bronze-age technology and all, and I wish us all luck.

And--as I mentioned before--hollowing out a mile-wide asteroid and spinning it to simulate a 1G gravity might be the way forward for any long-term interstellar flight that might be deemed necessary for human survival in the not-too-distant future.

But first we have to do a successful Biosphere project, now long since abandoned --after tens of millions spent--because we just can't do it successfully. Think about that.
 
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Oct 21, 2019
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Well, then, being a "machinist" that has been studying extra-planetary technology for 20 years, how would you handle the microbiome problem (one of thousands of problems any Mars 'colonist' would face)?
How is being a machinist relevant to that issue?
They couldn't even do this successfully with the Biosphere I and Biosphere II projects in the Arizona desert--both designed to test enclosed environments for long-term space survival, and both of which were miserable failures.
There was no “the microbiome problem” problem in the Biospheres. One problem was the inclusion of untended predator insect in the first one. The second Biosphere was vandalized. In any case, that was 25 years ago. Science in these areas has advance greately
FACT: Pregnancy would not only be incredibly difficult to achieve at 1/3G, the fetus would likely die in utero after the first few weeks.
I have never seen, nor can there be, any evidence to support that claim.
Lots of people are fond of saying, 'Well, if the ISS astronauts can live there for long periods of time in space, why can't we do the same on Mars?'They apparently know nothing about the Van Allen Radiation Belt.
That is irrelevant to establishing a Mars colony.
as Ken Fabian points out, there is no business case.
I never said there was, In fact, I specifically pointed out that we have the technology, but currently not the funding.
And--as I mentioned before--hollowing out a mile-wide asteroid and spinning it to simulate a 1G gravity might be the way forward for any long-term interstellar flight that might be deemed necessary for human survival in the not-too-distant future.
That is irrelevant to establishing Mars colonies.
 
Feb 1, 2020
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SAJP,

Good, you know the challenges of the planned endeavor.

Where you get into some trouble is in your insistence that since You don't know how to do it, nobody does.

Th technology necessary to set a sustainable colony on Mars has been with us since the late 1970's. True, doing it would have practically bankrupted the United States, so it wasn't practical. It was however possible.

Being impractical is why nobody attempted it.

The minimum size for a '70's level of technology would have required a population of several hundred thousand people. The minimum population size comes from the necessity of producing everything locally. It takes a; lot of skilled workers to provide the necessary production.

For a colony on Mars, they have to have a place to live and get all the required materials to continue to live and even thrive. Those requirements are 1) air; 2) water; 3) shelter; 4) heat; 5) power; 6) communications; 7) companionship; 8) tools sufficient to their needs and 9) storage.

For the trip to Mars, there are other requirements as well. On the interplanetary trip there is need for supply and shelter mostly. The shelter would have to include some form of radiation protection, as well as providing adequate air and temperature control along with a source of power.

Radiation protection can be provided by 15 cm (6 inches) of water. That is well established, and will give a protection roughly equivalent to a person living in Denver Colorado. NASA has some scientific articles on this going back to the 1990's. Some even earlier. NASA is currently working on a shielding means that seems to consist of something like styrofoam that would need around one to two inches (3-5cm) to provide the same protection. It's being built into the new Orion Capsules. Anything that provides lots of bound hydrogen turns out to shield against most radiation.

This still leaves the proposed colonists with some radiation exposure. The effects of low level radiation are vastly overblown. The truth is that you and I are subjected to constant low level radiation. X-ray, gamma ray, proton, electron and neutron radiation strike us all the time, as do Muons from cosmic ray collisions in the upper atmosphere. but we have systems that counteract it in our bodies. Only however so long as it stays below a threshold level that seems to be around twice the worst case background level. After all, uranium salts are the eight most common salt in seawater, and have been for billions of years. Earth has always been slightly radioactive. Mars is likely to be the same.

Gravity might also be a problem there. So many proposals want to generate it artificially during the trip. We believe that we know how, but nobody has ever done it in space. They have on the ground.

Then, once the proposed colonists arrive, the work begins.

1) The first requirement is air. As you noted, breathable air does not seem to exist on Mars. The atmosphere is over 90% CO2, with around six percent nitrogen and two to three percent water vapor. Trace compounds include most of the Noble Gasses, some carbon monoxide, some methane and even some oxygen. A great many other gasses are also there in PPM (parts per million) or PPB (per billion) quantities. But it is really just impure CO2.

For the trip to Mars and for perhaps the first month on Mars, oxygen brought from Earth would provide most of the air breathed by the colonists.

However, after the first set up is completed, the colony would begin to produce air. That's not really all that hard.

Plants take in CO2 and give off oxygen. It 's a byproduct of their internal sugar production. That sugar then makes the other carbohydrates and proteins we eat. So at least some of the work needed to make air to breath will also make the food to eat.

There are also chemical processes that give off oxygen. The famous red color of Mars comes from iron oxide, rust. Refining iron or steel will if done correctly produce far more oxygen than a colony would need for air.

so requirement #1 can be easily met.

2) Water. Water ice has been found from orbit across most of the face of Mars. It's everywhere, almost. Liquid water can't exist on the surface for more than short times. It's below the sublimation threshold, the triple point. fortunately though, Mars is as you noted, cold. It's cold enough that ice is stable, even on the surface for weeks at a time, and if out of the sunlight practically forever.

So ice will be mined. Heat the ice and you get pure water. Water for drinking, water for agriculture, water for fuel production, water for industrial use. We use far more water for industry here on earth than we do for drinking. They will too.

So insurmountable problem #2 is easily solved.

3) Shelter. The colonists will need a place to live that keeps the air in and the radiation both from the sun and from deep space out. It will also have to provide insulation against the cold of the surface and have ways to move air and water and power and data around inside.

We know how to build those. A nuclear submarine holds around a hundred men for months at a time in a can under hundreds of meters of seawater, with no access to the air outside and no water outside that can be safely drunk. Nobody thinks that anything amazing. So why is the same thing pronounced impossible in space or on Mars? Now submarines are built of strong steel, but three feet of stone is as strong as a half inch of steel. It has better insulating properties too.

Pile up rock dust or anything else that's handy, apply some pressure, add some electricity, and it becomes a sandstone like rock. More electricity and it makes some fine pottery as well. 3D printing stone isn't really a new or impossible thing. Oh, and plastics can be made from CO2 and water. So there will also be 3d printed plastic parts.

Of course, it will be steel re-inforced, just as large buildings here on Earth are. So why is it impossible to do on Mars what we nearly always do here on Earth?

Insurmountable problem #3 is easily solved.

4) heat. This is a byproduct of 5) power. The colony will probably have a bigger problem getting rid of excess heat than it will have of freezing. Power. the two systems being proposed are nuclear and solar. Wind isn't very good, nor is hydro or burning coal or oil. Nuclear works no matter where you are. You just have to get rid of a lot of heat. See #4 above. Solar works about as well on Mars as it does on Earth. Mars is further from the sun. So by inverse square, Mars gets roughly half the solar radation that Earth does. But earth loses half of the incoming solar radiation to atmosphere. So it's close to the same overall.

6) Communications. Radio. I need say no more.

7) Companionship. Sociologists say that the colony would need a population of over 160 people to provide enough of a social network to be stable. I don't think anyone is proposing a colony smaller than that.

8) Tools adequate to the job. This is probably the most questionable right now. Tools however can be made and most likely will be made that can do anything needed. An electric bobcat driven by remote control would be a fine mining tool, I'm thinking. Ditto a forklift. Don't underestimate the abilties of a pocket knife either. Tools will change, but some won't change and won't need to.

9) Storage. Any colony will have to store extra items produced at one time for use at another. Why not? We do it rather a lot here on Earth. But storage is really just a few more buildings. Some will have to be pressurized, some will not. but like any city, there will be storage yards, depots and so forth.

So there, all of Mr. Musks dreams are possible things and a Mars Colony is possible. It would even after several years be a comfortable place. Like living in a shopping mall or a resort hotel.

Or a factory floor.

Most likely all of them in different parts of the colony. A nice comfortable place.

But not a cheap one.

Against all this is the fact that a colony, to be stable has to provide enough value to pay for itself. Mars has a lot, but it has nothing that Earth doesn't have more of. Nothing or very little that is.

Mars can provide a low atmosphere environment for electronics production, but not as good as the Moon can. Such things are currently done in Fab Plants that use things like pumps to get the air pressure down to near zero when they need that.
Though fab plants now are getting so expensive that it just might be cheaper to build then on the moon or some other body.

Mars can provide fuel to spacecraft bound for further destination. Yes, if there is demand. Currently there isn't.

For industrial activity, well, it takes from nine months to two and a half years to get from Mars to Earth or the other way around. That's a long shipping lag. Whatever you ship better be valuable.

There is another model that we don't like.

One way to pay for a colony was done by the British in Georgia and later in South Africa and Australia.

Ship out criminals and 'surplus poor' or indigent people you don't want to have to deal with. Once there, they work their way out of Prison, then have to live in the place they were sent. The process works, sort of. Though the people thus cast off tend to hold resentments for rather a long time.

So there you have it. Colonizing Mars can be done, but not profitably at this time. However it's changing. In the 1970's it would have cost tens of Trillions. Now, fifty years later, it's down to merely tens of Billions. We can't really pull it all off yet safely. If attempted in the next ten years, there will be colonists dying. Maybe all of them. But work already planned on the Moon will make it get easier. Eventually, it will get easy enough that a colony can pay for itself over over a projected 50 year period. That's when it will happen.

Now? Probably not. But someday. Certainly before 2100.
 
Jan 18, 2020
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OK, you win! Thanks for breaking it all down so eloquently.

I have to say though, the "bronze bearings" thing. Sheer genius!
 
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Feb 1, 2020
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Mars may well have many of the same ores but all? I don't think anyone knows. Coal and gas and oil? Unlikely in the extreme. But are the ores you absolutely have to have conveniently located near your proposed colony? Do those at a distance come with transport infrastructure? No.

Complex technology draws on materials and products from all over Earth and that works because we have low cost transport across large distances. Mars colonists will not have that, let alone cost effective transport between Mars and Earth.

It is not enough to know how to, for example, smelt iron and make high quality carbon steel in the absence coal for coke and oxygen. . .
fu
Mars may well have many of the same ores but all? I don't think anyone knows. Coal and gas and oil? Unlikely in the extreme. But are the ores you absolutely have to have conveniently located near your proposed colony? Do those at a distance come with transport infrastructure? No.

Complex technology draws on materials and products from all over Earth and that works because we have low cost transport across large distances. Mars colonists will not have that, let alone cost effective transport between Mars and Earth.

It is not enough to know how to, for example, smelt iron and make high quality carbon steel in the absence coal for coke and oxygen. Hydrogen based smelting is currently being trialed because we need to reduce emissions but any iron and steel making involves a lot of heavy equipment that cannot be made on site. I think pretty much every kind of refining will need to be remade for the conditions and will be interdependent with an economy's worth of others, not independent.

We know how to mine and process pretty much everything a Mars colony would need - on Earth under Earth conditions. Mars does not have Earth conditions and that makes a lot of necessity for invention. Given the deadly environment and the time and costs for getting stuff from Earth to the ground on Mars I suggest that the inventing has to come before the necessity.

I think the enthusiasts for Mars colonisation seriously underestimate the amount of gear needed on the ground for self reliance as well as how much getting it on the ground will cost. They also seriously overestimate the ability to finance loss making, feel good ventures on that scale.



Hoping for AI and robots to do the difficult stuff isn't really a plan. The more advanced the technology, the more comprehensively capable the supporting economy needs to be; it cannot replace that in-depth economy.
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I want to see efforts go into things that will work, not ones that won't. Mars won't work.

Asteroid mining might work, although I think nickel-iron is currently the best existing opportunity there is. I think the bottom line would be delivering it to Earth at costs competitive with local suppliers of nickel-iron alloys; a few thousand USD per ton perhaps.

Extracting the higher value metals that get the hype - or even the nickel from the iron - is not simple but it might be something that can be done economically... on Earth. Use in space or refining in space, that reduces the costs of delivery to Earth makes sense but there is no separate space economy; those activities in space need to make money as part of the greater Earth economy and do it in a sustained, long term way, before they can possibly achieve self reliance.
You are obviously not a planetary scientist or an engineer.

Coal will not be found on Mars. The coal deposits were laid down by forests before there were fungi able to consume cellulose. But oil and gas are not actually fossil fuels. Well, some limited amount is.

Carbon burned in a hydrogen rich environment burns into methane. The heavier hydrocarbons are simply the result of partial conbustion, just as soot is the result of partial combustion of carbon sources in an oxygen atmosphere. There are complex hydrocarbons all over the solar system. Asteroids with more petroleum than Saudi Arabia have been identified. Some of those have crashed on Mars. There will also be underground deposits. We don't know where yet. Finding any of those will take decades.

However, all you really need is a carbon source and a hydrogen source. Conveniently, the Martian atmosphere contains both. Given water and CO2, a Sabitier reactor can take in those two materials and output oxygen and methane. Methane can be reacted to produce simple carbon. Steel is really just fairly pure iron and carbon, often with other additives for various properties. This is really 1800's level technology.

The true limiting factor will be availability of electrical power. That is a serious limitation, but it is one being worked on.

But don't expect any putative Mars colony to be established with a single mission. The process is expected to take decades of slow building and continuous shipments of supplies from Earth, along with continued advancement of the technologies involved.

Oh, and don't worry about the ores. Most of the ores on Earth that we rely upon were laid down by water and bacteria ages ago. We dig them up, but some mining operations use water and bacteria to speed things up. Copper is mined that way in Utah right now, for instance. There will be similar tricks used on Mars. Just what they do will depend on what they have and what they need.

The elements available on Mars and on Earth are actually quite similar. Its really just standard mining engineering practice.
 
Feb 1, 2020
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OK, you win! Thanks for breaking it all down so eloquently.

I have to say though, the "bronze bearings" thing. Sheer genius!
Bronze is sometimes convenient. Brass is too. but the bearings will more likely be made of steel. It's just cheaper and more available. Plastics work sometimes and are even cheaper. In industry, cheap generally wins. Stilll, if inexpensive supplies of copper and tin are discovered. . .
 
Jan 18, 2020
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You are obviously not a planetary scientist or an engineer.
Well, I don't believe anyone is qualified to judge someone's expertise in this area unless they actually are a planetary scientist or an engineer.

Regardless of the gravity problems , the relatively near zero atmospheric pressure and the lethal radiation, why would anyone spend a year of spaceflight going to Mars--spending untold billions of dollars to do so, and several hundred more billions to build an underground habitat--to actually live there?

What's the payoff? Do you believe it's all about mining? Robots can do that a lot more cheaply and a hundred times more efficiently.

So far, no one has yet to make a *reasonable* case in justifying such an investment, let alone consider why any 'colonists' sent to live there would want to endure such a life. It would be like sentencing them to the worst of prisons where death was always close at hand.

I'll stick with my original premise--and I'd be happy to argue it with Musk himself--colonizing Mars is a worthless (valueless) fantasy. Even a space station beyond the Van Allen Belt is a pipe dream at this point.
 
Feb 3, 2020
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Regardless of the gravity problems , the relatively near zero atmospheric pressure and the lethal radiation, why would anyone spend a year of spaceflight going to Mars--spending untold billions of dollars to do so, and several hundred more billions to build an underground habitat--to actually live there?

What's the payoff? Do you believe it's all about mining? Robots can do that a lot more cheaply and a hundred times more efficiently.

So far, no one has yet to make a *reasonable* case in justifying such an investment, let alone consider why any 'colonists' sent to live there would want to endure such a life. It would be like sentencing them to the worst of prisons where death was always close at hand.

I'll stick with my original premise--and I'd be happy to argue it with Musk himself--colonizing Mars is a worthless (valueless) fantasy. Even a space station beyond the Van Allen Belt is a pipe dream at this point.
The payoff is, Knowledge and Increased survive-ability. If we all just worry about making money and taking the easy way out for laziness and ignorance like you would have us do, our entire history would mean nothing at all as we will sooner or later go extinct. Especially without any sense of adventure or advancement. What's the point of intelligence then if we're all a bunch of lazy pussies?

You act like the colony would be a hellish prison full of torture, but soon after we get things rolling its sure to become nicer than earth in many ways, no mosquitoes, nice temperatures, quality food, and a lack of truly evil people cause it won't be allowed to thrive like it is here. There's no reason the colonies can't be shielded from radiation and feel like home inside.

Yes Mars will need a lot of help from earth for several decades but who cares really? We already waste so much time on junk today maybe we can redirect our destruction and consumerist trash to something hard but worthwhile? Mars can certainly become self sustaining, and earth will benefit from the missions knowledge and technology gains. The easy way is rarely the best way when it comes to accomplishing something worthwhile.

Just because someone can't see how the world would ever be round doesn't make it flat. You have to look at the bigger picture, your stuck in a loop of it's too scary, it's too hard so nobody should do it. Just stay home and watch TV it's safer.

I'm no expert but you clearly aren't either so you shouldn't claim it's impossible when a lot of the problems you speak of have been solved and many more have probable solutions. But we have to get out there and innovate from the field. You can only do so much in the office.
 
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Jan 18, 2020
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"...taking the easy way out for laziness and ignorance like you would have us do..."
Don't put words in my mouth--it's lowbrow and ignorant.

if you can't respond properly to legitimate questions and understand the spirit in which they were asked then you don't qualify for the calm, rational discussion we're trying to have here.

'...a lot of the problems you speak of have been solved ..."

No, they have not, and you haven't mentioned any that have.
I haven't said anything about not liking adventure and so forth, as you intimate. I love the idea, but the more I studied and learned, the more problems were revealed. Of course it's disappointing, but I am a realist, not a fantasist, and it is the realists who will actually accomplish such goals--not those whose knowledge doesn't extend much beyond the sci-fi channel.

We ARE out there in the field right now, and we have learned about these problems beginning with the Mercury Program through to the Apollo Missions to the ISS. THAT is from where these questions have arisen, not from anyone's 'beliefs'.

But there's no need to try and counter any of my thoughts--wait and see! Or better yet--go help the Biosphere I and Biosphere II projects that have both been such failures that no one wants to spend anymore money on them.
 
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Th technology necessary to set a sustainable colony on Mars has been with us since the late 1970's. True, doing it would have practically bankrupted the United States, so it wasn't practical. It was however possible.
Agreed. Have been pointing that out for over 15 years.
The minimum size for a '70's level of technology would have required a population of several hundred thousand people. The minimum population size comes from the necessity of producing everything locally. It takes a; lot of skilled workers to provide the necessary production.
Disagree. We have a huge head start on the technology and the materials to get it started. My proposal included sending robotic cargo ships with all the supplies, tools, and equipment necessary to support a colony for five years. That should give them enough time to be producing air, food, etc. on their own. Most tools, equipment, electronics etc. would be useable until they develop the ability to produce their own, perhaps 10-50 years depending upon the item.
Plants take in CO2 and give off oxygen. It 's a byproduct of their internal sugar production. That sugar then makes the other carbohydrates and proteins we eat. So at least some of the work needed to make air to breath will also make the food to eat.
Breathable air should not be a problem. Between processing the thin CO2 atmosphere, and growing enough food which would produce oxygen, the air supplies should be stable within 5 years.
3) Shelter. The colonists will need a place to live that keeps the air in and the radiation both from the sun and from deep space out. It will also have to provide insulation against the cold of the surface and have ways to move air and water and power and data around inside.
Most vulcanologists agree that Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in this Solar System, will have thousands of miles of lava tubes. If so, the habitat problem is not only solved, but made easy, safe, and plentiful. Sealing off sections could provide enough interior space for a dozen interconnected colonies.
In addition, since volcanoes bring all sorts of materials up, much of the mining could be done “indoors”.
Also, Olympus Mons would be a great spaceport. At 16 miles high, the top gives a significant boost to takeoff, and requires less fuel to land upon.
The fact that Olympus Mons is very near the equator would provide the mildest climate on Mars for outdoor activities.
We know how to build those. A nuclear submarine holds around a hundred men for months at a time in a can under hundreds of meters of seawater, with no access to the air outside and no water outside that can be safely drunk.
Very good point.
 
Jan 18, 2020
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YetAnotherBob said:
"We know how to build those. A nuclear submarine holds around a hundred men for months at a time in a can under hundreds of meters of seawater, with no access to the air outside and no water outside that can be safely drunk."

==================

That analogy can't apply. Subs have a disciplined military crew and are shadowed by tenders full of fresh food and supplies, can surface anytime for fresh air, use onboard desalination plants for freshwater and huge oceans readily at hand to get it from. They have abundant electrical energy supplies.

Lately I've been reading up on graphene. An industrial-sized 3D printer could manufacture thousands of specialty parts, structural supports, high-temperature/high-pressure piping for fluid delivery and hydraulics, etc. Graphene seems very promising.

Right now I'm trying to do some rough calculations as to how hydraulic and pneumatic pressure vessels strong enough to use in tractors and the pressure pumps needed to sustain pressure in the habitats--overall how they would perform in the near vacuum. ISS uses all electric motors to avoid pressurized devices but they are only strong enough to operate at zero G. Same for the lunar rovers and the Spirit robot on Mars.

Hydraulic systems won't operate under water here on Earth, that's why we have to use pneumatics. But how high-pressure hydraulics or pneumatics would work on a tractor or other heavy equipment at close to vacuum is very interesting.

This is just one of thousands of areas we need to study and develop.
 
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I still maintain that the Mars optimists greatly underestimate the difficulties as well as the extent that even our more basic modern technological capabilities are interconnected and interdependent in ways that take a large and pre-existing economic base that depends on diverse and widely dispersed resouces to do successfully. And a tiny population doing all that is needed under such extreme and dangerous conditions at such a great distance from the capabilities and resources of Earth multiplies the difficulties. And the costs.

I don't think any of the replies have demonstrated otherwise or really addressed the issues I've raised - other than with re-iterations of what I think is unfounded optimism. In light of that I think I will leave the discussion here.
 
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Jan 18, 2020
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I still maintain that the Mars optimists greatly underestimate the difficulties as well as the extent that even our more basic modern technological capabilities are interconnected and interdependent in ways that take a large and pre-existing economic base that depends on diverse and widely dispersed resouces to do successfully. And a tiny population doing all that is needed under such extreme and dangerous conditions at such a great distance from the capabilities and resources of Earth multiplies the difficulties. And the costs.

I don't think any of the replies have demonstrated otherwise or really addressed the issues I've raised - other than with re-iterations of what I think is unfounded optimism. In light of that I think I will leave the discussion here.
Agreed. I was hoping to elicit more in-depth, well-thought out commentary. Haven't seen much of that so far. Perhaps the way I worded the title was too provocative, and perhaps I underestimated the number of Musk sci-fi fanbois as well.

If eventually there is any human habitation on Mars, it might be very short term and probably strictly limited to specific data gathering, but even that makes little practical sense, since it could be done by robotic systems far cheaper and magnitudes less dangerous.

Thanks for participating.
 
Oct 21, 2019
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I still maintain that the Mars optimists greatly underestimate the difficulties as well as the extent that even our more basic modern technological capabilities are interconnected and interdependent in ways that take a large and pre-existing economic base that depends on diverse and widely dispersed resouces to do successfully.
As noted previously, viable and self-reliant colonies on Mars or anywhere else do not necessarily require all of the elements of either infrastructure or hard goods we have here, perhaps not even the majority of those. As an active and fully prepared Survivalist, I understand what is necessary, and what is not, and exactly what is required to survive, even Survive With Style.
And a tiny population doing all that is needed under such extreme and dangerous conditions at such a great distance from the capabilities and resources of Earth multiplies the difficulties. And the costs.
Once inside the habitats, especially if they are lava tubes in Olympus Mons, the conditions will be neither extreme nor dangerous. In fact, in such protected and secure accommodations, they would be safer than virtually any of their counterparts on Earth. There would be no danger of earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, K-T level asteroid strikes etc. That would be equivalent to the safest places on planet Earth, the nuclear submarines in our oceans.
 
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Agreed. I was hoping to elicit more in-depth, well-thought out commentary.
Many of the comments regarding the viability of colonies on Mars are the result of decades of thought, research, and scientific data. Most are a concise distillation of the available data, since it is not practical to post ALL of the information here.
If eventually there is any human habitation on Mars, it might be very short term and probably strictly limited to specific data gathering, but even that makes little practical sense, since it could be done by robotic systems far cheaper and magnitudes less dangerous.
You are welcome to your opinion. The reasons for colonies on Mars are many and diverse. These discussions barely scratch the surface.
 
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Feb 1, 2020
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{QUOTE]
I'll stick with my original premise--and I'd be happy to argue it with Musk himself--colonizing Mars is a worthless (valueless) fantasy. Even a space station beyond the Van Allen Belt is a pipe dream at this point.
[/QUOTE]

From what I have read, Mr. Musk doesn't plan to actually build his proposed colony on Mars. He just provides the ride there (for a fee). Like you, I don't believe his timelines. 2022 for an unmanned cargo and 2024 for a roughly 30 person manned mission won't happen. Maybe by 2026, maybe. Certainly by 2030. (Or maybe 2031, Mars transit orbits occur roughly every 26 months, not 24. Every once in a while, you have to add another year to the roughly two year timeline.)

In my earlier reply to you, I did say that things might be a bit dangerous for the colonists. we are in around the same position as the first English colonists of North America.
They had the technology, barely. That is much like us today.
The first attempt was Sir Walter Raliegh's Roanoake. That lasted a little over a year then the people disappeared. Most likely due to native dissatisfaction with the English. We really don't know.
The second attempt was the Popham Colony in what is now Maine. They built a ship and sailed back to England after the first winter. It got quite cold.
It was the third and Fourth colonies that succeeded. Jamestown and Plymouth. The technology had been there since early in the reign of Elizabeth, but the first successful colony wasn't until the reign of James, her nephew, 30 to 50 years later.
I suspect that the first colony might, like the English, not be the first successful one.
The people who have volunteered though all know that. It's a one way trip after all. Still, Mars One got over a hundred thousand volunteers. Even if only one percent actually are willing to go, that's still the 30 or so that are needed for that first trip.
But the technology needed and the materials to be used are still not identified. They can be, but they aren't. Not yet.
That's why I say give it another ten to twenty years.
 
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Feb 1, 2020
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SAJP, Sir,

A minor quibbble.

I had pointed out in a previous post that we, using 1960's technology keep submarines going for months at a time. You disputed that due to "sub tenders".
I have known several men who served for long periods on such nuclear subs. There are no tenders following these undersea ships. That would defeat the purpose of the subs. If you wished to sink the missile submarines, you would just need to follow the tenders. That's why there are none. These submarines operate at sea for often up to six months with NO contact except by secure communications, using satellite or ULF systems that are secure.
Sub tenders are indeed used, and have been used by the US, the Germans and the Japanese during WWII and later by the Russians and the US, as well as several other nations. These ships do provide food and fuel for the diesel boats. But that's a different basis of technology. The issue on the post was that we do know how to build structures and systems that can operate in isolation and without resupply for months and even years at a time. It is done all the time, and by several nations.
The point there was that the ability to create these systems, what is needed for interplanetary travel and even settling is existing technology, or nearly so. And yes, they are operated by the Militaries of their respective nations.
However, when the original colonies were set up by the English, the early American Colonies were also operated as military installations. and yes, the early Martian colonies will probably resemble that too.
So what?
So were Denver and St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
 
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Feb 1, 2020
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"Robots can do that a lot more cheaply and a hundred times more efficiently."

Well, actually, the robots on Mars have over a twenty year period done about two days of field geology work. Robots are SLOW for general purpose work.
For repetitive work which is properly set up, robots are both fast and efficient, which is why manufacturing here on Earth has steeply falling employment. Robots are quite good at those narrow tasks. Under the proper conditions, one robot can replace a dozen or more factory workers doing repetitive and boring tasks, and do it faster and cheaper.
But to take advantage of that, you need people on site or close.
Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity and their ilk require near constant supervision. This is provided by the JPL in California.
The speed of light lag, averaging thirty minutes, means that the robots move only meters per day.
It's amazing that things are actually that good. JPL and NASA generally are pushing some real advancement in the field. but, having the operators on site will make for much more advantageous operations.
But, that's not the real reason for any of this.
The real reason is to create homes for people who will then find things that we cannot presently foresee and do not imagine.
So don't ask what the returns will be. You and I cannot know that. Not until after it is done. Maybe long after.
As late as 1776, the Bermuda sugar plantations were worth more than all of North America, as calculated by the British Government. They were right too. The King and his Prime Minister had the facts to prove it.
But by 1876, the "worthless" United States could buy areas hundreds or thousands of times the size of Bermuda, and a couple of times, did.
Alaska yielded more gold than Britain's treasury had. So did California.
Today, the United States is worth quite a bit more than the island of Bermuda.
But in 1776 no one could have said any of that. Not and backed it up.
So no, we don't know all the reasons why colonizing Mars is a good idea.
But it is.
And yes, it is a fantasy. Everything is a fantasy until after it is done the first time. Going to the Moon was just a fantasy when Kennedy gave his famous speech. but we did it! Doing that then gave us the modern Computer Revolution, which is worth Trillions of Dollars worldwide. There was more besides.
Going back to the Moon is now a wise financial move. The Chinese clearly see that. So do several Billionaires.
Mars is bigger than is America. It's also just next door to the next Great Frontier after that.
Infinity is a rather large prize, don't you think?
 
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Oct 21, 2019
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My extensive real-world experience in electrical, plumbing, carpentry, machining, electronics, and construction probably gives me an advantage when it comes to understanding what can and cannot be done in regards to colonies on Mars. Six years in the US Navy and living on a small (330 crew) ship at sea also gives me real life experience in close-quarters living conditions, self-sufficiency, and highly technical repairs without the necessary supplies. I made many “impossible” repairs because I had no choice. Those who have never been there won’t understand.
If sufficient supplies are sent ahead of time, the colonists can concentrate on acclimating to the planet instead of scrambling for survival.

I am much older than the typical colonist would be to start with, but I would be a valuable asset there. I would go if that were at all possible. That is because I understand the challenges and am extremely confident on myself and others meeting the challenge.
 
Feb 1, 2020
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SAJP,
You said, "Hydraulic systems won't operate under water here on Earth, that's why we have to use pneumatic s. "
Uh, hydraulic systems work just fine under waterif they are correctly designed. You are obviously not an Engineer, as I said in an earlier post.
Before you go off again on Scientists and Engineers, I am in fact an Engineer, a Professional Engineer registered in several states. I have also worked with sceintists, including Planetary Scientists on several projects. Planetary Scientists are generally either Geologists or Astronomers in my experience. Both are a wealth of information and expertise who bring a lot to the table in the design of complex systems.
The main difference between Hydraulic systems and Pneumatic systems is that most liquids are incompressible fluids. Most gasses are compressible. In practice, what this means is that a pneumatic system as a bit of 'give' in the design. A hydraulic system will simply move, or break. Which it does depends on several other factors. The design of the motor and actuator, the environment, and so forth. The engineers have to take all that into account.
Usually, hydraulic systems respond faster, but pneumatic systems are 'gentler' or more forgiving. Of course, each environment and application is different. There are even some situations where the fluid in question can pass a phase change and so move from compressible to incompressible inside the mechanism. This is a quite rare conditions however, and may indicate a design flaw.
Or not.
For underwater systems, you generally want to provide a path for the water in the mechanism which is displaced to have some place to go. Water is incompressible after all. That is however, the design engineers responsibility. Which Engineer has that responsibility can be an issue for the Project Manager.
Large projects can be complex.
 
Dec 26, 2019
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Yes what you have said is right. Colonizing Mars is still in conceptual stage and it will get cleared only a set of people land on mars and analyze the conditions.
 

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