Today Mars. Tomorrow the Galaxy

Sf is occasionally predictive and a driving force toward a future.

Believing it major force is a vanity authors and publishers like to engage in. It does sometimes ‘make straight the way’ by preparing the public to accept concepts that were simply outside their Overton window before (the idea of space travel, for example). But… well, viewed dispassionately, 99% of sf (or fantasy or murder mysteries) are more of a reflection of their society, than society is a reflection of them.

Yes, most of it is just entertainment. I know this is a bit lowering if you had delusions of grandeur, a belief in your sacred mission to make the future gender-fluid or whatever, but at least entertainment generally pays.

The interesting part – for the working writer trying to make a living out of this is that looking at the world and its interests can give you a remarkably good idea what could well be popular into the future. When the space program / moon-race was hot and front and center, the popular and well-selling sf had a hard-engineering interplanetary ‘realistic’ feel to it. For the last few years when manned space programs were far back on the US Admin’s agenda, which also slipped away. SF generally actually became more ‘space opera’ (in the sense that space/space ships/ other worlds was merely a convenient setting for the story – which really didn’t have space etc as a core plot requirement. There is nothing wrong with this, just as there is nothing wrong with Brazilian as compared to Kenyan coffee. It’s just the not same and to different people’s tastes.)

With President Trump now supporting and endorsing ideas like manned flights to Mars, I’m guessing the “THE MARTIAN” might be one of those books that paved the way – but we may have a lot more that follow that way. There was always a market, it may just be a bigger one.

Of course that’s not the way everyone sees it. I was fascinated to see a combination of sneers ‘He just wants to sell Martian Real Estate (and variations on this theme) from people I thought were sf fans eager for space travel, and ‘We should solve all the problems on earth first’.

Curious.

I wonder if these people will stay non-customers, and just how many of them there are?

I wonder if the latter group have any idea how much of scientific progress we owe to that space race, and how vastly that impacted on all of our lives in so many ways from Teflon to GPS navigation, and a few million stops between, that just couldn’t have come out of ‘solving all the problems on earth first.’? And a great many of them made solving those problems a lot more plausible. Not completely plausible, because the human capacity to invent stupid problems is vast, if not infinite.

I wonder about the former group too. Is a spade not a spade if someone you didn’t like made it? We had an amusing incident a few days back where in the hearing for a new Judge (I think for the US Supreme Court. Sorry, it’s not my country, and so I don’t pay all that much attention) had a Conservative – Senator Cruz IIRC ask the Judge for the answer to life, the universe, and everything. To which he got the answer ‘42’ – and the resultant melt-down from some snowflake that the Hitchhiker’s Guide was now tainted… because people not of her political persuasion had read it, remembered it, and were amused by it.

It had been sullied by their vile eyeballs, and would remain now forever unclean. She could never enjoy it again.

By now my vile eyeballs are rolling so hard and fast you could hook up a generator to them and power a small city. I was reminded of Orson Scott Card and John C. Wright – both considered brilliant writers by the Modern American Left… until they were cast out utterly for doctrinaire reasons in their personal lives and not their writing. Now, the same books, same writing style, has been miraculously transformed from pure gold into the basest of base metals. A spade is not a spade any more. Humans getting to Mars was good but is now bad. And logic has gone for lunch.

Oddly I consider someone with a different worldview reading and enjoying my work a huge win – even if what they get out is not what I meant. I can’t control what they think, and don’t want to. But I have communicated… possibly over a very wide and high barrier. That’s an achievement. And maybe I can make some points – as well as some money. I couldn’t do that if they didn’t sully it with their eyeballs.

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79 responses to “Today Mars. Tomorrow the Galaxy

  1. Myself, I’m utterly tickled that the judge in question decided to answer with that. ONE OF US ONE OF US ONE OF US~!

  2. paladin3001

    I find it interesting that some readers will consider a writers political standing to be more important than if they can write a good story. There are some authors that I will read no matter what they espouse, usually. Depends on how deeply they drink the koolaid and what they espouse in their writings.
    Mind you there are some writers now that I won’t read because of their political beliefs. *cough* Atwood *cough*

    • Robin Munn

      The difference between refusing to read Margaret Atwood and, say, Eric Flint is that unlike Atwood, Flint generally keeps his politics out of the story. (Mostly: they leak in a bit in 1632, but it’s enjoyable anyway.) Where’s A Handmaid’s Tale is nothing but politics in story form, so it’s impossible to avoid. (And, as with just about ANY preachiness poured all over a story, turns it into a lousy story).

      • snelson134

        And Flint’s liberalism in 1632 was tempered by the use of a rural WV coal town as opposed to say something in Massachusetts. Look at what happened in Stirling’s Nantucket which had a MUCH higher proportion of ecoloons in residence.

        PS I wonder if Flint’s expressed an opinion on the fact based on the election results that Grantville would probably have voted 80%+ for Trump.

      • Oh gads yes on Atwood. I read Handmaid’s Tale and came away with the wrong message. Then I tried Oryx and Crake. After fifty or sixty pages, I bailed.

        • I actually like The Handmaid’s Tale, but there was a period of my life when I was very much into dystopian fiction, and consider it about as likely as the movie 2012. (I have a friend who adores movies like that, the crazier the better. I find dystopia reading to fall into the same category.)

          I don’t get people who think that book likely. I was amused, however, by the Atwood interview when she said that she never said those were Christian fundamentalists, since they only ever cited the Old Testament. It’s interesting that you could make only slight superficial changes and maybe put a different face on that religion (think about it.)

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            So, the Republic of Gilead is run by Jewish fundamentalists?

            That might not be what she wanted to convey. At least, I hope not.

      • Draven

        They are making a handmaid’s tale film

  3. Bitter point. Since Obama has dismantled our manned space program, the only way we’re likely to get to Mars is learn Chinese. Of course, here we have “scientists” who are just political sycophants with papers who said not a word about. They said nothing about future Mars robots getting cut, too. Here in the US, politics trumps actual science.

    It’s a blankety-blank shame we haven’t discovered Martians. Our left would be falling all over themselves to get there where we could bring them back and register them as Democrats.

    • Sam L.

      I think we may all be better off without “governmennnnnnnnt in spaaaaaace”.
      The D. D. Harrimans of today should do better, not having to fight with congresscritters.

      • A simple question: How many private manned space flights have there been to the ISS? You may say we’re better off without government in space, but our experience so far shows that only governments have the pockets and the interest to invest in manned space exploration.
        That’s going to be the case until launch costs come down and until there’s an immediate commercial pay-off for placing humans beyond earth orbit. That’s a profit that shows right now in the ledger books. Think an equivalent of communications satellites. Spin-off tech exists and we’re all beneficiaries, but corporations are going to look at “How much did we earn this flight?”

        • Elon Musk wants to go to Mars. It’s weird that he built a car company in order to do that, but it seems to be working for him. (Tesla led to Space X, and Space X has had successful touchdowns on their rockets. They’re really close to having reliable robot shuttles.)

          So yeah, it’s either government or a businessman with deep pockets and an interest in space. It’s just amazing that we have one of those.

          • We’ve currently got at least three billionaires spending large sums of private capital on space travel: Musk, Bezos, and Branson. Admittedly, Branson’s current effort is suborbital, but Musk and Bezos both have broader aspirations.

            • All of these are more like Boeing, Lockheed, and General Dynamics than running their own manned space exploration efforts, which is understandable. If they can produce a product, they have something to offer anyone who can afford it. At this point it’s not exactly within a wildcatter’s budget. We’re more to the point of Christopher Columbus wanting to finance an expedition to the Indies than the Royal Society sponsoring Captain Cook. And even then Cook ended up working for the government.

              First there has to be a hint of profit in manned space exploration. Even Columbus went for the spices. But there’s not going to be that hint until we find it, and no one is going to fund it if there’s a low profit margin. If I had the money, I’d go after NEOs, but right now I don’t know if anyone would see payback.

              That leaves government. Without some sort of demand, there’s no incentive to build more cost effective boosters, or boosters no more powerful than to place a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. If launch costs get low enough that a private organization can fund their own experiments, then we can do something in space. But to get to that point I’m convinced that we’re going to need the government to foot the bill, at least initially.

        • Draven

          Technically? NINE.

  4. Christopher M. Chupik

    Personally, I think our lack of space colonization is one of those problems here on Earth which we need to solve.

  5. “I was fascinated to see a combination of sneers ‘He just wants to sell Martian Real Estate (and variations on this theme) from people I thought were sf fans eager for space travel, and ‘We should solve all the problems on earth first’.”

    This is like saying the Victorians should have solved all Europe’s problems before they dug the Panama Canal.

    These are the same people signing petitions to get the US courts to recognize America’s First non-gendered person. If someone did solve all the problems on Earth, these retards would make new ones.

    Their real objection is they can’t stand the idea of a dollar in someone’s pocket that got spent, and they didn’t get seventy five cents of it. “Shoot money into the sky? Ridiculous! More money will come back later, you say? Irrelevant! I want mine now! GIMMEGIMMEGIMME!!!”

    Socialist rent seekers. The lowest form of crawling scum. That which looks up at the snake’s belly in the tractor rut.

    • They never seem to grasp that the money spent on the space program is not wrapped up and sent into orbit. It pays everyone from the NASA bureaucrats to the miners digging up rare elements. The builders of their homes, the clerks in the stores where they shop . . .

      And given Federal oversight as it is now, it no doubt gets into the hands of artists for patches and other tourist souvenirs. Oh, and Muslim outreach.

      • Luke

        But America won the Space Race (despite starting at a disadvantage) and many people will never forgive that.

      • Oh, they grasp it. The problem is it isn’t going to their cronies. If we could have built rockets out of cheese, William Proxmire would have been the number 1 supporter of the space program.

    • Sam L.

      Fixing all the problems here first? When the left continually finds more problems daily?

  6. TRX

    > With President Trump now supporting and
    > endorsing ideas like manned flights to Mars

    I’d like to point out that Barack Hussein Obama pledged resumption of the Mars program during his campaign, as did George W. Bush. I wouldn’t be surprised if every candidate since Reagan had done so at one time or another, grubbing down for every demographic they might be able to snag.

    I doubt we’ll see anything happen during the current administration either.

    Even assuming honest intent, he’s faced with the same problem all previous Presidents had: the festering swamp of NASA, whose bloated bureaucracy makes the rest of the Fed look svelte and efficient.

  7. TRX

    > It had been sullied by their vile eyeballs, and would remain
    > now forever unclean. She could never enjoy it again.

    “Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.”

    • Same thing as the hate for Newt Gingrich. How dare he support space stuff? How dare he like science fiction? All the people who were always complaining about politicians not being spaceminded, were unhappy to have the politicians on their side – because Newt was not leftist enough to count as acceptable.

      One of the first times I realized that leftie fans often would freely choose to be full of crap.

  8. My problem with a mission to Mars is several-fold.

    There were reasons for the space race — among them, safety and defense. Nothing like that for Mars. No, colonizing Mars doesn’t count. Because there are too many unknown unknowns about important things like water, gravity, and radiation. No human has spent any considerable amount of time outside the Earth’s protective magnetic field since the Apollo program. Ignore this at your own peril.

    No, colonizing Mars is not the same as colonizing the New World. There’s a reason that colonization happened when it did, despite the North American continent having been “discovered” prior to Columbus. And that had to do with technology and incentive. America did not get colonized until the process was reproducible and economically viable. Colonization means large numbers of people — not cherry picked members of the 99.9999 percentile.

    On both the tech and economic side of it, I submit the following analogy:

    Let’s say that after the first batch of Model-T’s rolls off the assembly line, someone goes to Henry Ford and says, I want you to build me the period equivalent of a 2017 Honda Pilot with all the bells and whistles. Let’s say Ford agrees. How much tech would have to be developed to deliver what is, essentially a far advanced level of engineering? How much would it cost? The result might look like a steampunk version of the 2017 Honda Pilot, and would probably not have the reliability, but more importantly, it would be out of reach for most people financially AND should anything go wrong, where would you get the parts to fix it? It would be an oddity. A one of. As soon as the shiny newness wore of, people would move on to the next thing. If the driver was killed while operating it, the shine would come off even faster. What would we have other than a very expensive curiosity? How many more decades would have to go by before people caught the fever to do it again?

    I’m all for going to Mars if there are economic reasons to go there. Otherwise it’s just a jobs program for scientists and engineers, and something for the congresscritters to tout at “look at me, I’m for science.” Where is the money going to come from? We gonna print it? Do the producers get a say in this, or will we turn them into our slaves and go “Give me, give me, you selfish SOB.” ? Because they don’t have to produce, you know. And if we keep punishing them for doing so, they’ll get wise and stop pulling that economic cart and jump in the wagon instead to live at the expense of everyone else. Economic realities and all that.

    I’m all for going to Mars when there’s an infrastructure in place to facilitate it. Permanent orbital facilities (not duct tape, spit, and bailing wire MIR type stuff), permanent self-sustaining Lunar facilities, regular runs to NEOs, spacecraft taking off and landing like commercial airlines, and stuff like that. Proven tech that’s practically off the shelf, so that the next iteration is going to Mars, not some custom, one-of piece that cost an unbelievable amount of money to produce.

    • Luke

      Lunar facilities are significantly more difficult than Martian facilities. Moon dust and hard vacuum are distinctly unfriendly.
      The benefit of a lunar station is the relative lack of a gravity well, and relative closeness. But the technical hurdles are much, much higher. Once trade with extraterrestrial colonies becomes viable, a moon base has much to recommend it. Until then, it would be an expensive white elephant.

      • But getting there, communicating, and rescue are significantly easier. The Martian atmosphere will kill you just like hard vacuum will. And the question of adaptation to low gravity can be answered by using information gained from long-term human habitation on the Moon. It’s not a white elephant. There are economic reasons for returning to the Moon. Not so with Mars.

        • Luke

          Point one: getting there is not significantly​ easier. A rocket that can get you to the Moon can get you to Mars.
          Point two: communication isn’t really a problem. We simply do not need real-time command and control over colonists. (And if for some reason we did, relays could be easily dropped into orbit on the way in.)
          Point 3: in either case, rescue is simply not a reasonable expectation. Colonies fail. People die. It’s almost always a better use of limited resources to learn from the experience and simply launch another colony.
          .
          There is a major difference between a leak into a negative pressure environment and explosive decompression. Nor will the windscoured sand of Mars cut through suits and gaskets.
          With respect to power, Mars has more options, and while solar collection there will be less effecient, it’ll also necessitate much less storage, as sunlight can be a bit flaky on a tidally locked moon.
          With respect to water, it exists in both places, but harvesting in on Mars is lower risk, where is is almost certainly more abundant.

          Unless we suddenly develop a pressing need for anhydrous pyroxenes, or require a staging ground to send supplies to colonies further out, colonising the moon doesn’t make much sense.
          Should we put a space station at one of the Lagrange Points, it might not be cost effective even then.

          • Relays? Like FTL relays? Because c is the limiting factor here.
            Sunlight is flaky on a tidally locked moon? According to The Moon: Resources, Future Development, and Settlement, 2nd Ed, “Sunlight that reaches the lunar surface is constant, intense, and virtually inexhaustible. It delivers 1.365 kW/m^2 to the lunar surface when the Sun is directly overhead.” It goes on to detail the building of enhance photovoltaic cells from regolith but furthermore, there is nothing to prevent solar power collection from orbit. That power can be beamed to collectors on the Moon. Whereas the solar power that reaches Mars falls off by 1/r^3 where r is the distance from the source. Mars is twice as far as Earth, but the energy from the Sun that reaches it is 1/8 of what reaches Earth. And any site on Mars is subject to storms and other natural events that could further hamper the collection of solar power.

            • The moon is tidally locked to the Earth, meaning that the same side is always pointing at US, not the sun. This means half of every month a given side of the moon gets no sunlight at all, so storage from ‘boom’ sunlight times becomes an issue. And storage of power is currently a major limiting factor in power production. It would be more so on a lunar base, enough so that that 1/8th of sunlight that gets to Mars might provide more consistent power. Unless there’s an efficient way to pipe power from the ‘bright side’ to the ‘dark side’ since satellites on the opposite side of the moon would be blocked from direct transmission, provided such a beam could be set up with enough focus to prevent so much bleed off as to make it worth while. I haven’t run the math so there’s the salt.

              • I realize that, which is why I mentioned beaming down power from solar collectors in orbit. Those collectors would be as far from the Sun as the Earth-Moon system. The 1/8 at Mars would not be more consistent than power-sats in orbit.

                • Which doesn’t address mentioned beam integrity, nor the ability to get the beamed down power from one side of the moon (bright side) to the other (dark side). Going from satellite to satellite still leaves the question of how much is lost in transmission at each transfer. Going from satellite to ground then transmitting by other means, and building such means across large stretches of the lunar surface. It also means maintaining them across large stretches of the lunar surface, likely without the benefits of a reasonable number of intermediary communities to call on for support.

                  • There actually might a low-cost solution to transmitting power in a lunar environment: superconductors. On earth, superconductors are hard and reserved for short runs because they only function about liquid nitrogen temperatures or below. In a lunar environment, this may simply require burying superconductors in a vented conduit with struts to keep it in the center. The temperature is right; deep enough there shouldn’t be much warming during the day, without the line losses that plague transmission lines on earth.

                    You might not have to even bury them. Place them above ground with a tent structure to keep them in shade.

                • Sorry if this repeats, but WordPress threw an error on my last reply do I’m recreating it.

                  While beamed power skips storage problems, it introduces others.

                  1) beam integrity. How much is being lost in transmission? The answer will not be zero.
                  2) infrastructure. Surface storage and production can be placed near the intended recipient. What you postulate would have to be transmitted somehow from one side of the moon to the other. Due to the nature of the transmission and the wavelengths likely involved and the lack of atmosphere for bounce effects, we’re talking line of sight only. This means either relay via satellite (with accompanying loss of power due to beam efficiency) or via ground infrastructure (which drives up maintenance issues since you’d have to pipe power over large portions of the lunar surface, many of which will not have corresponding useful settlements for support).

                  • “1) beam integrity. How much is being lost in transmission? The answer will not be zero.”

                    No, it won’t be zero. But it also won’t be a loss of 87.5% which will be the reduced solar availability in Martian orbit. More will be lost to dust storms.

                    No matter how you slice and dice it, you can’t convince me that it’ll be cheaper to do anything on Mars. Which is why it’s crucially important to develop things closer in, whether in Earth orbit or the Moon or NEOs, so that those activities will lower the overall cost of things. Which do you think is cheaper to get to Mars? Material mined from the Moon or a NEO? Or material lifted from Earth? Whose gravity well is greater? Whatever cost is invested in developing infrastructure in Earth orbit or on the Moon will be recouped by making it easier and cheaper to go to Mars.

          • On your point one, sorry, but no, under current rocket technology which is veery near it’s limits, we can do a moon mission with a single multi stage rocket. Best case scenario for Mars takes seven such heavy lift launches. Even with development of nuclear engines that number only drops to five. Add to that the whole mission duration thing, lunar round trip of a week, mars of a year best case, and you add all sort of complications particularly for manned missions.

        • 1. Getting there – yes, it will take fewer resources to get to the moon than to Mars.
          2. Communicating – irrelevant. Unless there is a need for immediate communication (highly unlikely) it doesn’t really matter if the delay is a few seconds or a few hours or a few days.
          3. Rescue – this is essentially a moot point. Unless the emergency that created the need for rescue is extremely slow acting, there isn’t any rescue. Whatever catastrophe happens will need to be taken care of by people on sight regardless of them being on the Moon or Mars.

    • Going to Mars is not about going to Mars. It isn’t even about the science and technology gains the effort would bring.

      Going to Mars is how the Human Race avoids extinction.

      Long term, technology is advancing very fast. We -will- eventually figure out fusion. What are the monkeys going to do with fusion powered weapons? Not just fusion bombs, how about a fusion powered orbital particle beam? Use them, obviously.

      What will the monkeys do with advanced poisons like VX gas? Use ’em. See N. Korea, they used it to kill Kim half brother.

      Ubiquitous, weaponized surveillance? Attacks against agriculture? Information weapons? Plain old starvation? Killer robots? Plagues? We all just get bored and stop having kids?

      There are lots of ways we could eat it, more every year. It would be smart not to have all our eggs in one basket. Long term, that’s why you go to Mars.

      • It takes a founding population of 14K-44K people to restart the human race, not a couple of dozen or even a couple hundred astronauts. That’s assuming that the hard cosmic radiation hasn’t rendered them all sterile and that they can solve the problems of perchlorate chemicals and that the lower gravity allows for proper fetal development. If you’re going to expend the resources to put that number of people in space, then you’re better off with large L5 type of habitats where at least you can fully utilize solar power, and have some semblance of Earth normal gravity — even if it’s spin-induced.

        At this moment in time, going to Mars is about distracting people from more serious problems and funding another government boondoggle. We’ve had the means to annihilate ourselves for some time now. That’s not going to change because we’re going to Mars. We’ll take the VX, the bombs, and the plagues with us to Mars too. Technology changes but human nature does not.

        • “It takes a founding population of 14K-44K people to restart the human race, not a couple of dozen or even a couple hundred astronauts.”

          Unless it doesn’t, because technology. They’re growing pork chops in a tray in some lab right now. Won’t be long before test-tube babies are a thing. And mammoths! (I want a mammoth. It will live in my back yard, and I will give rides to the deserving.)

          “If you’re going to expend the resources to put that number of people in space, then you’re better off with large L5 type of habitats where at least you can fully utilize solar power, and have some semblance of Earth normal gravity — even if it’s spin-induced.”

          Five feet of water effectively contains all the hard radiation of a nuclear waste rod. It is easier to get five feet of water and tons of rock overhead on Mars than it would be at L5. Also, Mars does have an atmosphere, albeit a thin one. Free cosmic ray shielding is never a bad thing.

          “At this moment in time, going to Mars is about distracting people from more serious problems and funding another government boondoggle.”

          Panama. Canal.

          “We’ve had the means to annihilate ourselves for some time now.”

          Yes, and we have been extremely lucky. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. My father stayed in bed for three days, convinced we were all going to die and helpless to do a damn thing about it. He’s 90 now, and he’s still not right all these years later. I used to go -outside- when the air raid sirens went off, same reason.

          The tools we have now will look like stone knives and bear skins in thirty years. Pork chops growing in a glass tray, remember? How about a retrovirus that sterilizes mammals? Some astounding imbecile has been proposing something similar to eliminate rats in New Zealand. Hopefully somebody will stop him. Rats are mammals.

          What if Mad Scientist could cook something like that up in his basement? What if some toothless hillbilly could follow instructions and do it in his basement? Today’s script kiddie is tomorrow’s CRISPR hacker.

          “That’s not going to change because we’re going to Mars. We’ll take the VX, the bombs, and the plagues with us to Mars too. Technology changes but human nature does not.”

          That is very true. However, note the difference between European history and North American history. For the last 300 years, Europe has been involved in a general war about every 20 years. In the Twentieth, there were three attempts to destroy entire nations with millions dead. The Armenian Genocide, the Holodomore, the Holocaust. N. America, not so much. Martian colonists will be much too busy not dying to take part in whatever damn foolishness is fashionable on Earth.

          There’s also the hopeful likelihood that if a doomsday weapon/accident/unknowable future event kills a colony or kills the Earth, it won’t kill them -both- at the same time. The more colonies, the more insurance.

          Colonies at Alpha Centauri. Going to have to be a hell of a thing to get that one at the same time as Mars and Earth, right?

          What’s the downside? It costs money. To which objection I merely point at the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Their budget would get you to Mars quite nicely.

          What exactly does the DMV do that you can’t live without? What would you rather see your money pay for? The DMV, or to extinction-proof the human race?

          • Actually tests have been done on the population necessary for a colony to avoid horrendous genetic issues. 2500. THAT’s it. And that’s feasible, particularly with sperm and ova brought in.

            • You can get an awful lot of frozen embryos in one nitrogen flask.

              I’m not going to suggest that would be a great way to be born and live, but if the alternative is extinction, it would be worth a shot.

          • Michael Brazier

            Opening the Panama Canal reduced the travel time from North America’s west coast to, basically, anywhere else on Earth to a small fraction of what it had been. That’s what made it a practical commercial proposition.

            As far as I can tell, a colony on Mars doesn’t have that sort of immediate practical advantage over space stations or Lunar colonies. The biggest obstacle to all three is the same – getting to orbit cheaply. Only after that’s been solved do the relative merits of possible destinations become a matter for debate.

        • And we’re never going to get 14K-44K people off of earth if the continuous response to plans to start the process is “Well you won’t be able to get that many off immediately, so why bother?”

          • I never said that. I said that if you want to build a sustainable program, you’re better off with baby steps rather than an ill-conceived, supremely expensive giant leap that is more likely to end up with a bunch of dead people than not.

            Answer the questions related to long-term hard radiation exposure, low-gravity effects, spin-induced gravity effects, etc. Bring the costs of the necessary technology down by making it common place, off-the-shelf, and easily reproducible. Test it out in LEO, HEO, on the Moon, on NEOs.

            • On this, actually, we agree. For one thing, if we can build up orbital infrastructure, we can build the ships for the Mars colony in space–which, I submit, would be cheaper and less technically demanding than to build them on earth.

            • The work on the moon and in orbit would obviously have to be done, in order to keep a Mars colony going. It is -far- to Mars. Having a launcher on the Moon for refined metals, or using the Moon as a place to crash metal asteroids, or snowballs, that would be good.

              But, a -sustainable- colony is much more likely to be possible on Mars, because of atmosphere, water, and size. It’s a planet. Humans probably need a planet to live on, even a crappy one like Mars. Physiology-wise, we don’t do well in zero G. Mars G might be enough.

      • TRX

        If you want to see how babies develop in 3/5g, we can do that with a suitably-designed space station and a long-term crew.

    • Terry Sanders

      I’m afraid I’m with you. My standard joke is, we need to discover a miraculous new material to make space travel doable.

      Not unobtainium. McGuffinite.

  9. IMO, the best way to fund NASA would be for people to allocate 10% of their taxes to various government entities. Military, Nasa, NEA, Welfare, Education . . .

    • Heh. That ought to be “for people TO BE ALLOWED to allocate”

    • The best way to fund NASA is to fire everybody who doesn’t physically build stuff, and start over. Private companies are accomplishing things like re-usable rockets and Buck Rogers vertical landings, and they are doing it faster/safer/cheaper than NASA ever did anything.

      The Hubble, ferinstance. The project started in the 1970’s, it finally flew in 1990, and now it is TWENTY SEVEN YEARS OLD. Has telescope technology advanced since the 1970’s? Has computer and imaging technology advanced since 1987? Could we not use some more big eyeballs out there?

      Just sayin’.

      • But what is NASA? I mean, companies like Aerojet are a major part of NASA, yet they are private companies, yet they do most of the building for NASA and presumably use NASA funds. So—yes? No?

        • Is Bombardier a “private company”? The answer to the question is no, Bombardier would be dead and buried without the Canadian government constantly bailing them out. They are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Liberal Party of Canada. Fascism, basically. Without the mass exterminations. So far, anyway.

          Bert Rutan’s company Scaled Composites is more what I’m talking about. They do build NASA contracts, but they also do their own stuff and work for other people.

          Boeing would be more toward the Bombardier end of the scale, at a guess. Or, Lockheed Skunk Works, 1960’s vs. 2017. Skunk Works is a sign on a building, not someplace where they do the impossible before lunch every day.

          It boils down to: is the company serving its shareholders, or is it a sock-puppet with a political faction’s hand up its butt? Sock-puppets don’t usually put a high value on breakthrough technology and hard work.

          • TRX

            Once you accept the Federal shilling, the whole camel comes into your tent.

            You have to do your accounting their way, of course. But you have to check all the tickboxes – so many employees of each race, so many of each sex, compliance with a vast number of regulations you probably never heard of.

            I once worked for a company that got a subcontract to build some stuff on a DOD contract. Little cast-iron housings, about as low-tech as rocks. They had to hire another accountant, and *two* “compliance officers”, and hire some deadwood employees to get all the tickboxes checked.

            I think they managed to break even on the contract, but they never did manage to slough off the extra bureaucracy they had to create.

            • The one time I worked for a company doing a government contract in Canada, all the workers got stiffed. Two months wasted. The guy who took the contract went broke. He even lost his crappy old truck. It was pitiful.

              Never again.

        • NASA is a government agency. It hires private companies via contract to build things for it.

          Under the law, if a launch company carries out the launch even if it carries a NASA owned payload, it is considered commercial and needs an FAA license. If NASA can say that it is carrying out the launch, then, even though a private company builds the rocket, it’s not commercial enough to need an FAA license. There was a dispute between NASA and the FAA years ago that wound up in front of the Department of Justice, which said that if NASA is “so substantially involved that it is effectively directing or controlling the launch” it is carrying out the activity. This has been implemented rather strangely in the decades since. The Shuttle was considered non-commercial even though private companies built and rebuilt the vehicles. The new SLS is deemed (always put your hand on your wallet when someone does any “deeming”) a government launch, even though private contractors are doing the design and testing.

          • Draven

            I thought the Dragon resupply launches were technically commercial because of how low NASA involvement they were?

    • Take the NEA out of there — the government has no business having anything to do with education. That should be parents first, then local communities, then the States. Feds have other responsibilities, but education isn’t legitimately one of them.

  10. Luke

    The problem here on Earth, is the next Ice Age. Civilization may not survive it. We need to be off this rock in a self-sustainable fashion before then.

  11. Byron said it best … Man’s reach must exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?

    Lofty goals serve to inspire us all, whether our destination is Mars, the moon, or the rings of Saturn.

  12. My objection to NASA going to Mars has more to do with all the bureaucracy and other government BS involved. I do like the idea of the government getting back into funding base scientific inquiry, but that’s not really it’s job. The private sector can probably get there faster and cheaper because whenever .gov gets involved it puts all the SJWs and crony capitalists in the mix creating bloat.

    • That’s what I’m saying. You just said it way better. ~:(

      I’m -so- jealous.

    • scott2harrison

      I disagree about government funding any scientific inquiry. We have seen in the past that to get the government $$$ you had better discover the results that they want. Better to ban governmental funding of science.