Mars Direct

Trump was baiting Nasa’s head, asking why we couldn’t go directly to Mars instead of puttering around on the Moon first, bringing in Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin on the subject.

Trump’s right: assuming that you want to send a manned mission to Mars,  Mars Direct is the most logical ( and cheapest) way.  NASA is bullshitting us.   Nice seeing the reporters demonstrate their incomplete knowledge of Hohmann orbits: but they must know more about other things.  Some other thing.

It is possible to imagine a real economic payoff for a Mars mission (I was called a person of broad imagination at the ISIR conference) but harder to see why you’d need men there.


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73 Responses to Mars Direct

  1. just a lurker says:

    but harder to see why you’d need men there.

    Why? Prestige. Planting flag, doing small steps and big leaps, showing to the world that your country is the greatest.

    It worked 50 years ago, when Donald Trump was young, why shouldn’t it work again now?
    But it would not work today, because we are not in the sixties anymore.

    In these times, science and technology were big things, admired by everyone. Big scientific and technological stunts were needed to impress the world.

    Today, it is not the case. Science and technology are hated and feared, and other, very different thing are admired.

    Doing big technological show would today would be as impressive as wearing last year’s fashion.

    • protokol2020 says:

      Why today’s fashion is fashionable now? And why the last year’s fashion is so unfashionable today?

      Fashion is where people smell power. Just remember how unfashionable neural networks were 7 years ago. Nobody wanted to touch them with a long stick. Then, unexpectedly a real power brake in from that very direction. Now everybody is doing tensorflow, machinelearning, AI and all this crap. It’s fashionable again.

      The same goes for all the technology. People are mostly stupid and don’t know in advance that only technology gives you real power. But after some shocks are given to society using some really powerful technologies, it will be fashionable again.

  2. Coagulopath says:

    Mars has a lot of water. If the planet was flat and all the ice thawed, it would be covered by a ~100m deep ocean. But there’s a problem: Mars has a thin atmosphere and water would boil into vapour pretty much as soon as it melted.

    I wonder if you could start a runaway greenhouse effect on Mars, so that it has a hotter temperature and a thicker atmosphere. With oceans, Mars as Emergency Backup Earth would become a real possibility.

    (BTW, your past correspondent Roland Fryer will now have a lot of free time. If you want to recommend him books to read, now’s your chance.)

    • dearieme says:

      Mr Fryer: I find this kind of thing odd. If his behaviour was unforgivably gross, fire him; don’t fanny around with two years of this and two years of that. (I assume that the Harvard tenure deal has an exception for “gross moral turpitude” or some such phrase.)

      On the other hand, if his behaviour was just heightened bad manners and arrogance, make him write grovelling apologies to his victims and pay them each twenty thousand dollars compensation. Then let him continue his work with, no doubt, a close eye kept on him.

      Though, to be fair, the current punishment is probably more effective at generating make-work for the Harvard administrators, which may be the desired end.

      Personally I’d probably have decided to fire him the moment he played the race card, which I interpret as a strong sign of a weak case dishonestly made.

    • Dylan says:

      You also need to clean up the perchlorates in the soil.

    • Karl Zimmerman says:

      My understanding is a “light terraforming” of Mars would be pretty easy, with the application of heat. Basically Mars has enough known frozen CO2 reserves that – if we could get it atmospheric pressure high enough to allow for liquid water whenever temperatures climb above freezing (albeit of course under a much narrower range than Earth). Hell, Mars’s atmospheric pressure is very close to the triple point as it is. Liquid water probably can exist for short periods of time in extremely low-altitude basins like Hellas right now.

      The much harder problem is getting anything resembling a breathable atmosphere out of it of course.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Expand on the last paragraph?

  4. Toddy Cat says:

    There’s probably no real logical reason to send men to Mars, but if humans were completely logical, we’d still be puttering around the mouth of the cave, wondering if it was safe to go outside. As a number of studies on unusual individuals have attested, not only would Mr. Spock not be a superman, he wouldn’t even be able to get out of bed in the morning. Knowing humans, I’ll bet someone goes, sooner or later. It might as well be us.

  5. Henry Scrope says:

    Perhaps there are spices there.

    Or to put it another way the payoff will be discovered once the job is done.

    Requires imagination so Trump is probably, for all his faults, the last chance.

  6. beancrusher says:

    Clearly, given the prevalent stories of the last week, we don’t need men on Mars.

    We need women.

    • dearieme says:

      Quite right. Send Theresa May and Angela Merkel. Or I can think of a few American women whose absence would brighten many peoples’ days.

  7. jbbigf says:

    I don’t believe anyone has found a solution to the radiation problem. It would not be hard to put a man on Mars, the question is whether he’d still be alive when he gets there. Probably not.The folks at NASA don’t want to tell us this, because NASA is welfare for engineers, and they’re afraid that if we knew they have already shot their wad, we might stop buying them expensive new toys to play with. Their chief remaining mission, Muslim outreach, can be conducted over the internet with a few cheap beheading videos. No need to put a dead infidel on Mars.

    • HerewardMW says:

      There is a very simple solution to the radiation problem – but it requires really cheap launches and probably some puttering around on the moon first. One meter of water shielding reduces radiation to standard Earth background levels.

      Make a big spaceship with hollow (maybe inflatable pockets) shielding and fill it with a couple of thousand tonnes of water. This would be mined on the moon, as this would be cheaper than bringing it from earth. Install lots of extra thrust and off you go.

  8. AppSocRes says:

    I respectfully disagree on the benefits of bypassing the moon for Mars. Establishing permanent moon bases is the next obvious step in exploring our local non-terrestrial neighborhood. Back in the 1960s, since we’d already sent men into extended orbits around the earth, either a full time space station or a trip to the moon followed by an eventual landing and return were the obvious next baby steps. Kennedy settled on a moon landing for political reasons but this gamble payed off in many ways. The space station came later and has provided much important information, e.g., on the adverse effects on human physiology of extended stays outside the nearby gravitational afield of the earth, its atmosphere, and its protective magnetic field.

    There are many advantages to establishing permanent moon bases. First, they provide an obvious stepping off point for further missions throughout the solar system. The moon is far enough out in the earth’s gravitational well and its own gravitational field is relatively weak enough to greatly increase the economy of further space exploration. It is an ideal laboratory for studying the effects on humans of long term living on the surface (or under the surface) of a low gravity world without the atmospheric and magnetic protection offered by the earth. Permanent bases on the moon offer an immediate refuge in case of a catastrophe on earth. The moon is also an ideal place for determining whether or not we can find the essentials for permanent colonization elsewhere in the solar system, e.g., water, the appropriate mix of vital basic nutrients for plants and animals, and essential, economically viable ores for industrialization. Once we have permanent bases on the moon we can start studying the kinds of economic activities that may make space exploration worthwhile from a crass, purely economic way. This will be facilitated by the fact that shipping products from the moon to the earth will be insanely cheap. Read “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” for details.

    Hohman transfer orbits may optimize payload/fuel ratios for a trip from earth or near-earth orbit to Mars but only at the expense of perhaps far more critical variables, e.g., transit time. As other commenters have noted, concerns about radiation damage to humans and electronics (and particulate damage to everything) are a critical factor in planning a trip to Mars. Hohman orbits extend the transit time, and hence exposure to these risks, significantly.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I don’t think that the space station has been worth anything at all.

      As for a lunar base, many of the issues are difficult and one ( effects of low-gee) is probably impossible to solve.

      I don’t think that there are real mysteries about what is needed for a kind-of self-sufficient base – it’s just too hard and there’s not much prospect of a payoff.

      That said, there may be other ways of going about this that are more promising.

      • Dave Pinsen says:

        Kim Stanley Robinson, and, before him, Arthur C. Clarke, both thought Mercury was a promising site for a settlement. KSR’s idea was for a domed city on Mercury’s terminator set on rails, where it could slide to the dark side before the sun hit it. KSR said that gravity on Mercury was similar to that of Mars, which he thinks somehow might be ideal for humans.

        • Karl Zimmerman says:

          I’ve come around to the idea that a floating station on Venus is something worth considering. The big advantage of doing it is there’s a layer in the atmosphere where both the pressure and temperature are basically the same as Earth, and due to the Venusian atmosphere being mostly carbon dioxide, you could fill a balloon with breathable air and have it float indefinitely. Small ruptures aren’t immediate death like in a vacuum or low-pressure situation like Mars, because with identical pressure the gases would diffuse very slowly between the inside and outside. And even though Venus lacks a magnetic field, its atmosphere is dense enough there to protect humans from radiation. Since the atmosphere super-rotates, you’d have a four-day day/night cycle rather than 243 days. People could even go on the outside of the habitat wearing nothing more complicated than an oxygen mask and a wetsuit-style garment protecting them from the sulfuric acid in the air.

          The biggest downside – aside from the sulfuric acid mist – is almost everything would have to be dropped in from orbit, meaning it would be hard to have a self-sufficient base. I guess you have lots of free solar power, and it would be pretty easy to extract water and oxygen from the air, but it’s not like you’re going to head down and mine the surface.

          • Dave Pinsen says:

            In his novel 2312, KSR included a plan for terraforming Venus, including shortening its day:

          • Steven C. says:

            Would there be enough atmosphere above the one bar level in the Venerian atmosphere to provide enough radiation shielding? I suspect it would be similar to the surface of the Earth, but minus the protection of Earth’s magnetic field. I think it be would simpler to just build a settlement under the surface of Mars than a settlement floating in the atmosphere of Venus. It’s an intriguing notion though; Sky Cities of the Planet of Love!

      • jbbigf says:

        What he said. If we need more land, let’s terraform Nevada, or the Sahara, or the Outback. Some place easy to get to.

    • jb says:

      Permanent bases on the moon offer an immediate refuge in case of a catastrophe on earth.

      It is very, very, very difficult to imagine a catastrophe that would make the earth less habitable than the moon. Even if Comet Swift-Tuttle were to shift its orbit and slam into the earth (with roughly 30 times the energy of the Chicxulub impactor), the earth would still be easier to live on than the moon! There would still be breathable air, and water, and soil that could be used for crops once the smoke and dust cleared. We’d need to prepare, and we’d probably lose 99.999% of our population. Maybe more. But then how many people do you think we could evacuate to the moon in an emergency?

      Seriously, this “we need to colonize the moon in case something happens to the earth” trope is nuts. A challenge: see if you can come up with a catastrophe that would make the moon a friendlier place for humanity than Earth. (Yeah, there are some. But the odds of a 300 mile wide asteroid showing up out of nowhere are so low that they might as well be zero).

  9. Unladen Swallow says:

    If this were 1972 I would agree with you, but NASA has pretty much screwed up everything they have tried since then, at least as far as manned exploration goes. They claim they will back by 2024, yet they haven’t even begun to build either the orbiter or the lander yet. The system they want to build doesn’t leverage anything that Apollo did, everything is new, they are basically starting over, with all new launch vehicles, orbiters, landers, etc… Isn’t the advantage of Mars is that there is a lot more resources available to utilize for a permanent base, as well as for returning ships?

    • AppSocRes says:

      “…NASA has pretty much screwed up everything they have tried since then…”

      It all boils down to politics. Every new administration comes in with grand new plans for NASA and usually ends up scrapping whatever useful work was done before. Barak Hussein Obama – a scientific and engineering ignoramus if there ever was one – is a perfect example. His administration decided – off the cuff as far as I can tell – that a manned mission to Mars would be the next major NASA mission. That forced NASA to move in an entirely new direction.

      Beyond this, whatever NASA does is screwed up by politics, particularly congressional pork barreling. The space shuttle Columbia disaster is a perfect example. The launch should never have occurred. Low temperatures at the time basically insured a catastrophic failure of one or more of the space shuttle’s o-rings. Intense pressure on the launch team’s managers prevented their fully appreciating the warnings of NASA’s engineers.

      Beyond this, the very existence of these o-rings was the result of politics. Congress critters made the manufacture of shuttle components and their integration into one unit across many different constituencies the price of approving the shuttle’s budget. This neccesitated o-rings to join separately manufactured components together. It was a rube goldberg solution to an unnecessary but nonetheless politically imposed problem.

      Beyond this, the whole shuttle project was an example of the type of administration interference I mentioned earlier. The shuttle was a Carter administration brain child and that administration pushed for rapid adoption so the project would be up and running before Carter left office. A more rational, engineering-based approach would have required years of feasibility and cost-benefit analyses to determine if a shuttle was really a good approach. Instead NASA got sidetracked and then locked into over thirty years’ worth of using a technology that ultimately proved out to be the opposite of cost saving and also a bad idea from almost every perspective.

      One thing that can be guaranteed is that no matter what course NASA takes now or how it shifts course in the future, political considerations will trump scientific and engineering concerns and this will always be to the detriment of NASA’s primary missions.

      • dearieme says:

        “political considerations will trump scientific and engineering concerns”

        But NASA was based from the beginning on political considerations, wasn’t it? I mean, it’s an arm of government: what else would it be based on?

      • gcochran9 says:

        The last time the Shuttle came up, I pointed out that it was not a brain child of the Carter Administration, and you agreed, upon reflection.

        • AppSocRes says:

          My apologies to you and the Carter administration. This wrong meme seems to be hardwired into my brain. I’ll try to root it out permanently.

          I honestly don’t remember our previous interaction and your correction. Apparently I’m edging into senility as I enter my seventh decade.

          This provides an apparently accurate picture of Carter’s role in the space shuttle program: The Nixon administration actually began the NASA program that eventually evolved into the space shuttle, nixing a Mars landing program at the same time.

        • Abelard Lindsey says:

          The shuttle was originated with the Nixon administration. its development was already underway by the time Carter entered office.

      • Jokah Macpherson says:

        Challenger was o-rings. Columbia was foam insulation. But same organizational principles (or lack thereof) at work.

      • ziel says:

        I remember reading a debate on the proposed shuttle in some magazine (while waiting at the barber’s for my bi-annual haircut back in the 70’s) between William Buckley and Nicholas von Hoffman. NvH argued the shuttle was aerodynamically unsound and thus couldn’t be landed safely and that the need to custom-fit every heat-shielding tile across its entire surface was monumentally impractical (I can’t remember what Buckley’s pro arguments were). Von Hoffman seemed to be all wet on this one at least for awhile there but, in retrospect, 14 fatalities seems pretty unacceptable.

        • gcochran9 says:

          I doubt if Von Hoffman knew what he was talking about, and certainly Buckley didn’t. That said, the high point of the Shuttle program was when Atlantis rammed the snout mother ship, Mommy Dearest.

          • earplugs says:

            The Shuttle Program: It sucks so bad only Project Orion can save it, and even then only as a parasite-ship Kamikaze.

            • Toddy Cat says:

              Von Hoffman was kind of a 1970’s Michael Tracey – his basic outlook and belief system was Leftist and hence wrong most of the time, but he was too smart to suppress his basic common sense all the time, so he was sometimes gloriously right. The Shuttle was Von Hoffman’s “Russiagate” (an issue that Tracey got right despite hysterical attacks from his fellow leftists…)

          • I don’t understand the rationale for having sent Atlantis against the snouts. With SMS engines only, it didn’t have the delta-v to get back from much more than near earth orbit, so all the mass of reentry systems and heat shield was just deadweight. Better to have loaded more stovepipes or missiles. Probably more resilient against acceleration transients from Michael.

  10. Jokah Macpherson says:

    People make fun of Trump but he knows about Hohmann orbits. His uncle was a physicist, after all.

  11. Jokah Macpherson says:

    It does surprise me, though, that no one has sent a living human to the moon or even made a serious attempt in nearly fifty years, even if just for chest thumping reasons. The Apollo program cost about a Bezos, adjusted for inflation, and that was starting from scratch. If a broke, starving North Korea can build a halfway decent H-bomb when their backs are to the wall, it seems weird that no ambitious nation-state or ruthless capitalist has gotten around to harnessing 50 year-old rocket technology.

  12. Jacob says:

    What do you think of long-term Mars colonization?

    • just a lurker says:

      What do you think of long-term Mars colonization?

      Good question.

      Anyone remembers the old timey science fiction, in time before space travel? They predicted that living in zero gravity will cure all diseases and immensely prolong human life.
      The reality is, to put it mildly, different.

      The same question is with living permanently in Moon or Mars gravity. What effects it will have on human health and life? Most probably bad, because Earthly life evolved in 1g on Earth.

      But we do not know. We do not know at all.

      And no one cares enough to find out. It would be possible to build centrifuges in orbit and observe effects of permanent Moon or Mars gravity on Earthly lifeforms, but no one bothers.

      The same with construction of closed ecological systems – no one is working on it, no one at all.

      Conclusion: all talk about colonization of Moon and Mars is nothing than hot air.
      Change my mind, if you want.

      Lecture and slide notes on topic here:

      • Jacob says:

        Establishment of self-sustaining (and self-reproducing) colonies elsewhere in the solar system could precipitously increase our long-term odds of survival and further accomplishment.

        Re: the centrifuge experiment, Dr. Cochran has actually had that same idea.

        I agree that the powers that be aren’t interested in it, or else we’d be a lot further towards it by now. But if the powers that be, say, weren’t — well, I think it’s worth a shot.

        First thing to point out: we simply lack the human capital to do it now. We could gather enough capable people, sure, but our societies all suck (and won’t do any of this stuff) because too many people are simply awful. Worse yet, the wrong traits often have selective advantages in the current environment.

        I predict that if the human capital problem were solved, trends towards automation would continue or accelerate and use of birth control would persist. The former would help us accumulate resources and free time, while the latter would prevent a Malthusian trap that cancels out the former. Suddenly we’d have more time and capital than we could possibly need, and more ability than we’ve ever had. That sort of society might bring decades-old ideas into the real world, and break ground we’ve dreamed about for our entire lifetimes.

        Perhaps this society could be created by just a single nation doing the right things.

        All these pie-in-the-sky projects become far more likely in the only decent future I can imagine. I allow myself this undue measure of optimism because the only alternative I see is resigning myself to an abysmal fate for myself, for my family, and for all mankind.

        • david says:

          “use of birth control would persist. ” It’s more likely the 6 billion R selected humanoids will overpopulate and overpower anyone with an IQ over 85. Global intelligence average will reach abysmal levels. It will be another 1,000 years until a new renaissance crops up with intelligence to even think about these kinds of ideas.

          • Jacob says:

            This is the human capital problem I was talking about. I was putting down my utopian predictions for a nation that solves it.

            • Toddy Cat says:

              They might overwhelm the West. I’d be very surprised if the Chinese went along with this. If there’s one thing that the CCP is good at , it’s getting rid of large numbers of inconvenient people.

              • Jacob says:

                In order to make this future impossible, rather than garden-variety improbable, you’d have to take over every single country that might be interested in it. Not a few or several, and not even most of them. Just one country could create the kind of society I’m talking about.

  13. magusjanus says:

    The Chinese could do it. Heck, “should” do it for national prestige. Leapfrog moon, put a guy on the Red Planet planting a Red flag.

    • Lot says:

      Examples of highly complex and reliable Chinese products with many moving parts developed without foreign involvement and supervision? I suppose if they decide they are going to devote 10% of GDP to going to Mars, it would eventually happen. But they seem to have trouble getting a working aircraft carrier up to 1975 USA standards.

  14. JoachimStrobel says:

    That issue was covered already years ago here: Humanity‘s IQ is shrinking. And therefore there is know way we get even close to Mars with people. Since 50 -3years we can barely bring people 400km up from earth in mostly R7 rocket technology from the 40‘s.
    So, yes, after 50 years a private guy has a rocket about half the size of the Saturn 5 and first shots a car into space and in the next mission keeps half the payload in fuel so he can land his rocket backwards. 2019!
    When a human will be able to take a photo from the whole earth with a 50mm lens again, then can we start speculating about possibly going to the moon again, not earlier. And certainly not while we are trying to „certify“ spacecrafts for human transport as if that where like certifying cars and we knew it all.

  15. Lot says:

    “It is possible to imagine a real economic payoff for a Mars mission”

    LIke what? It is trivial to imagine a partial offset to the cost of a Mars mission. But a scenario where the discounted present value of GDP gains is higher than the cost of funding the mission…. I can’t see it. I’d prefer our rocket scientists focus on missile defense projects, or for the sake of pure science unmanned missions.

    • engleberg says:

      It is more possible to imagine a real economic payoff for the Japanese missions to asteroids. The Earth is in a small asteroid belt and we might as well take advantage. And have a way to divert stuff flying at us.

    • gcochran9 says:

      It’s not impossible that Mars might harbor microbial life – with some luck, life with a different chemical basis. That might be very valuable: there are endless industrial processes that depend upon some kind of fermentation.
      Why, without acetone fermentation, there might not be a state of Israel.

      • Lot says:

        A reference I needed to look up:

        I’d bet against Mars having life at 1:10 odds. But robots would be a better, cheaper and faster way of checking.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        What do you think of Thomas Gold’s idea of the “Deep, Hot Biosphere” that
        (1) “extremophiles” metabolizing primordial methane outnumber “normal” life subsisting on sunlight
        (2) such extremophiles evolved first
        (3) 10 rocks in the solar system have enough concentrations of methane to support similar life
        (4) panspermia

        • gcochran9 says:

          Probably wrong, but I wouldn’t bet my soul on it.

        • Lot says:

          If we got just the right strains of extremophile organisms from Earth, and very expensively got them to just at the right places elsewhere in the solar system, maybe they might survive and reproduce long term. Even then I doubt it. And to arise independently, far less likely.

          There are places on earth that are lifeless, like in parts of sandy deserts, magma in volcanoes. No life has colonized such spots despite long periods of them being open to colonization. Where else in the solar system outside of Earth is more hospitable to life than Sahara sand dunes?

      • engleberg says:

        Comets might have life too- less probable than Mars, but for new industries we’d want life that’s wildly different from ours.

  16. Mark Magagna says:

    “harder to see why you’d need men there.”

    For surprises. Minimum distance to Mars is over 3 light-minutes, and it would normally be much larger.

    Anything surprising enough to require orders from HQ, e.g. “go left here instead of right” requires an enormous delay to commence.

    You could send someone to Mars orbit to cut down on the delay, but that is worse (from the standpoint of protection) than landing him. At least on the surface you can get under cover.

  17. ChrisA says:

    Want someone on Mars? Shutdown Nasa and use the money saved to establish a prize for landing the first American on Mars and returning them to Earth safely. Each year the prize compounds until it is won. The current budget for Mars is $21bn. So in five years the prize would be worth $100bn. I reckon that would be quite the motivation for private enterprise to figure out the way to get there. If it is via the Moon, so be it. If direct also fine.

  18. ChrisA says:

    Sorry I mean the current annual budget for Nasa is $21bn per year.

  19. Paul Mendez says:

    FYI : This blog is blocked at the Firestone Tire waiting room. I have a screenshot saved if you’d like to see it.

  20. Justin von Irvine says:

    In a sane USA, we’d spend 5% to 15% of GDP on space exploration. In that scenario we’d send men to Mars simply to see if we could do it. There’s also currently 0% R1b coverage on Mars, which I find personally insulting, so we could try to fix that.

    Given that NASA isn’t primarily about space anymore, and is not getting 5% of GDP (probably for the best) I’d say the more practical probs ‘n robots approach is the way to go. It’s a sad state of affairs that what little actual exploration is done gets tied up in these illogical moon-then-mars schemes. Mars has an atmosphere, cheaper to slow down going to mars than to the moon, right?

  21. Michael says:

    Just need enough men there to mind the von Neumann-Bracewell probes that will disassemble the planet for use building McKendree Cylinders. And the Imperial Fleet, of course.

  22. Basil Marte says:

    If there isn’t a single crewed, pardon, manned Mars mission, but a series of them (and/or other plans to fling a lot of mass out of earth orbit), then it may very well make sense to go to either the Moon or some C-type asteroid first. Extracting water there, and moving it back to Low Earth Orbit (and electrolysing-liquefying-etc. either on-site or in LEO) could very well be enormously cheaper than launching the same propellant up that ~8 km/s. This is a completely normal “lower marginal costs, high fixed cost” situation. (The complementary good, Earth-to-LEO launch, has recently become a lot cheaper than it used to be, and probably will become cheaper still over the next decade.)

    Depending on what sort of asteroid(s) you picked, you might also be able to semi-refine their metal content. Separate out the iron, nickel and similarly cheap “tailings”, return the blob of alloy rich in random rare/expensive metals to Earth and pick it apart there.

    I see no need to colonize planets (or moons) specifically. Just build a large pressure vessel (plus the required radiator surface), rotate it, and pile 10 t/m2 of otherwise-useless rock around it in a non-rotating shell. (Whipple shields optional. You can put them several km away from the object as long as they don’t interfere with the radiators. Volume is free. Solid matter is almost free. Machinery and human attention are ridiculously expensive, but here you are using random silicates or metal and melt+extruding them into toothpick struts and foil. Also, a Whipple shield is rather simpler and less massive than the habitat it is meant to protect.)

  23. Grumpy Old Man says:

    Rather than terraforming Mars, why not irrigate the Sahara? Seems simpler . . .

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