• May 25, 2019, 4:31 a.m.

    Are there any plans for Mars base topics using near-term (or even basically current) technology? By near term/near future here I mean from tomorrow to ~20 years from now. I'm aware of all the current videos on the topics, but they're a little further into the future. What I'm thinking of is a "deep dive" on the realism of a long term/permanent Mars (especially) or maybe a Moon base.

    I can see two categories of problems:
    1) Challenges getting there with enough "stuff" to stay
    2) Challenges staying there (in a "not dead" state) permanently

    For the first one, which I regard as much easier but still hard to do safely:
    1A) How much do we know for sure about travel far beyond low Earth orbit?
    1B) What don't we know?
    1C) What plans have been proposed or are being actively worked on? (And by who?)
    1D) What are current proposals forgetting or glossing over?

    For the second category:
    2A) Combating "entropy" - how do you solve manufacturing & repair problems? I see these challenges as huge, probably insurmountable in the near term. For Moon this isn't nearly as bad, if time required to launch (from no plans to rockets in the air) can be reduced enough. For Mars, reliance on Earth for replacements seems to be unrealistic for all serious problems. (Serious implying - you can't wait for months to fix it! Maybe not even days.) Based on the number of things which you can imagine going wrong, I have doubts that staying permanently on Mars with a "base" smaller than at least an entire city (minimum) is even realistic.

    2B) Environment/climate - how do you ensure the "climate" of such a small base remains stable enough to support both human & plant life? What can go wrong here? The types of things that can go wrong seem very serious, ex. air poisoning (carbon dioxiode/monoxide, smoke from fire, sudden air loss / depressurization) and these things need to be fixed FAST.

    2C) Human needs (other than climate/air) - while obviously we know how to grow plants, recycle water, and so on... what happens if things just go wrong? Ex. plants get a disease and fail, water gets contaminated, battery/power failure, temperature control failure, medical emergencies, resolving serious personality conflicts, or even "economic" issues such as how to share limited resources.

    2D) What else can go wrong and what contingency plans are realistic?

    You can tell which one I've thought about more. Discussion/expansion of those here is welcome, even though I'm also asking about any plans to turn these topics into a video or video series. There's lots of "talk" and plans to do these things, and also lots of criticisms, and sorting it all out is a challenge.

  • July 9, 2019, 5:24 p.m.

    Yes it does seem like there are a lot of problems where every one has to be solved before the others. The most realistic approach to colonizing Mars I can think if is:

    1. One way or another, create self-sufficient spinning green habitats in orbit around the Earth. PROBABLY Moon/asteroid mining will have to come first.

    2. Nurture these habs for years where they are, learning from mistakes as you go. As they develop a track record for stability and independence, put them in orbits farther and farther from the Earth, E.G. Lagrange, Moon, between Earth and Mars, etc.

    3. Finally put one in orbit around Mars, and that will be your safe, well-tested home from which to do everything else. If Mars surface fails, people can evacuate to the habitat, and if that fails, they can evacuate to the next nearest habitat.

    There really is no substitute for iterative real-life testing. Putting people on Mars in one fell swoop is basically alpha testing all of your technology and biology at once, which mathematically almost guarantees failure. Colonizing Mars with no 'Middle Step B' is like asking the Wright brothers to invent an Airbus A380, fly it across the Pacific, and live on the first try.

  • July 11, 2019, 11:58 a.m.

    (If this were a new thread the title would be Moonbot Business Model)

    A pure-robot base on the Moon is usually seen as just an expense, a money pit, until humans arrive to justify its existence. I would like to challenge that assumption.

    A stable colony of telerobots would be a fraction of the cost of a human station. Low overhead leaves you much more room for profit. Your customer base will be anyone who wants to do anything on the Moon but can't afford an astronaut. That's a lot of people! E.G.

    • University-funded scientists.

    • Small, poorer governments who want to construct things in space for prestige.

    • Private corporations with an eye to prospecting or profit-related R&D.

    • Rich fools willing to pay an enormous deposit to pilot their own telerobot for: tourism, rover races, war games, etc.

    • School tours.

    • Subscribers to a 'reality show'-type website where you watch working moonbots every day as terrariums and factories gradually take shape. Premium members can chat with the rover operators.

    Once you have live terrariums the appeal only increases. The Southwest Florida Eagle Cam alone got over 18 million viewers. How many views will Moon Mice get, bouncing around and having babies in low gravity? (Or if not mice, some easier animals.) After all if you can't keep mice alive on the Moon, you have zero hope of supporting humans either. This is important homework that can't be skipped.

    Over time the terrariums will become larger and more stable, hold bigger and bigger life, and you know where this is going.

    But I definitely think a pure-moonbot base can be a pay-as-you-go phase. And what is the phase before that? Better, smaller telerobotics and VR on Earth, which can also be profitable in and of itself before you even start on space. There's a whole bootstrap path for this.

    How much would you pay to build a tower on the Moon with your own hands?