— I probably won’t convince Zubrinites, but it turns out we have this whole Solar System that doesn’t just consist of Earth and Mars. If manned Mars exploration was something we could do quickly, within NASA’s existing budget, or if there were no other interesting or useful destinations along the way, it might be one thing. But even the committee members who are advocating for this have admitted we don’t have the money to do a manned Mars mission in the next 25 years without significant increases in NASA’s funding. While it has been poorly marketed, Flexible Path wasn’t just about “doing asteroids first” or doing them instead of the Moon or Mars. To me the underlying point was that even if Mars is the long-term goal, , even if some of those destinations involve slight detours along the way. When you’re talking about a destination over 25 years out, acting like a 3 month delay is somehow insufferable is flat out ridiculous.We shouldn’t do anything that isn’t directly on the quickest path to MarsSeems a bit of a strawman and somewhat condescending, but I am certain Jonathan didn't mean it to be. He writes a good thoughtful article. Let's start by agreeing that the entire solar system is the goal. I would then argue (to follow) that mars settlement is both the fastest and most efficient way to achieve that. If so, then cumulative delays could be extremely costly.
NASA has an existing mars budget (How much?) which is just part of it's overall $18.4B annual budget. Considering the F9H will put 13 tons into mars orbit for under $200m including the cost of payload that mars budget whatever it is, should be more than enough if not wasted.
Mars settlement is both the fastest and most efficient way to achieve advancement into the entire solar system.
The simple answer to why is two fold...
- Any industrial base that can out compete the earth (even just in part) gets us into the solar system both more efficiently and faster.
- Mars will out compete any other location because it has the resources in one place that does not include a rocket equation surcharge.
The metric in space is delta V and by that metric anywhere in the solar system is easier to reach (less costly) from mars than from earth, including LEO!
Industry requires three main things: labor, energy and materials. Mars already has energy and materials. It just needs labor. Robots should supplement but can not replace people (though some have such fear.)
Automation is a labor capital multiplier, not a replacement. Any plan that doesn't understand the importance of not just industry, but industrialists, will not effectively compete. Those industrialists will come from the settlement itself (immigration or birth doesn't matter.)
Getting labor to mars is the hard part, but not much more so than any other place off earth (orbit being halfway to anywhere.) Once on mars, living there not only doesn't have to be hard, done right it could be preferable to earth with greater personal opportunities. If done right. Human nature (envy and control freaks) continues to work against that.
If you care about the solar system and future of humanity, you would care about establishing industry on mars ASAP for humanities everlasting benefit.