Batteries

Published on May 8th, 2016 | by Michael Barnard

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How Crazy Are Elon Musk’s Goals?

May 8th, 2016 by  


Elon Musk has never been accused of dreaming small dreams. Transforming all cars to run on electricity. Colonizing Mars. Even his most ardent supporters were ambivalent about whether Musk could meet these visions.

Now he’s massively advanced one of his key strategic milestones related to Tesla. The quarterly shareholder letter‘s first line contains the blunt announcement that Tesla is targeting 500,000 cars in 2018, two years earlier than the already head-scratchingly aggressive 2020.

It’s time to look at those goals, the plans behind them, and how they are progressing in a bit more detail. Are they realistic, or is Elon deluding a lot of people?


Let’s start with that bit about living on Mars. There is a nefarious and hidden master plan which can only be found by Googling, one which Musk undoubtedly dreamed up while lolling in his volcano lair reachable only by his submersible Lotus and stroking his white-furred cat like some benevolent Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

0*MLv8hcWX3_Ea-sQl.

How’s that going?

  • Phase 1: Founded in 2002, in 2008 SpaceX put the first commercially developed rocket into orbit, a much more significant milestone than going out of the atmosphere for five minutes.
  • Phase 2: SpaceX has contracts to supply ISS, launch satellites, etc. It has become the cheapest launch platform in the world. But it’s not done. In late 2015 it landed its stage 1 rocket, the really expensive part, back at launch. In early 2016, it successfully landed its stage 1 on a downrange robot barge named Of Course I Still Love You in the ocean. If it can do that regularly and reuse the stages for later launches, which is the entire design point, total launch cost is cut by roughly 75% from the already historically low costs. As they just did it again on a much more difficult trajectory, the odds that they have a repeatable solution have just increased substantially. Close to an order of magnitude of total cost takeout is pretty revolutionary. That opens up a lot of space commercialization opportunities that didn’t have business cases.
  • Phase 3: still coming but a very interesting piece occurred recently when a SpaceX rocket delivered an inflatable habitat from Bigelow Aerospace to ISS for testing. That’s key technology for Mars colonization. Lots more to come.

That’s 14 years to get a lot of the way through a three-phase strategic plan in one of the most demanding industries in the world. It’s not called strategy for nothing, although most of the world’s perspective on strategy is limited to 1–2 years in the future in my experience. Musk and SpaceX are playing a long game and a good one.


Musk’s dream of colonizing Mars is pretty much on plan. What about electrification of transportation?

He is also closing in on the final step in his equally secret master plan, hidden in a deep vault called the Tesla Motors Blog:

So, in short, the master plan is:

  • Build sports car
  • Use that money to build an affordable car
  • Use that money to build an even more affordable car
  • While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options

Don’t tell anyone.

It’s been ten years. How is this evil plan for world domination working out?

  • Tesla Roadster. Check.
  • Top selling premium luxury sedan in NA and Europe, with a total cost of ownership comparable to a Honda Odyssey minivan. Check.
  • Impossible-to-roll SUV that beats Ferraris in drag races, tows 5000 lbs, and has a TCO much better than any of its competitors. Diversion from the master plan, but okay. Production ramping up. Undoubtedly going to crush its SUV competition just as Model S is crushing its category. Check-ish.
  • screen shot 2016-03-31 at 11.58.22 pm$35,000 car that out-accelerates its category with much better TCO announced with 400,000 global pre-orders. Tesla Gigafactory on track to start building batteries for it, and Tesla current car factory has more than enough capacity, as it had a 500,000 annual production capacity when owned by Toyota. Those 400,000 pre-orders are a big reason why Tesla is bumping its annual car manufacturing projections. Check.
  • Zero-emission electric power generation options. Well, I have to say Tesla isn’t doing much in the generation space, but there is a lot of goodness there regardless. Musk is also Chairman of SolarCity, which does exactly that. The Gigafactory’s roof is all solar panels. Many Superchargers are getting green electricity although the intent for them all to be green is lagging. And Tesla has introduced home and grid storage battery packs. Check.
  • Not being satisfied with making a car that has a total cost of ownership cheaper than a Toyota Camry that is also a total sex-rocket, Tesla is aiming further down market. “With something like the Model 3, it’s designed such that roughly half the people will be able to afford the car. Then, with fourth generation and smaller cars, we’ll ultimately be in the position where everyone will be able to afford the car.”

So far there’s little reason to believe that Tesla’s reach exceeds its grasp on any strategic timescale. If you want to look at specific quarters, you can find missed deadlines, but frankly, that’s nitpicking. This is a company which is running on all battery cells — running on all cylinders is so 1999 — and hitting its strategic targets.


In my opinion, Musk’s goals aren’t crazy. I’d say he’s got great strategic visions and plans and is doing an amazing job of bringing them to fruition. And part of the reason he is succeeding is that he’s inspired people in three separate companies with them. Tesla pays less than competitors because everyone wants to work for Tesla; competition is fierce to get in. Similar stories exist for SpaceX. SolarCity isn’t run directly by Musk, but it’s a pretty amazing place too by the sounds of it.

Great goals make for great workforces make for great results. Crazy doesn’t enter into it. After all, aiming for the moon leaves you in orbit, but aiming for the clouds just leaves you in a passenger jet.

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About the Author

works with startups, existing businesses and investors to identify opportunities for significant bottom line growth in the transforming low-carbon economy. He regularly publishes analyses of low-carbon technology and policy in sites including Newsweek, Slate, Forbes, Huffington Post, Quartz, CleanTechnica and RenewEconomy, with some of his work included in textbooks. Third-party articles on his analyses and interviews have been published in dozens of news sites globally and have reached #1 on Reddit Science. Much of his work originates on Quora.com, where Mike has been a Top Writer annually since 2012. He's available for consultation, speaking engagements and Board positions.



  • Red Sage

    Shoot for the stars, settle for Mars, or the Moon.

  • ROBwithaB

    I’m loving me this side helping of philosophy at the Clean Technica buffet.

  • When it comes to colonising Mars, I’m skeptical. Who would want to live there for the rest of their lives? It sounds really science-fictiony-ish. Mars combines the worst of the Sahara, Mount Everst and Antarctica. You will have to live indoors all the time and I don’t know what that does to your mental health and happiness. After the first ‘wow’ wears off, and daily routine sets in, you start longing for a hike through the woods, a swim in the ocean, the wind in your face, a simple walk in the park, the singing of a blackbird at dusk, lying on your back in the grass an watching the clouds.

    Yes, you can create indoor ecosystems, but will they ever be more than a limited surrogate?

    And then there is the 1/3 gravity. Will people be able to come back to Earth after having lived on Mars for years? And children born on Mars? Will they be able to travel to Earth and live there if and when they choose?

    Of course, we must try it. Because exploration is in our blood. But I don’t think there will be millions living on Mars a century from now or even 5 centuries. Life there is simply not compelling. Not compelling at all compared to what we have here on Earth, including all of its problems of overpopulation and environmental degradataion.

  • Kenneth Ferland

    Their is quite a big difference between the Tesla goal and the SpaceX goal. Tesla sells a better product in what was already a Trillion dollar industry using a mix of well established technology (electric motors) and new tech that rained down from other unrelated industries (Li-ion battery) that had simply never been put together in a compelling way and with high focus on manufacturing efficiency. The potential was always their and Tesla is leading an industry that is clamoring to not get left behind in an inevitable transition.

    SpaceX performance so far has been on identical lines, better product sold into existing markets by putting together existing tech in compelling ways with a focus on manufacturing efficiency. Again this was always possible and competitors will now follow suit.

    But future SpaceX goals are radically different, they involve creating a totally new market for a service that is part of a profound life-choice for the individuals who might emigrate from Earth itself. Not only is the technology to do this not in existence yet but the market doesn’t exist yet either and it’s no guarantee that it will appear at the target price point or at any price point because it is such a profound choice to make. It’s not ‘Build it and they will come’ like a high performance car is.

  • JIMMYLIMO

    Yes, crazy… like a fox. But, Elon ! Before you stake a claim to half of the prime Martian real estate, and move us all to Mars…. Where’s my freeking FLYING CAR ?? I want my VTOL, all-electric, George Jetson FLYING CAR !!! I’ve been waiting 50 years, and I KNOW you can do it !

    • Carl Raymond S

      If my battery goes flat 1km from home, I’d prefer that distance was at grade, not vertical.

      • JIMMYLIMO

        Still, Teslas are the safest cars on the planet, and I’m sure Elon’s flying Model J (Jetson) would follow suit…

      • jeffhre

        Yeah, coast home – then take the elevator up! Saves a lot of effort and trouble (energy).

  • Carl Raymond S

    Then there’s the goal of producing close to 1,000,000 cars per year (pa) out of Fremont, a factory everybody else had pegged at half that figure.
    It’s kind of huge when you think about it, because a lot of the costs of running the factory, like lighting, rates, building maintenance, admin, depreciation, are all fixed. Further, I’m willing to bet the staffing for output of say 900,000 pa will be less than when the factory previously produced 500,000 pa. Once again, Tesla has moved the goal posts for anybody hoping to catch up.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Staff should be lower and throughput faster. This ain’t Daddy Toyota’s factory any longer. That plant closed in 2010 and six years is a long time when it comes to robots and IT.

    • And to think that Tesla bought it for a paltry 40 million. Incredible.

      • Red Sage

        Even more, that Toyota ‘sold’ it to them for that amount, but gave Tesla Motors a $50,000,000 contract to develop the RAV4 EV. And Tesla ‘paid’ Toyota for the facility with shares of stock. Everyone got what they needed… Except that I expect that Toyota, as a member of the TSLA board, probably wanted them to provide battery packs and electric motors for their hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. When they learned that wasn’t going to happen, they divested of their shares — and made a whole lot more than $40,000,000 as a result.

    • I believe the Fremont plant was always capable (footprintwise) of producing 900k cars/yr but Toyota only used 500k of that capability hence the false idea that it can only produce 500k.

      • Carl Raymond S

        We need to get to the bottom of this. It’s significant as to whether Tesla have an ace up their sleeve. Does anybody know if the factory was ‘full’ when Toyota hit 500,000 cars pa?

        Edit:
        Either way, there’s an ace there.

        If the factory was always capable of 900,000 cars pa, then Tesla were gifted an ace when they purchased the Fremont factory.

        However if the factory was space constrained when Toyota hit 500,000, then it suggests Musk and co have developed ways to get more from less. That’s a more exciting ace, because it can be tabled in Fremont, China, Europe and wherever else Tesla end up going. It also suggests that those writing articles about how Tesla will struggle to meet goals, don’t know what we know (or at least think we know).

        • Bob_Wallace

          We should expect more from the same. I’d assume Toyota had been considering closing the plant and moving operations to MIssissppi for some time. It’s unlikely they had been updating the equipment. Now Tesla is in with six years of updating. New and faster robots, new paint shop which can probably move cars through quicker.

          And Tesla has just leased a very large warehouse space nearby. That will likely play some role in driving production higher.

          Tesla has two assembly factories in Europe, but at this point I think they are just “bolt on the wheels” places which serve to get Tesla in under the EU regs. Perhaps there’s a larger role ahead for them. It might be possible to ship less completed cars from Fremont and do more of the work in Europe.

          All that said, Musk sort of hinted that going close to 1 million EVs a year might not happen in Fremont. Perhaps it’s time to open European car and battery factories.

        • jeffhre

          We really believe that, LOL 🙂

          1) Toyota never built more than 430,000 something.

          2) Tesla is very vertically integrated.

          3) Tesla has purchased or leased 2 million additional Sq. Ft. in the area.

          4) Elon Musk said something like; 1,000,000 but whether it’s smart to do it is another thing.

          All food for thought IMO.

          • Carl Raymond S

            1) Tells us nothing unless we know if the factory was “full” at the time.
            2) Means they ought to need more space, not less, to build equivalent number of cars, so “something like 1,000,000” would demonstrate an even greater manufacturing advantage
            3) Is curious. I don’t believe for a second it means they have run out of space at Fremont. But it might mean they have run out of non-earmarked space. Perhaps the new space is to clearly delineate a particular purpose – supplied parts, design, admin, data centre, training – no clue. I hope they don’t make the mistake of separating blue and white collars.
            4) “something like 1,000,000”, I take to mean a number climbing past 750,000. By then they need to be building factory 2 in China or Europe. They should be able to kit that one out in half the time, having practiced it once already.

          • Bob_Wallace

            IIRC, Musk stated that they could build close to a million EVs per year at the Fremont but that he didn’t think it was the best idea.

            I would assume that building new factories around the globe, even on the east side of the US would be better. Reduce the need to ship.

          • Carl Raymond S

            It would not make sense to start an east coast USA factory before going to another continent – doing the cars x kilometers math. China is logical for low production cost. Europe easier for language reasons, though I may be showing my age. No doubt there are Chinese speaking existing Tesla staff and no shortage of English/Chinese speaking potential employees in China. Building the cars in China may be the only way to properly crack that market, avoiding the tariffs.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Location of future plants will likely be determined by regional demand. I wonder if the Mod 3 is small enough to be a high demand car in Europe. And I wonder how the slowdown of the Chinese economy will impact the sales of mid-range priced cars.

          • Carl Raymond S

            The model 3 will be high demand everywhere. I think Tesla have barely scratched the surface.

          • jeffhre

            1, 2, 3, yes you are right, it’s all speculation until it is complete. 4) No. But don’t you wish it was that easy! Elon Musk stated there is more room for innovation in manufacturing than in the design of the car…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Correct. A major simplification in manufacturing could lead to faster manufacturing times. Cumulative improvements (simpler assembly, faster robots, etc.) could conceivably cut manufacturing time enough to double output per square foot of plant.

            I doubt Toyota had been keeping the Fremont plant updated during the last few years of production. They were busy building a new plant in Mississippi, chasing cheaper labor costs.

          • jeffhre

            And the right to work? Laws…

          • Carl Raymond S

            We don’t have to speculate that Musk said “something like 1,000,000”, I heard him say it on the recorded earnings call. Nobody is in a better position to make that calculation, so I think it’s safe to conclude that Tesla, using the latest robotics and multi strand workstations, are occupants of a factory capable of “something like 1,000,000”, at a time when the naysayers are basing their analysis on half that figure.

          • jeffhre

            Yes. I addressed that. – his thoughts not mine.

  • Robert Middleswarth

    Musks does seem to be getting things done. I can see Mars getting a small settlement but a large scale colony will require it to have some kind of useful export because people wanting to go because they can and have the dollars to pay for it will get lean pretty fast.

    • nakedChimp

      astronomy?
      low g fabrication?
      genetic experiments deemed too dangerous on earth?
      tourism?
      defence/weapons testing?
      technology testing?

      • Robert Middleswarth

        Astronomy and other scientific research will be enough to keep a small colon there. I can’t see 1,000,000 people their without something more then scientific research.

        Tourism? It currently takes about 300 days to get to Mars and another 300 days back and that is with timing thing to when the earth and Mars are their closest. Very few people can take 2 years off work to see the sites.

        Most likely initial export will be some kind of mining with shipping materials back to Earth. Not sure what elements will be worth that cost but there might be some rare elements that make it worth it.

        • nakedChimp

          I can see a lot of people taking off 2 years from work in a not to distant future.. unless ‘we’ want to keep the status quo of how wealth is distributed even after machines do most of the work – that path chosen will crash and burn 100% (think of French Revolution kind of crash & burn).

          Being able to afford it though (or wanting to pay up for it) won’t be in everyones ability, but nerds might go for it, I’m sure.

          As for the minerals.
          That must be pretty rare stuff on Earth and pretty abundant and easy to get to stuff on Mars to make it worth. I don’t think that there is a big chance for mining on Mars and bringing back stuff to Earth. Asteroids mined/tugged by robots/autonomous ships are a more probable option there.

          • Robert Middleswarth

            That is largely my issue. I just don’t see anything past scientific research that Mars can do that will justify the cost to send needed things to Mars. If Mars can become pretty self sufficient and the only things going to Mars is people willing to pay then there is a slight change it will grow but since at first almost everything will have to be shipped in that will greatly limit it growth.

          • Carl Raymond S

            This will sound like ‘taking the Mickey’, but a reality TV show from Mars would rate its sox off. Far cheaper to export than minerals.

  • SkyHunter

    It is better to set hard goals and miss by a little, than set low goals and coast.

  • Russell

    The final stage of the master plan – cause world oil usage to go into permanent and rapid decline.
    The best way to achieve that is with a self driving electric taxi/shared car. You can multiply the impact of an electric car ~10* if it is making 3 round trips a day vs 1 and carries ~4 people vs ~1. If we are talking short trips you can make the battery have even more than 10* impact because you can do with a range of like 50 miles vs 200+ also.
    Oh and as a side effect save people heaps of money and reduce time wasted in traffic by a lot.
    My prediction is world oil usage starts dropping significantly by 2025.

    • SkyHunter

      Musk hinted that Tesla is working on an autonomous microbus for public transportation. Order a bus with a cellphone that will take you point to point.

    • Frank

      The enabler would be smart phones, and the forcing function? Price. It could be much cheaper than owning a car, and there is no reason it couldn’t be integrated with other transport, and if your smart phone app is sending your GPS coordinates, it could be fast.

      • nakedChimp

        And less more people involved as well.. they just drive up the price in everything.
        🙂

        I predict we’ll get very severe civil unrests planetary wide before 2050 if the social/economic system isn’t preparing to give everybody a fair share of the output of the automated production revolution that is going on.

  • Rich

    I believe landing 1st stage rockets for re-use will be seen as a profound technological achievement.
    I relate space travel to the history of mankind mastering ocean travel. At first, humans figured out how to make floating rafts. The rafts turned into dingies. The dingies into oar powered boats, then to wind ships, to steam ships, to nuclear powered cities called aircraft carriers.
    The dingy phase is where humans are in space travel. We’re bouncing around in dingies just off the coastline.
    The only thing that’s kept mankind from taking the next step in building space boats is the enormous cost to do so. Something to the tune of hundreds of billions to trillions of dollars per boat. The re-usable rocket just changed mankind’s reality. We can now afford to send into space the parts and materials needed to build space boats. Don’t build the boat on land and launch it. Send the parts and materials into space and build it in space.
    I find it interesting Space-X will focus on sticking a blowup habitat on the nose of a rocket and slingshot it to another land in a spectacular hail Mary.
    The more interesting thought is to build boats/ships. Load those ships with building materials and transport those materials to Mars like a modern day cargo vessel.

    • “Send the parts and materials into space and build it in space. “

      Producing stuff in space is very, very much more expensive than here on earth. Apart from launching all the materials, you also have to launch the production equipment and humans.

      You just didn’t go that one step further in your thinking: the materials are already out there in space, so mine them. The only way production in space can be a compelling proposition is if that prevents you from having to launch all the materials. That will be the huge leap forward: when we start ‘living off the land’ in space.

    • nakedChimp

      Will be fun to watch a ‘Columbus’ ‘sailing’ to another continent.. 🙂

  • sjc_1

    Saying he will quadruple production in two years is off base.

    • SkyHunter

      Electric cars are not as complex as ICE cars. Tesla’s artificial intelligence (self learning) technology is more than just autopilot and landing an unmanned rocket on an unmanned floating platform in the middle of the ocean. It also integral to manufacturing. Tesla is going to build twice as many cars in Fremont as GM and Toyota did.

    • They increased production 4x in the pas two years, so why is it off base?

      Once you master the process of mass production, adding production lines becomes business as usual.

  • “you can find missed deadlines, but frankly, that’s nitpicking”

    Uuuhm Mike, you wrote:

    “first line contains the blunt announcement that Tesla is targeting 500,000 cars in 2018, two years earlier than the already head-scratchingly aggressive 2020.”

    Isn’t the deadline the crucial thing in this goal? I mean if they would be late by 2 years (just as with the Model X), then it would still be 2020 and a goal-not-achieved, right?

    • SkyHunter

      The Model X was initially intended to increase demand for Tesla cars, plural, to 50k per year. Demand for the Model S, forced them to ramp up production earlier than anticipated. The key factor is cell and pack technology. The Model 3 was not possible without the gigafactory. Demand for the Model S and need for the gigafactory allowed Tesla engineers the luxury of time with the Model X, and as engineers are wont to do, they engineered the heck out of it.
      Lesson learned. The Model 3 will be a melding of engineering design and manufacturing efficiency.

      • Tesla admitted they underestimated the complexity of the whole thing and that that was the reason it was postponed multiple times. They were lucky that demand for the S was strong and it yielded the cash they needed to fund further development of the X. Maybe the delays were a blessing in disguise. But they were delays nonetheless.

  • DJ

    By the way, updated pictures of the Gigafactory can be found here:

    http://www.designboom.com/architecture/tesla-gigafactory-reno-nevada-construction-drone-video-05-08-2016/

    Pretty good progress.

  • DJ

    First of all, I’m an admitted Tesla, SpaceX! And SolarCity admirer. However, I would like to read an article somewhere that weighs ambitions versus challenges. It seems like the ‘journalism’ I get in regards to these subjects is either fanboy literature or near slander pieces.

    I understand that people have strong opinions and feelings, but seriously…

    Let’s get some appropriate perspective. Like, say, pointing out that the Gigafactory WILL have a solar panel covered roof. To report that it does now is false, and irresponsible journalism.

    • SkyHunter

      This is the current state of journalism. Often the commenters are better informed than the authors.

  • Bernard Michael

    The car stuff, not crazy. The tech isn’t bleeding edge and it’s something that could have been done years ago.

    The Mars predictions? He’s completely off his rocker cuckoo.

    • Bob_Wallace

      When someone builds rocket ships and lands the used first stage on a barge out at sea it might be wise to not dismiss them offhand.

      Apparently SpaceX will be sending a ship to Mars soon. Let’s see how they do.

      • ConserveThis

        Mars may be a dream planet for nerds. It’s too cold and oxygen starved outdoors to survive, so you get to stay inside at all times fixing the always breaking infrastructure you depend on to survive. Or playing with computers. I wonder how many girl nerds will sign up?

        • Ross

          The reason Elon usually gives for colonising Mars is that it gives our species extra redundancy. We’ll have to start colonies in surrounding star systems as well to increase the chance of whatever our species has evolved to by then surviving supernovas.

          There will be no shortage of nerds and nerdettes signing up.

          • ConserveThis

            Well, I suppose that’s the human future then. Selective breeding of nerds on other worlds to spread our DNA far and wide. Kinda like a virus to infect other worlds and be as kind to their ecosystems as we have to this one.

          • Ross

            Our technology is becoming cleaner as we advance. By the time we’ve the technology to cross the interstellar expanse we’ll be really clean living.

            Selective breeding will be a tough sell for the nerds/nerdettes. More likely they’ll make direct improvements to their DNA.

          • ConserveThis

            i have zero confidence that we will be tood caretakers of other worlds. Just as many of the early Christian missionaries meant well as they went into the world, their children plundered the lands their parents came to evangelize. The lovely well meaning nerds will go into space and their atavistic offspring will bring war and pilaging along for the ride.

          • Ross

            I’ve high confidence because of how less violent we are now and how less awful our lives are compared to people in the past.

            If we regress then our expansion outwards will pause.

          • ConserveThis

            We are sometimes less violent. And lives inthe past had many glorious qualities we now lack. People where I live could go outside and see great flocks of wild birds and walk in magnificent forests a scant three generations ago. Now there are miniscuke flocks which require maintenance to keep from extinction and there are small patches of woods. If a man was of a mind he could build a boat or habe one built and support himself from the catch in the bay. The bay is nearly dead now.

            Our planet is dying because we are killing it and the third world shows little inclination to clean living as they scramble for automobiles and high rises.

          • Ross

            At the scale of the world we are improving things for the human species. We’re still not advanced enough to be improving things for other species. There’s massive species loss but if we succeed in transitioning to a sustainable world the remaining species can be saved.

            There will be an expanding bubble of colonisation into the galaxy. Where we mess up the expansion will pause. Elsewhere it will continue. The leading edge will be us at our relative best compared to our species’s history.

          • ConserveThis

            We disagree on what constitutes “improving things.” Living in tincans on the surface of dead worlds vs living on the formerly beautiful and temperate Earth where our species evolved is not an improvement.

            Just as having climate controlled automobiles which shuffle us between climate controlled dwellings where we stare at screens to climate controlled work environments where we stare at screens is not an improvement.

            Having lived in Manhattan and the rainforest, suburbs, small towns, and the desert I can state unhesitatingly the industrial society has been a disaster and continues to be.

            As a species we made a huge mess of things when we went to monoculture agriculture, permanent dwellings, and organized religion. The things we’ll be carrying into space with us.

            The past four thousand years were a giant mistake.

          • Ross

            I think we may be differing in timescales. I’m thinking in terms of deep or geologic time ranging from the birth of our species to the emergence of agriculture to the present day, I don’t expect the colonisation of the galaxy to happen quickly or not have setbacks.

          • ConserveThis

            I’m thinking in biological reality time. We can never consider a species indendent of its environment.

            You are contemplating the human species which is evolved to be on this planet, in this ecology. In order to do what you propose this species must simultaneously evolve to fit its new environment and engineer its new environment. The resulting creatures will be no more related to us than the dairy cow is to the original bovines from which they were bred.

            We will become like maise, which cannot survive without human cultivation. The wild grass it was bred from is long gone.

            The humanity you contemple is not human.

            It is far more likely that we will enact an apocalyptic future in which our species barely survives on this planet and the colonies we have on the moon or mars will fail to be self sufficient. The colonists will starve and freeze on barren worlds.

            Earth is overdue for another mass extinction event. Perhaps this next one will leave only the creatures surrounding sea vents.

          • Ross

            I would never say what someone else is thinking or arguing as the risk is of not understanding that person’s position.

            It was of course implicit in what I said that we’ll evolve and guide our own evolution in future. We’ll probably diverge into multiple species as we expand outwards.

            The risk of a mass extinction event is the very reason we need to expand outwards.

          • ConserveThis

            “The risk of a mass extinction event is the very reason we need to expand outward.”

            I suppose if one were to accept survival of a species independent of the environment for and to which the species evolved as a good unto itself then I could see it. But I cannot accept the idea of a zoo species of humans dependant on an enginneered environment and genetically engineered bodies as a worthy goal.

            I can accept creating a form of IA without a biological substrate as a goal so that some form of intelligence which was always intended to be part of an engineered environment can survive the destruction of the Earth.

            If we come to understand the true nature of what our intelligence is and possibly what our souls are it may be possible to gift our real essence to this AI without the terribly fragile substrate which causes us so much trouble.

          • Ross

            Change is inevitable. We can’t stop it. If humans never broke out from the other primates and developed, life on earth would eventually come to an end.

            The survival of the human and some other species is already dependent on our technology and agriculture.

            Life in the far future is likely to be content with its environment and own physical characteristics as it will shape them. Their present state will seem natural to them.

          • ConserveThis

            Yes. Of course it’s true that people with the same views as yours will build space craft and colonize Mars and the thoroughly genetically engineered humans will find ways to be content in their cannisters surrounded with genetically engineered food stuffs and simulated skies or seas or something.

            You find the prospect appealing in some way so sure, go for it. I find the prospect horrifying in a tepid horror sort of way. The film “The Giver” did a fair job of capturing the feeling.

            Meanwhile I think that tech stuff like electric cars and wind power and all the green energy production, optimized farming etc are peachy. But I see them for what they are. Inadequate measures in an overpopulated world where the joys of the wild are no longer valued or remembered. Mine is the last generation which could even experience it. Now there are no places on the Earth which are not part of the global civilization. This includes every desert, rainforest, arctic, antarctic, ocean or sky. Even the plateaus of Tibet and the Marianas trench are part of it now.

            The last of it was swallowed about fifteen years ago. Until then you could go to a handful of places where you could encounter wild himans who had not heard of airplanes or watched a TV. No longer.

          • Ross

            You’re doing it again and telling what you think I’m thinking but with a negative slant. I do regret the loss of species on the earth.

          • brycly

            Joys of the wild? There are some positives to being surrounded by nature but if I recall correctly it is a very difficult and dangerous way to live. Let’s stop pretending that our civilizations are so much less pleasant, they aren’t. They are much, much more pleasant, for us at least.

          • ConserveThis

            Yes. Joys. If I meant pleasant, bland, or lacking in danger I would have said those.

            Since I’m a very curious and adventurous fellow and had access to wealth and luxury from an early age I’ve availed myself of what our civilization offers which also included leaving all of that to explore ways of life no longer available on our planet.

            Our society offers a sort of bland safety and pleasures like exotic cuisine, imax theaters, luxury cars, dish washers etc. it denies us the joy of waking at dawn on a forbidding plain and the thrill of evading wolves or bears.

            You can choose to get on a sailboat, leave your radio behind, sail to the nineties still but that is all. The rest is gone. If you trek seemingly alone into Alaska, Siberia, the Tibetan plateau or brazilian rainforest it isn’t long before there is a contrail or a land rover nearby.

            This world used to be vast and filled with amazing wonders. Now it’s just an industrial workhouse or an escape from that.

            I think the real reason people want to colonize space has nothing to do with perpetuating the species. They want to be on planets that don’t have a McDonalds, the IRS or suburbs. They want life to be threatening again even if it’s the threat of comets or the vacuum of space or being cut off from Earth.

          • brycly

            I highly disagree. I don’t know many people who would find the threat of suffocating to be thrilling. Perhaps in all your endless adventuring you became put of touch with what the average person wants. The average person is not an adrenaline junkie always needing a new adventure, that’s just you and what you’re doing is called projecting.

          • brycly

            I highly disagree, I think you haven’t the slightest clue what people want. Perhaps with all your adventuring you lost touch with the average person. The average person is not thrilled by the prospect of suffocating to death. The average person is not an adrenaline junkie, that’s just you and instead of confronting that reality you are projecting your outlier perspective onto other people.

          • ConserveThis

            And you sound quite angry about that too!

            Think a lot of average Joes will be Marsing it? Or more adventurous types? Just curious.

          • brycly

            I doubt Elon Musk is planning on putting the costs onto the customer, he wants a lot of ordinary people to go, it’s likely that he will fund the Mars colonization efforts by developing other revenue streams in the next 10-15 years and taking a large chunk of the profits from them. With a goal of a million people, you cannot rely on rich adrenaline junkies, that would be an absolutely moronic plan. My bet is that the majority of people who go after perhaps the first few hundred will be regular people who want a fresh start.

          • ConserveThis

            I get it that the plan is for Elon Musk and his indentured servants to colonize Mars. Not all that different from the Roanoke Colony or the Pilgrims. Just a bunch of ordinary folks looking for a new life far away from the oppression of the mother land, scratching a living from the new soil, walking beneath the trees. Oh wait.

          • brycly

            So because there’s no native life it’s pointless for ordinary people to go there? There has to be an adrenaline rush in it for them? They can’t want to escape from a bad past or want to do something meaningful with their lives? Elon isn’t looking to make a small base, he is looking to build a civilization, with all that it entails. I would argue that this is far better than the American colonies, we don’t need to displace any people or wildlife. No ethical concerns.

          • ConserveThis

            The ethical considerations are simpler than the American Colonies.

            The human race has plenty of experience with stuffing humans into confined spaces. Aircraft carriers, McMurdo Station, international space station, refugee camps, prisons, arctic oil exploration bases, etc. The logistics of these situations are nearly impossible at times, and they have a supply line. People can come back to regular civilization.

            Sometimes it’s hard to afford life here on Earth, where you house, car, groceries, etc. don’t have to be packed on a space ship and sent a billion miles.

            I get it that the idea is to use the materials on Mars to build what is needed. Heat the rocks, harvest water somehow, etc. It’s difficult to live when there is already air, water, heat from the sun, soil and soil microbes.

            Hopefully there are enough nerdy workaholics with no need for the outdoors to pull it off. In the next fifty years or so.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I think it’s an interesting project. And if done mostly with private money the rest of us shouldn’t have any basis for objecting.

          • ConserveThis

            Sure, why not?

            I think it’s not going to work, but I like to see people try things. I’m too old for that stuff now and I doubt anyone has planned for the Martian Old Folks Home yet. All those little latina nurses and nurses aides in their spiffy blue nurse uniforms will find it much easier to help little old ladies and crotchety old men out of bed and to the john in the middle of the night when they weigh one third as much.

            Maybe as part of the new culture on Mars some of the ancient traditions will be instituted. Too old to work? Well, maybe that’s OK. Old enough that others have to care for you? Well, the airlock is working just fine.

            Interesting place to grow up. Surrounded by things that if mishandled could kill your whole community. When you’re feeling that urge to get out and explore by going to California or spend that summer in Europe, you can, what? Get on a space shuttle and return to Earth? Who pays the million dollar each way ticket should you decide to return to see your family and those you grew up with?

            Ever talked to teenagers in the various paradise spots on Earth? You can go to St. John or Hawaii and hear them talk about how they can’t wait to get off that rock! And once they graduate High School they are OUT OF THERE!

            You go with your spouse, happy for five years before you go. Then suddenly he or she is surrounded with the same kind of nerdy types that you are. Suddenly you’re in a special little community of sexual competition. and what do you do when the divorces start? Do you move to opposite ends of the habitation pod? How will the inevitable restraining orders and stalking things be dealt with?

            It sounds like great fun. I’m wondering what sort of upward mobility is possible in a closed community of specialists? You mentioned people getting a fresh start. How will anyone get one in a community like that? I want to get a fresh start. I’m taking the million dollar shuttle to Chicago where I have a job offer at $40/hr.

            It’s going to be fantastic to watch.

            Having fun reading about monotubes, Halbach arrays, etc. Makes me want to build a linear accelerator based pogo stick and a halbach array luge run for the grandkids.

          • brycly

            In the next 10-20 years or so. This stuff is actually technologically simple, it’s just expensive to get it out of orbit which is why SpaceX is building a massive, fully reusable rocket. There will be a lot of space dedicated to food production, water extraction and recycling won’t take up quite as much space. It is not that these things are impossible to do, it’s that they’re expensive so nobody does it. You could easily create supplies of food for refugees, it just takes a lot of money that nobody wants to give. You need to keep in mind that a billionaire with multiple rapidly expanding revenue streams will be funding this and optimizing for cost. It won’t be easy but it won’t be impossible.

          • ConserveThis

            Building huge, pressurized buildings to grow all of the food, process everything. More than expensive and not all that simple. Your basically talking about a long term space station built on a planet surface. Basically an enclosed ocean liner full of farms.

            I’m curious how fhey intend to remelt the core and get it spinning. Without a planetary magnetic field any new atmosphere will blow away on the solar wind and the planet will be constanly bombarded with particles.

            Will people born there be Martians?

          • brycly

            I think they will use inflatable structures until they have a solid industrial base. The atmosphere would disappear, but not for many millions or even a few billion years so long as humans prevented it from refreezing. Restarting the core is impossible, once nuclear material is gone it’s gone.

          • ConserveThis

            Impossible for now maybe.

          • brycly

            I’d hardly argue that it’s impossible, inflatable space structures already exist. There are two inflatable space stations in orbit right now and the ISS added an inflatable section. In 5 years we will have occupied inflatable space stations. It’s more than possible, it’s a likelihood.

          • ConserveThis

            The restart of the core I meant.

          • brycly

            No, the core is as active as it is for two reasons A) the earth is very large so the heat has to travel very far. In essence, there’s a lot of insulation. B) the intense pressure and the presence of nuclear materials causes nuclear reactions. Mars isn’t getting more insulated and the fissile material isn’t abundant enough anymore. Even if you could theoretically do it, you’d have to dig hundreds or thousands of miles through the relatively colder but still molten hot mantle and core in order to put that nuclear material into the core, and where would you even get enough of it to make any difference? It is an impossible task, it would be far easier to build a mega structure on or slightly below the surface that could artificially generate a magnetic field. Besides, the major factor in losing atmosphere isn’t the lack of the magnetic field, though it makes a difference the biggest factor is volcanism and tectonics. Earth loses 30x as much atmosphere to space as Mars does despite its magnetic field, and Venus has a crushing atmosphere despite lacking a magnetic field. The reason both have atmospheres is because volcanic activity replenishes what is lost and then some.

          • ConserveThis

            Who wants to live on a planet without volcanos? It’s just crazy.

            Better, faster space ships in order to find better planets to colonize makes sense at this point.

            Though I’d rather make this planet work.

          • brycly

            You obviously have no clue how far away the nearest habitable planet is, the technology does not at this time exist and it will not for the foreseeable future. Mars is the best we have. Keeping everyone on Earth is a horrible idea, ever hear the saying about keeping your eggs in one basket?

          • ConserveThis

            I keep forgetting that you’re in it for humanity, not for humans.

            At this point NOBODY knows how far away the next habitable planet is. But it has to be, sheesh, at least five times as far away as Disneyworld.

            Our problem isn’t that the planets are so far away, it is that we are so slow.

          • brycly

            That isn’t the problem. Getting fast enough to travel to other star systems and making it there alive requires you to have the infrastructure necessary to keep humans alive, a light mass to speed up and a f*ckton of fuel to slow it down. Doing all 3 is impossible, 2 is pushing what is physically possible to an extreme. If you didn’t have a way to slow down the ship from relativistic speeds then you’d get to the star system and fly by it in about a few hours with no way to turn around. Going fast isn’t even really an option, until we have visited those star systems and installed the infrastructure necessary to make it happen. Gigantic targeted laser systems are the best bet. Could be used as a kind of much less effective mass relay system, if you understand video game references (Mass Effect). But as I said, you’d need one for both star systems or its just not gonna be possible.

          • Bob_Wallace

            (We’re getting way off topic, but it’s interesting. If you don’t alert the Mod, I won’t. ;o)

            Establishing humans on a planet outside our solar system might be a long term process. Send the infrastructure needed to maintain a human colony first. All the stuff needed to sustain and allow the colony to expand.

            Then send humans in the form of frozen eggs and sperm or fertilized embryos. (Probably some ethical battles involved in accomplishing that.)

            The waiting infrastructure would have to be capable of raising the first generation to adulthood.

            This could take a thousand years or more to accomplish. But humans enjoy challenges….

          • brycly

            Yes I agree, a skeleton crew travelling with a few thousand fertilized embryos would be the most effective way to start out and once they got established you could send more embryos. Before that happened you would need to send a probe to make sure the planet was suitable and not already inhabited, and after the colony is thriving they would have to develop their own space infrastructure and build the other end of the laser relay.

          • ConserveThis

            We have to get past this whole relativistic speeds thing with the universal speed limit of 186k miles per second. Which is just too darned slow. Four years to the next star? C’mon. Unreasonable.

            Let’s assume that our descendents solve that problem just as we got past the sound barrier, escape velocity, heavier than air etc. Now with that assumption in place how did they do it? Let’s do that now and save a few centuries of colonizing Mars and asteroids and whatnot where survival will be paramount and leave little time and resources for warp drive, or space folding, or wormholes and whatever.

            Meanwhile, it fun to take a walk here on Earth. Get out under the trees. It’s enjoyable because we evolved to do that. Most of what we do in industrial societies feels like work because we didn’t evolve to do it. Posting to comment sections feels good because we evolved to tell each other stories and have discussions like “do we want to get there by the river path or over the hills”? Or “did you see what Jasper did today?” Walking, gathering resources, dancing and telling stories are the main occupations of the story telling monkeys that we are.

          • brycly

            The only way faster than light travel is possible (barring wormholes being usable to humans) is if you had something that could move faster than light to push off of. You cannot move faster than light because there would be nothing to push off of once you approached it. If you theoretically got yourself to 99% of the speed of light, getting to 99.1% would require more energy than the sun has ever produced (I have not looked that up but the amount would be staggering regardless), probably much, much more.

          • ConserveThis

            Well, if we think only of matter being accellerated by pushing against matter we are in a bind. If we can push against space itself then there may be some other possibilities. There may be an entire world of tansluminal particles or field we have yet to detect and they may hold the answer we seek.

            The only thing that your arguments are showing to me is that we have the option of being a single planet species or colonizing one other planet in our solar system. Given foreseeable technologies. Since our civilization as we know it will destroy itself in about seventy five years I’m not optimistic.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Since our civilization as we know it will destroy itself in about seventy five years”

            Are we going to have a global party and all croak from a shared vat of bad hooch?

            How come I haven’t gotten my invitation yet?

          • ConserveThis

            Consider yourself invited.

          • brycly

            70 years? Doubtful. Even the most pessimistic climate change believers wouldn’t say that. It would take a minimum of a few hundred years to entirely wipe out human civilization because we are so adept with technology. Barring artificial intelligence or nuclear weapons wiping us out, obviously.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Correct. There’s an extremely low probability that climate change would kill off all humans. Population levels would crash but even an Earth with much higher seas and blistering summers would sustain some level of human populations.

            We might find ourselves living largely underground or in heavily insulated buildings in the hottest of weather, coming out in the ‘winter’ to grow our crops along with growing our fresh food ‘inside’ under artificial light.

          • ConserveThis

            We passed the sustainability mark about a hundred years back. At that point we could have maintained the level of population without destroying the underlying ecology which sustains us.

            We are now nearing the carrying capacity of our planet. Soon we will surpass it. The oceans are fished out and require extensive management to avoid driving food species into extinction. Reef bleaching and oceanic toxicity are threatening the plankton chain.

            With current rates of population growth, pollution, and agricultural land loss, we will be witnessing the death through starvation of a majority of humans within fifty years. The industrial and financial economies are not designed to absorb that much loss. Societal crash.

            We will survive as a species but the world industrial, technological society will cease to function.

            Sorry to be the bearer of the bad news.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Try reading some science rather than opinions from the hair on fire crowd.
            Human population is on track to peak around 9 to 10 billion and then start falling. That’s assuming we do nothing to lower the peak, which we probably will.

            We can feed 10 billion. We waste enough food right now to feed another 2-3 billion.

            Same goes for the rest of your argument. We aren’t going to run out of energy. We can find sustainable material streams.

            Some people (millions of people) will almost certainly die due to climate change caused starvation. A lot will probably die due to climate change caused conflicts. No one is arguing that what we’re going to go through won’t be unpleasant. But you’re way over the line in terms of the likely outcome.

          • ConserveThis

            If the population does not increase AT ALL, we will still strip the agricultural resources soon. Soil depletion, desertification due to climate change, industrial contamination of agricultural land, etc. are rapidly destroying our ability to stay fed.

            I understand your attraction to the idea that things will work out after some period of conflict and adjustment. The people who are likely to survive those conflicts are not the tree hugging, preserve the environment types. They are not the” let’s make a wonderful world for everyone” crowd. They will be the ‘we have the most nukes and guns and therefore we get the food” crowd.

            It’s already starting to happen. Look around you.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sorry, disagree with you. And don’t have time to spend arguing over it.

          • ConserveThis

            OK. You can disagree to your heart’s content.

            My assessment comes from decades of reading in the subject from the perspectives of ecosystem biology, macroeconomics, population genetics, resource management, military history, geopolitics, and sociology.

            I’m sorry that you won’t take the time to support your argument for the edification of the people.

          • Bob_Wallace

            It’s off topic.

            Look at the title of this article.

          • ConserveThis

            Ok. I can accept that. Though this is very far down a long thread tangentially related to motivations for colonizing Mars.

          • brycly

            We have passed the point of sustainability but it isn’t impossible to get back ahead of it. Carrying capacity for humans is relative to the efficiency of our technology. If we improve our capacity to grow food and continue transitioning to alternative energy, we could get through it. We need to stop having so many children, for sure. A full civilization collapse would become unlikely if a Mars colony became self sufficient, because they could reintroduce technology and preserve knowledge.

          • ConserveThis

            Knowledge will be maintained. But the technolgies we rely on are vast and interrelated. The infrastructure will colapse when there is no organized society to maintain it.

            Still. I hope you are right.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Mad Max was a work of fiction….

          • ConserveThis

            I do understand why you would rather not be aware of these perfectly logical scientific projections which date from Malthus and continue to grow more dire with each decade since the 1950’s, which is when British Peteoleum recognized global warming due to greenhouse gases.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I suspect that I was aware of Mathus before you were born. And you have zero knowledge when it comes to what I know or don’t know about this topic.
            But this is off-topic for this thread.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I suspect that I was aware of Mathus before you were born. And you have zero knowledge when it comes to what I know or don’t know about this topic.
            But this is off-topic for this thread.

            I don’t wish to reopen this off-topic topic, but thought you might enjoy reading this article which talks about the amount of food that is wasted in the US and to some extent the rest of the world.

            This is part of the food buffer we have as we deal with what climate change is going to do to us….
            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/feedback-feeding-the-5000-tristram-stuart-free-lunches-made-out-of-food-waste_us_573c7f90e4b0646cbeeba16a

          • ConserveThis

            Excellent, Your Antiquity. You’re old enough to remember the giant flocks of birds in the spring and fall. And when millions of acres of farm land didn’t have suburbs on them, China was a land of bicycle commuters, and you could still see the mountains in North India through the smog. You remember when fishing trawlers had long seasons. You remember when a loaf of bread was 17 cents American. You remember when there were still vast forests in BC Canada and the American NW.

            Now, realize hiw fast that disappeared and project it out another 75 years.

          • Hint to the guy who won’t shut up: insulting the moderator and keeping on talking when he’s told you twice you are off topic is a pretty good way to lose the privilege of commenting.

          • ConserveThis

            I understand your extremely practical advice and your mindset.

          • Red Sage

            I’m optimistic, simply because we haven’t managed to destroy ourselves in the past thirty years.

          • ConserveThis

            An oversight I’m sure.

          • brycly

            Also I’m not sure why you believe people will be bringing their cars. They won’t need cars.

          • ConserveThis

            For the drag races through the canals of course!

          • Red Sage

            You forgot about the part about spreading disease to the Natives, then calling them ‘savages’, then systematically killing as many of them as you can find. Oh, wait…

          • Red Sage

            OK. If we accept the notion that mankind wants to live with risk again, by exploring space… Doesn’t that mean we are still human? Or, are you saying no one should go anywhere until we can survive the environment we encounter without the use of technology…? You don’t want anyone to go to Mars until they can live there butt naked as folk on Earth once did in Australia or South America? Not until we can get close to Mars as others have been close to Earth? Fascinating.

          • nakedChimp

            And dinosaurs did go as a lot of creatures before and after them and us..
            Earth won’t be finished with LIFE no matter if humans get it right and their ‘Intelligence/AI’ moved out of this finite life bearing star system or if humans get it wrong and cause a mass extinction (and go down in it too).
            LIFE will stay here in whatever form for how long the environment can accommodate it and evolve.

            Get yourself out of that cup and look over the edges of the dish. Life always evolves and will always do.
            No matter asteroids or super volcanoes or pandemic viruses.. something will survive and keep on going for as long as Earth can be a habitat for it.
            Humans are negligible on that scale.
            Human caused mess is also negligible on that scale.

            Tropical forests and the flora and fauna that are harbored in them today or the last 2000 years is nice and all, but it will always change and definitely get lost and destroyed by catastrophic events, such as humans.
            Those tropical forest weren’t there 100.000 years ago. Life always changes. What you like and think needs protection might be extinct naturally in 10.000 years.
            And if humans don’t take it with them out into space (or another form after us that is able to) this life will go down with it’s star. No way around that. No matter how nice and loveable you find all of that.

            Humans as a species has one goal – survival.
            Living nature has one principle – evolution.
            Nothing more, nothing less.
            And if nature is capable of spreading life further out than this one planet then it will do so by all means necessary on the first chance it gets. Only humans as a social, thinking & caring life-form has the ability (and currently necessity) to take other life with it on that journey.

            If humans manage to destroy the habitat that keeps them alive, well, that’s nature for you I guess.
            There is a billion stars in our galaxy and a lot of them are sun like with planets. There are a BILLION galaxies out there as well. If we screw up, the universe will have replacements ready, 100%.
            Maybe not looking like us and being surrounded by similar habitat, but that stuff is in flow all the time anyway (remember – evolution) and what looks normal to us now might look absolutely bizarre 200,000 years down the road or 200 parsecs over.

            PS: I’m not cold hearted and also would like humans not to destroy everything they get their hands on – I like and respect life. Man, I can’t even kill Cane Toads, although they’re an invasive species right were I live.
            But the overall picture is pretty clear to me and I can be somewhat peaceful because of that point of view I got my self into.

          • ROBwithaB

            This, Bob.
            This is why long comments should be allowed.
            Perhaps even encouraged.

          • Mars will be given life by humans. Seas will rise, water will flow, an atmosphere will materialize and plants, animals and humans will eventually be able to breathe the Martian air out in the open. On Earth, our technology will help us reach a level of efficiency that will allow us to start returning some of the land back to the wild. Nature recovers quite rapidly when given a chance. Not ideal but it is what we have to work with.

          • Bob_Wallace

            What are the odds we could really pull that off?

            What’s the mechanism for getting plants to grow and creating an atmosphere with adequate oxygen for humans? (Let me add, I don’t care if it’s a thousand year project. If it’s reasonable to kick it into gear then why not?)

          • Time frame is likely hundreds of years but first step is to start melting the vast quantities of ice on Mars using solar and nuclear energy. Melting the ice will release vast of mounts of CO2 into the atmosphere which will start warming the planet and will melt more ice and release more C02 resulting in a positive feedback loop. More bacteria, simple organisms and plants will be added as the atmosphere becomes tolerable. Lots of unknowns and lots of challenges but we need to start creating “backup hard drives” outside our planet or risk losing all data.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Is there a problem maintaining an atmosphere with lower gravity?

          • nuvi

            As I recall, it is more the lack of a magnetic belt that will result in solar radiation gradually stripping the martian atmosphere.

          • Yes, the lack of a magnetic field is concerning and I have not seen Musk talk about that element. Solar flares and other space radiation sources will likely require radiation shielding in buildings and maybe even in suits that will have to be worn even when the air becomes breathable; perhaps a global alarm system that will require people to go indoors when a radiation blast is incoming. Creating an atmosphere is likely a much easier task than trying to induce volcanic activity and hope Mars has a core that can somehow produce a magnetic field.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Thanks for all that. It’s a topic I’ve never pursued.

            The idea of transforming another planet into one that humans could habitat is intriguing.

          • JonathanMaddox

            It’s both. We aren’t going to create a breathable atmosphere on a planet the size of Mars in a way which might be sustained for geological timescales. If we do it at all, it will be a flash in the pan.

          • Bob_Wallace

            So a sustainable culture on Mars would likely be a biosphere life?

          • JonathanMaddox

            I suppose the Musks of the world who take the idea seriously are thinking at least in part of large-sized human-populated terrariums, yes 🙂

            In the longer term it might make sense to attempt terraforming elsewhere: Venus, perhaps, or in another solar system.

          • Musk and SpaceX don’t seem to think so. Martian gravity is much greater than the moon’s and there currently is some semblance of an atmosphere, it is just not very dense and is not of the right chemical composition.

          • Ross

            Yes. Molecules need a lower escape velocity. The terraformed Mars would not remain in that state long term.

          • ROBwithaB

            The prospect of a few thousand people terra-forming an entire planet, with only the resources they were able to hoik up there against the Earth’s gravity, right at the edge of the “Goldilocks zone”, seems remote.
            Especially when you consider that, with all the billions of people at our disposal right here (all of whom clearly have a very great vested interest in their own survival) in an environment perfectly conducive to our success, we’re pretty much doing the exact opposite.
            We’re terra-DEforming our OWN planet. What makes us think we have any chance of getting it right anywhere else?

          • ConserveThis

            We aren’t doing very well a d your deterraforming argument/observation is spot on.

            If we can’t make a go of an optimal situation in which our species evolved, it will be a thousand times harder in terrariums for tots.

          • ConserveThis

            We have approximately 20 years to achieve the level of efficiency you mention. Yes, 20 years. If we don’t do it in that much time there is going to be cataclysmic trouble.

            As to terraforming Mars. That is a project which would take generations. By then the Earth is toast.

          • Red Sage

            So… You blame the internet? Wow.

          • ConserveThis

            I think you misread something.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            We hopefully will get the best of our species off the planet in a self sustaining future before an apocalypse happens here on earth.

          • ConserveThis

            You’re the one to choose who is best?

          • Ivor O’Connor

            I seriously doubt I’ll have anything to do with setting up the tests to determine the qualifications but I expect them to be fair and based on needed qualifications. I expect somebody who comments that nothing good has come from the human race in the last four thousand years would have trouble applying.

          • ConserveThis

            I have no interest in going to Mars or even as far as Nebraska.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Yeah, I think most of us old folk do not like to travel and only do so when forced to.

          • ROBwithaB

            Especially not Nebraska.

          • ROBwithaB

            Yup. That’s the problem.
            Who gets to make the choice? And according to what criteria?
            And how do you allow for “natural selection” to happen naturally in the new colony?

            Also, if nerds can’t even sustain a “replacement level” breeding program right here on earth (under optimal conditions) what makes us think they’d be the perfect candidates to do it on a freezing airless rock?

            A lot of the qualities that facilitate survival and procreation are not “positive” in any utopian view of humanity. Deception, jealousy, violence, avarice, lust. These are the tools that nature has at her disposal. They are hardwired into the human psyche because they have been successful tactics over many generations. Every person alive today is the direct descendant of many generations of truly horrible human beings. Women are attracted to men with a hint of the bastard in them. Can we expect that to change all a sudden?

            If “the colony” does survive, it will only be as a result of some sort of evolutionary process. Such process will not be conducted by democratic ballot, or unanimous consensus. It’s going to happen the old-fashioned way.

            It’s gonna get real ugly. The story of Pitcairn Island should serve as a warning to any potential Mars colonists.

          • Red Sage

            Wow. The notion of an unavoidable ‘apocalyptic future’ is no fun at all. Strange that you have given up all hope.

            Being overdue for a mass extinction event means we have been by the luck of the draw been granted an opportunity to possibly avoid its ultimate destructive result. The presumption that we will bring about that extinction by attempting to avoid it is cynical beyond belief.

            Will mankind be different in the future? Yup. There was a book by Frederick Pohl called ‘MAN PLUS’ that examined that very likelihood.

          • ConserveThis

            It’s inevitable.

          • Red Sage

            Inevitability is the even uglier twin Sister of Futility.

          • ConserveThis

            Nonetheless, there are inevitabilities and futilities.

          • In the last 4 thousand years we went from life expectancy in the 20s to life expectancy in the 80s. Life was miserable, disease filled, dangerous, lawless and very violent for most of humanity. Our rapid tech development has come with many mistakes and lessons learned but we now have the knowledge to start righting the ship. Off planet colonies are not about moving to a better place but about basic survival. We are bound to have a major collision sooner or later.

          • ConserveThis

            Tony, you should stick to reality and read some history. Four thousand years ago people lived as long as hunter gatherers did in the 1700s. That would be 40s to 80s with regularity.

          • It is amazing what antibiotics and the industrial/tech revolution accomplished, giving humans a greater access to resources:

            http://thedailyblog.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/life-expectancy-throughout-history-long-trend.gif

          • ConserveThis

            It’s amazing how people who are clueless about life expectancies make graphs!

            That and your graph begins at Jesus, about two thousand years later than I mentioned.

          • Exactly, go back before Jesus and it is the same or worse

          • ConserveThis

            No. It isn’t.

            Your life expectancy at birth chart for the world in it’s full agricultural society mode does not reflect accurately what human life was. Life expectancy at ten years or life expectancy at twenty years are more accurate.

            If you made it to ten you would live fairly long. To twenty, longer still. If you made it to forty you were nearly as likely to make it to eighty as now.

          • We agree. It’s just that you have come up with your own metric that is not life expectancy. I don’t know what to call it nor have ever seen it used. It is a bit abstract and random.

          • ROBwithaB

            “Adult life expectancy”?

          • ROBwithaB

            Graphs like this tend to confuse people, because the word “average” does not appear anywhere. And even if it did, people tend to struggle with the concept.

            People used to have eight kids, and they were lucky if even half of them survived to adolescence. There was a name for this.
            It was called “evolution”. For homo sapiens in the First World, a significant part of that process essentially stopped about a hundred years ago. Another significant part (fecundity) is being subverted by advancements in reproductive medicine.
            But you can only fool nature for so long…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Seems like the two of you are confusing average years lived and maximum life span.

            The average number of years people live has risen rapidly in close history. It took a huge jump when we installed sewers and greatly reduced the incidence of diseases like cholera.

            But if we look back at the maximum age humans live then we don’t see any appreciable change in how many years the oldest of us live.

          • ConserveThis

            I partially agree with you Bob.

            I’m not talking about average years. I’m talking about life expectancy at various ages.

            A life expectancy at birth is an average lifespan, for a person in a given population at the time of their birth. In earlier times there was always a large infant mortality rate, so that is included. Then there are childhood diseases and birth defects which make it unlikely to survive puberty.

            So, life expectancy at 10 years is an average lifespan if you made it past infancy and childhood.

            If you make it to puberty, then you have the risk of first pregnancy and delivery If you are female, and death while training in adult skills between the ages of ten and twenty for everyone.

            Life expectancy at twenty is an average life span for people who made it through that critical period.

            And so on. You get the idea.

            If you made it to fifty in the neolithic era, your metabolism and other physical endowments were good, you had the necessary emotional and life skills to survive the cycles of the environment and your social world, so you were very likely to get old.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You are talking about average years. You’re pointing out that the average changes when starting at different age points. Pick other subsets of the total population and one would not be surprised to find average age at death differs.

          • ConserveThis

            Yes, averages at different ages. We don’t have enough information to make actuarial tables but nearly.

          • Right. Max years for a human seems to have a biological limit around 120yrs or so, until we start doing more significant genetic reprogramming. Eventually aging should be fully treatable and accidents may be the only cause of death. There is a species of Jellyfish that is virtually immortal, i.e. cannot die from aging, but of course it is the food source for other species and can die in accidents. Aging is not biologically necessary. You can input matter and energy into any physical element (an old car, a human body) and if done with enough intelligence and knowledge, can extend its “like new” condition indefinitely.

          • ROBwithaB

            Asexual reproduction was not a very successful strategy. The re-combination of “better” genes, after being subjected to the “genetic filter” of sexual selection, (with the opportunity for the odd serendipitous mutation along the way) turned out to be a much better way of doing it.

            As soon as that happened, death was very much a biological necessity. You needed to get out of the way and stop competing for resources for your (hopefully better equipped) offspring.

          • But now, the loss of a human’s knowledge when they die causes a bit of a reset and a small step backwards. It is difficult to document and pass on what a person knows before they die. Increasing human capability now through tech and genetic engineering is much faster than letting nature take its course, though admittedly fraught with potential pitfalls.

          • nitpicker357

            Many plants do both; they can reproduce asexually AND they can reproduce sexually. They don’t necessarily senesce, either. Anyone have evidence that senescence or strictly sexual reproduction is necessary for efficient evolution?

          • ROBwithaB

            Those that made it into adulthood.
            The primary contributor to increased average life expectancy in the last century or two is the huge reduction in infant mortality.

            Primarily due to better hygiene.

          • ROBwithaB

            The prospect of a major population correction within the next few decades is quite real.
            Which is a much easier way of doing it than lots of transformative technology.

          • What is this population correction you speak of? Please provide more detail.

          • John Norris

            CT, except for the computer you’re typing on?

          • ConserveThis

            Including the computer.

          • Red Sage

            The huge mistake was believing leaders in religion and politics and military who claimed our nation was somehow ‘dangerously underpopulated’ and that everyone and their Brother’s Sister Sarah should get married and make babies as soon as possible, for God and Country. I don’t know who rules the world, but sometimes it seems it is a competition to see how many fools one group can get to believe their malarkey. As if it is a battle of philosophies over how control should be wielded or meted out. It is amazing how many people don’t seem to realize that the entire concept of the United States of America is a social experiment that other nations fully expected to fail miserably, and a long time ago. Some still think that this childish country will come around to their more mature way of thinking with the passage of time. Others have become impatient and want to force us toward what they would deem ‘the right way of thinking’. Meanwhile, short sighted individuals within our nation only care about what they can get for themselves, by any means possible, let alone necessary. The prevailing notion in our society seems to be that married people are better than single people, married people with kids are even better, and married people with kids who are in the military are best of all — aside from retired military families that have become wealthy somehow, that is… And despite advances in technology that allow for discussion and contemplation and understanding, there are those who insist we must have a standing army and gigantic navy in order to beat back invaders at our borders… All while ignoring the fact that the very same technologies allow each of our military personnel to kill a lot more of ‘them’ than they will ever be able to manage against ‘us’… And that’s why there aren’t any invaders. After around 240 years of citizens stockpiling weapons of all sorts in their homes, anyone who chose to invade this country with ‘boots on the ground’ would be an idiot. Almost as bad as being a ‘Superpower’ and deciding it would be a good idea to invade Afghanistan. Oh, wait…

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, folks. You’ve gotten far, far off topic.

            Exchange emails if you’d like to continue this conversation.

          • ConserveThis

            I enjoyed your commentary, even if it was a bit long and only tangentially related to Mars colonization.

          • ROBwithaB

            I admire your optimism.

          • nakedChimp

            The third world has been plundered and still is by the first world.
            That people there also want a nice life is nothing bad.
            And that some people there do everything to get their nice life (even by selling out their lands-man) is nothing new and to be expected.

          • Red Sage

            It is true that too many want to ‘conserve’ the fiction of returning to an idyllic, but modern, society that never actually existed. It is not possible to sustain our current course of industrial attack on nature, without coming to a sudden and final end. Then, with attitudes that claim only those with money deserve to live in a clean environment or use renewable energy sources, the notion that exclusivity is necessary prevails in the name of greed. I’m just barely smart enough to realize my own version of paradise or utopia might well be vastly different from someone else’s. I don’t expect anyone else to be ‘like minded’ and I am genuinely surprised when someone appears to be.

          • ConserveThis

            Well, the good news is we will be around to see if your dire predictions come true, or if we are pleasantly surprised.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Indians invented casinos when they realized the true nature of christian colonists!

          • ROBwithaB

            I chuckled.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Thanks, that was an original reflection by me and not a repeat from somebody else.

          • nakedChimp

            By the time we’re able to cross the interstellar expanse we might not even be interested in it anymore as we’ve decoupled from our carbon based bodies and run on more robust hardware and are just interested in sources of transformable energy and material to build the hardware we run on that circles stars for example to get our ‘minds’ on more computing power.

            I can certainly see me as a piece of code running on some computer that circles a star and all I do is consume virtual reality and the occasional news from some explorative ‘units’ that roam the universe in the search for curiosities (or I roam myself if I can be bothered).

          • Ivor O’Connor

            I’d love to decouple from my carbon body. It’s getting harder and harder to do the daily maintenance it needs. Though I did manage to power through the swim and run portions this morning I didn’t make much else.

          • nakedChimp

            I would too (not that my body is that old yet). My aim is just to see the passage of time and evolution of nature really, any animalic stimulations can then either be simulated or eliminated.

            Question then is: what drives human evolution from there on? What drive exists that keeps you ‘going’ exploring after that ‘conversion’?
            I think not a lot of ‘minds’ will evolve past that stage.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Good question. Some people seem to be wired differently than others. Take for instance those who say they would take their wealth and retire on some island. What do they hope to do that will excite them on that island? Play chess, computer games, swim, fish? If they are not trying to improve themselves for a better possible future they might as well just kill themselves. I think if we “decarbonized” we’d still reach the same conclusion and life would continue on as it does now.

          • nakedChimp

            Ok, off to bed now and tomorrow working on my part to make this place a little bit better in a way that Elon does, did squat today (just worked for me) which is a shame really 🙂

          • ConserveThis

            People who live on islands relax and enjoy the living of life and stop most of the survival based and acquisition based rat race. Very few say “I’m selling my island paradise to reenter the rat race, claw my way to the middle, and get a noisy apartment in a city.”

            What “better future” is there to prepare for when you surf when you want, sing around a beach fire, dance with your sweety, and drink from a coconut that was still on the tree an hour ago? That plus a lot of expensive art that is less beautiful than the view from your window? An expensive car that is less fun than a hammock? A career in a windowless office?

            Signed- an island dweller, late of the megalopolis.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            I suspect many people want to feel they are doing something for the human race. Hanging around on a hammock drinking from a coconut may sound to them the equivalent of waiting around to die. In fact they probably would rather end their lives than retire to such a setting. I know I would.

            Clawing your way in the rat race, and a noisy apartment in the city, is equally bad. Nobody deserves that either.

          • ConserveThis

            All of the people who have come to the island I live on have made contributions.

            What you call waiting around to die is in fact enjoying life. It’s something most people in the world have neither the time nor resources to do properly.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Now the conversation has drifted far afield.

            Let’s to back to things appropriate for this site….

          • nakedChimp

            The alternative is to go certainly down with our star once our planet becomes inhabitable.
            Or to not survive any other possible catastrophic event like super volcanoes, pandemic viruses or an asteroid.

          • Red Sage

            So, better to be a purposeful virus, then? In the ‘MASS EFFECT’ science fiction series, human beings are considered to be a rampant pest that spreads throughout the galaxy unchecked, from the perspective of other civilizations. Meanwhile, in ‘HALO’ the infectious species is called The FLOOD, and human beings are the only ones stupid enough to do what it takes to stop them — poison themselves with something that kills The FLOOD, then offer themselves up to the infection.

          • ConserveThis

            Scifi gives us plenty of opportunities to workshop our ideas. It’s like a giant public think tank for the future.

            Most of these colonization ideas began as scifi. Not they are becoming science fact.

            Of course we often get one thing especially wrong in scifi. The pace and types of social change which follows on the heels of tech advance and science discovery. We do tend to get right that social systems remain hierarchical, resources are unjustly and unevenly distributed, and the rulers remain heartless.

            There is no reason to assume that it won’t be that way on Mars.

        • Ivor O’Connor

          Hopefully Mars will be inhabited with only the best and the brightest. Breeders can be left back on earth.

          • nakedChimp

            Ha.. don’t think so.
            The first that will come will be:
            – explorers
            – prisoners (if very dangerous work is involved)
            – mouth breathers
            – intelligent people
            – wealthy people
            You’ll get the very same chezzpool you have one earth. And if not the first or third generation, the 5th definitely will make it so 😉
            The 10th generation will start to check who is being added to their resource pool then too as resources won’t be infinite up there either 😀

            The only chance I see to divert best and brightest from the remainder will be once the human mind does accept virtual reality as sole reality and they can’t be bothered with real reality anymore (don’t know if we need carbon base bodies during/for that, but that’s details, kids are running first trials by consuming games in their 4 walls 24/7 if possible with no regard to the outside world).
            That will be the moment that curious minds (curious in the real world I mean) will have an evolutionary advantage over simple consumer minds and be able to get ahead with evolution. The consumer minds will be left back.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            It’s going to be difficult and people that expect to survive will out of necessity take little risk and plan. Sure they’ll have online support to help with everything. But any medical problem, physical or mental, is likely to preclude them from surviving. Look around and count up the mentally and physically stable people past the age of 50 that you know. Never mind past the age of 60 or 70! Mars will weed out many of the bad genes currently in our midst.

          • ConserveThis

            Dr. Strangelove and the mine shaft.

        • eveee

          I thought you meant Minnesota.

          • ConserveThis

            I think they are about the same. But people in Minnesota are sexier.

          • eveee

            Yes. Especially when ice bathing in winter.

          • ConserveThis

            Oo la la

        • jeffhre

          You seem like a bit of a nerd – up for some terraforming?

          • ConserveThis

            Only if we can name it Bob.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sorry, that name is taken….

          • ConserveThis

            Let’s compromise. I agree to pronounce and spell it backwards.

    • phineasjw

      Most people can’t imagine anything more than 5 years into the future. If it won’t exist in 5 years, it won’t exist at all. Mars will be colonized, and eventually terraformed. How much of that we’ll be alive to see is a different question.

      SpaceX will attempt their first Mars landing in 2018.

      • Ross

        I’d take that further and say most people can’t even imagine anything different from the status quo so they’re not motivated to bring about change.

        Just think where EVs, autonomous driving, batteries, reuseable rockets, solar, and other renewable energy will be in five years and the implications of that.

        • phineasjw

          Spot on. Elon refers to this as reasoning by “analogy”, i.e. equating truth to something you’re already familiar with. It’s a flawed way of thinking.

          Instead, as he explains, physicists and free thinkers reason by “first principles”. These are the fundamental truths about something, without any regard for conventional wisdom.

    • “and it’s something that could have been done years ago”

      In theory, that is true for ALL technology, since the laws of physics have been unchanged for many billions of years.

      You want to know what is bleeding edge? That a startup that put its first mass produced car on the road a mere 3.5 years ago, is today capable of building the most complex mass production car.

      • SkyHunter

        They also eclipsed Google in autonomous driving data with an over the air software update.

    • SkyHunter

      Classic. You probably believed it impossible before you believed anyone could have done it.

    • Michael B

      Was that opinion in the article somewhere? I must have missed it! Oh, sorry, thought this was the author chiming in. (From yet a third Michael B.) 😉

      • Lol. This is getting silly, says the first Mike B to put his stamp on this article as the author.

  • Ross

    Crazy is not transitioning away from fossil fuels and not working towards making humans a multi-planetary species.

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