Tuesday, September 01, 2009

New country for old men 

Is it time for humanity, led by the United States, to put people on Mars forever? Fiscal considerations aside, if Barack Obama were to organize a joint venture among the great powers of the future -- China, India, and the United States -- to put a permanent, one-way settlement on Mars, he would cement his place in the history of humanity with far greater certainty and permanence than by any other means. He's got the ego to do it, but does he have the courage?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 01, 08:46:00 AM:

You've got to be kidding. Asking "Does the president have the chops to propose a monster spending bill?"!

Of course he does, but the big question is, why are you doing the same? Oh, I get it: it's OK to spend ourselves into penury if the Chinese and the Indians do the same!

It would certainly be a more inspiring way to spend a ton of money, that's for sure!  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Tue Sep 01, 08:56:00 AM:

But then all your conservative friends would start hating on Mars...

Do we really need to bring a planet into all this?  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Tue Sep 01, 09:11:00 AM:

“And I am, uh, proud to announce the astronauts for this historic one-way trip to Mars will be Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, and some former governor from Alaska…”  

By Blogger SR, at Tue Sep 01, 09:39:00 AM:

Sounds better than killing all us old timers (see Ezekial Emmanuel). Let's just make sure there are golf courses and no taxes.  

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Tue Sep 01, 09:47:00 AM:

In the 60s, I remember civil rights leaders being critical of the space program saying the money spent would be better utilized on 'the poor'. I would speculate that Obama concurs with that line of thinking. As for a multi-national expedition to Mars? Yeah. That ought to work. But in the spirit of true international cooperation it should be done by creating a space agency at and run by the UN.  

By Blogger Happy Warrior, at Tue Sep 01, 10:03:00 AM:

I'm with you. The United States always did well when there was a frontier open to the down and out and dispossessed. It could be sold under a welfare and home-steading rationale. Grant anyone who signs up 100,000 acres of prime Martian prairie.  

By Blogger Pyrus, at Tue Sep 01, 11:23:00 AM:

The beauty of blanket taxation is that the taxed all squabble amongst themselves instead of shooting the taxer. We all become mean, petty critics of everyone else's use of tax dollars and shameless promoters of our favored uses. E.g., I hate tax dollars going to corn growers but love it going to NASA. The right answer of course is that it shouldn't go to either because it's *not their money*.
Setting that minor issue aside for the moment, I think we should start colonizing Mars right away and on the cheap. We should gather every damn microbe we can that has a prayer of surviving on Mars and send it there FedEx Overnight. We should have done this years ago but all the science types were uptight about "contaminating" the place. Contamination is what it needs! Lots of it post haste.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 01, 06:15:00 PM:

Mars is a cold, desolate wasteland, hostile to Earth life. I don't understand why we should spend trillions of dollars to transport humans to Mars. We could do far more real exploration and science by continuing to build more, cheaper, and better robots.

Yeah, "let's colonize Mars" sure sounds ambitious. But let's get real -- it's a rock. Lifting even the tiniest amount of material out of Earth's gravity well takes enormous energy (read: "money"). When that material is life, that's expensive and risky. When it's human life, that's even more expensive and even more risky.

I'm very pro-science, pro-technology, pro-innovation, etc. But "settling" Mars is just insane. Take one look at the reality of life on Mars -- Mars wants to kill you, every day and in countless ways (the cold, the atmosphere, the loneliness, the lack of Earth life). Who in their right minds would give up Earth to live there? What would we gain by it, except bragging rights?

If someone has the money and desire to go to Mars -- let them! But I don't want my money wasted on it, at least not in the ways that have been proposed.  

By Anonymous Mike, at Tue Sep 01, 07:28:00 PM:

Well, I agree we need a frontier. Why not Luna? It's starting to look like there is water and we can make fuel there (hydrogen specifically)

From there - to the astroids to mine minerals - real, usable minerals. Minerals we can build stuff with or sell. And no deep gravity well.

Build the highway, let the market push the boundaries out.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 01, 09:00:00 PM:

And so Fact would imitate Fiction as the CoDominium Bureau of Relocation, from Jerry Pournelle's stories, would take up the challenge of exiling political dissidents from all the member states.  

By Anonymous SpeakEasy, at Wed Sep 02, 12:13:00 AM:

I support it as long as all the settlers are liberals. They could show us how a perfect world would work.  

By Anonymous Blacque Jacques Shellacque, at Wed Sep 02, 02:50:00 AM:

He's got the ego to do it, but does he have the courage?

He doesn't have the money.  

By Blogger Tigerhawk Teenager, at Wed Sep 02, 09:25:00 AM:

If the economic crisis gets resolved and if he gets re-elected, perhaps he'll do it. But both of those are looking kind of unlikely.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Sep 02, 09:58:00 AM:

To ThT's point, Rasmussen today shows those who strongly disapprove now 12 points greater than those who strongly approve.

More significantly, the "Strong Disapprove" number is now nearly equal to the total "Approve" (ie, Strong and weak approval). That's a huge problem for the president.

President Obama needs to refocus on reducing government spending before he does anything else. No new taxes or gimmicks, just spend less money.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Sep 02, 10:25:00 AM:

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Tue Sep 01, 09:47:00 AM:

In the 60s, I remember civil rights leaders being critical of the space program saying the money spent would be better utilized on 'the poor'.

Next time I hear someone complain the money would be better spent on the poor I'll suggest they ask inner city resident how the 'Great Society' programs worked out for the poor.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Wed Sep 02, 10:26:00 AM:

The Left Wing is now officially a hate group.

On the subject of Mars, I think we need a permanent settlement off planet. The the United States could do it alone but we should probably enlist the aid of other countries. It would be nice to have something to bring us together that would profit us all.  

By Anonymous vicki pasadena ca, at Wed Sep 02, 11:16:00 AM:

Tyree? Left wing a hate group? Please!
Pot, kettle.  

By Blogger Tigerhawk Teenager, at Wed Sep 02, 12:16:00 PM:


Colonizing another planet (or the Moon) wouldn't produce any profit for a long time. In fact, maintaining good communication with Mars would be difficult. If and when we do colonize another planet, I'm thinking that they'd break away from whatever country they came from. They'd make the same argument that we made during the Revolutionary War.

Although, the abundance of easy metals on either the Moon or Mars would help boost the economies of both planets, it would be difficult to set up regular transports unless they were powered by nuclear power instead hydrocarbons, and unless we figure out how to get there in less than several months.

I'm sure we'll figure it out EVENTUALLY, probably within 25 years or so, but now's not the time.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Wed Sep 02, 12:41:00 PM:

Vicki- read the comments above. The left wing is worse than they imagine the right wing to be.

Tigerhawk Teenager-
I was younger than you when we landed on the moon. Solving the mysteries of spaceflight led to profitable advances in technology that affected our economy in the 70's up to today. Numerous detractors have called the space program a big jobs program, and to a degree it is, but it supports engineering and the other hard sciences and we need more of that right now.

Dealing with the politics of governing a colony in space would be worth the effort also.

How many inalienable rights would they be allowed? And what would that mean to all of us here on earth? With 300 colonists on Mars, how many lawyers would they need to settle their lawsuits? And if they didn't need any, perhaps we would learn some very valuable lessons.

The real wealth of the New World was quite different than what Christopher Columbus imagined.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed Sep 02, 05:29:00 PM:

What is the possibility of terraforming Mars, even to a limited degree? It was recently proven that water existed there. Couldn't it exist again?  

By Anonymous lelia, at Wed Sep 02, 05:51:00 PM:

I would much rather see a station on the moon.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Sep 02, 07:39:00 PM:

Even if water existed, there are other problems. The atmosphere is extremely thin; humans would always be confined to fortified buildings, airlocks, and pressurized suits. What little atmosphere there is, is very cold and poisonous. And because the atmosphere is so thin, the Sun's radiation would quickly and severely burn exposed skin, even though Mars is further from the Sun than Earth is.

The surface is covered in extremely fine dust, which would cause all sorts of mechanical problems, including difficulty maintaining good air seals in hatches, suits, etc. That dust also contains a lot of compounds that, when mixed with liquid water, would be highly acidic.

Mars is hostile to Earth life, in many, many ways.

We should send robots. We can make robots that are well-adapted to Mars. We cannot easily make humans well-adapted to Mars.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Wed Sep 02, 09:53:00 PM:

Of course we should send robots. Then after the robots, people.

I don't see why we have to settle for one ball of dirt.

The moon would be a good stepping stone. One large observatory would give us a world full of answers, and entirely new questions!  

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