Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What do you think of a 2018 launch for a manned Mars fly-by?


As opposed to a landing.

And libertarian readers - don't click through the link, see who's doing it, and just tell me that you're OK with any space exploration as long as it's done privately and not by the government. That's a boring answer. I doubt that distinguishes you from anyone on Earth (who actually thinks people shouldn't be allowed to use their own money to do shit in space?).

What about the fly-by aspect of it?

On the one hand, it's a let down from the ultimate goal. On the other hand, this would be many orders of magnitude farther than any human has been from the planet. Our sense of our world will expand, and that could pave the way for landings.

My initial reaction was non-chalance/disappointment, but I very quickly became more excited. Five years. Leaving for Mars in five years.


  1. It would be a profound and massive achievement in its own right even if it lacks the "oomph" of a manned landing. It would also be invaluable in preparing to do such a landing in the future, so the "this is a profound disappointment" reaction seems like a poor way to look at something thats actually quite useful if your interested in the idea of manned space exploration.

    So while I'm not really in favor of funding things like this, manned space exploration in general that is, I'm still with you in the sense that an a great way to test technical capability for an actual manned mission, etc.

    1. re: "so the "this is a profound disappointment" reaction seems like a poor way to look at something thats actually quite useful if your interested in the idea of manned space exploration."

      I couldn't agree with you more. "Very quickly" moving on from disappointment was very quickly for me. Just a snap judgement coming from daydreaming about colonization. I think this is exactly right. Some of the biggest objections raised to colonization concern the journey itself, after all.

  2. I think this is great. I had the same reaction as you did to the idea that it's just a fly-by, but you have to start somewhere and this would really be a momentous occasion which would probably reinvigorate people's interest in space. At the end of the day, we probably don't need to go to space per say. But Europeans probably didn't need to discover America and nobody really needed the ocean floors charted. But then again, we did it anyways. So maybe we need to push the boundaries of the known world and I'm ecstatic that somebody is doing it!

    I also think that the fact that this is privately funded is a great signal that the privatization of space does not have to mean just space tourists hanging out in low-orbit for a couple hours or commercial enterprises. Crazy rich people have often played a role in pushing the boundaries of the known world by doing crazy things which any rational analysis should advise against even though somebody really needed to do those things. This kind of crazy philanthropy (at the polar opposite of the sort of thing that the Gates Foundation does for instance) is what can make the world jump forward a couple centuries. If that means the first spaceship that lands on Mars has a big Red Bull logo on it, so be it.

    Here's to the success of the mission and to the health of the participants. From my reading of the article, they will be taking enormous risks and demonstrate enormous bravery or more likely fantastic commitment to something pretty amazing.

  3. "who actually thinks people shouldn't be allowed to use their own money to do shit in space?"

    Who actually thinks governments should be allowed to steal money from their subjects to do shit in space?

    I will be interested in space flight when governments are out of the picture.

  4. Space colonization is boring, the potential emergence of superhuman artificial intelligence sometime this century is the next big milestone in human history. No telling whether that will be a positive or negative story, however.

  5. Publicly funded or privately funded, shouldn't we all celebrate this mission to Mars regardless of its source of funding?

  6. No snark intended--honest. But...

    1) What benefits can we get from going to Mars?
    2) Even assuming that there are any benefits, why send humans? Wouldn't it be cheaper/safer/just as efficient to send robotic probes? At least we'd get the spin-off of advanced robotic research.

    I'm willing to be converted, but the case for spending any serious money--public or private--on Mars exploration seems pretty weak. Don't we know pretty much everything worth knowing about Mars already?


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