Musk’s Mars moment: Audacity, madness, brilliance—or maybe all three

Sep 30, 2016

By Eric Berger

Elon Musk finally did it. Fourteen years after founding SpaceX, and nine months after promising to reveal details about his plans to colonize Mars, the tech mogul made good on that promise Tuesday afternoon in Guadalajara, Mexico. Over the course of a 90-minute speech Musk, always a dreamer, shared his biggest and most ambitious dream with the world—how to colonize Mars and make humanity a multiplanetary species.

And what mighty ambitions they are. The Interplanetary Transport System he unveiled could carry 100 people at a time to Mars. Contrast that to the Apollo program, which carried just two astronauts at a time to the surface of the nearby Moon, and only for brief sojourns. Moreover, Musk’s rocket that would lift all of those people and propellant into orbit would be nearly four times as powerful as the mighty Saturn V booster. Musk envisions a self-sustaining Mars colony with at least a million residents by the end of the century.

Beyond this, what really stood out about Musk’s speech on Tuesday was the naked baring of his soul. Considering his mannerisms, passion, and the utter seriousness of his convictions, it felt at times like the man’s entire life had led him to that particular stage. It took courage to make the speech, to propose the greatest space adventure of all time. His ideas, his architecture for getting it done—they’re all out there now for anyone to criticize, second guess, and doubt.


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90 comments on “Musk’s Mars moment: Audacity, madness, brilliance—or maybe all three

  • @OP – Moreover, Musk’s rocket that would lift all of those people and propellant into orbit would be nearly four times as powerful as the mighty Saturn V booster.

    WE should recognise that “private enterprise” space launch vehicles, depend heavily on state subsidised projects for customers.

    There is a lot more to organising, underwriting the funding, and supplying, of a Mars colony, than building a big rocket to throw a group of people in that direction.

    Mars is a very hostile environment for humans and the forms Earth life on which humans depend.

    Musk envisions a self-sustaining Mars colony with at least a million residents by the end of the century.

    This sounds like fantasy, and a fantasy which could have serious counter-productive features spoiling future long term uses of Mars by humans.

    I might be more inclined to believe this, if humans were able to set up a self-sustaining Antarctic ice-cap colony, with at least a million residents – without using ocean resources!



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  • I don’t know what to say about this “visionary.” It seems like he just barely got involved with Tesla and that is having a rocky start. Then he jumped into space payload delivery and that is having a rocky start. Now he wants to get involved with colonizing Mars. I suspect a lot of investors are going to lose their money before this man is finished with his visions.



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  • If NASA is serious about sending a manned mission to Mars, why don’t they “practice” by sending
    legions of astronauts to the moon which is practically down the street? We’ve put a man on the moon twice and..er..almost a third time 47 years ago., and since then not made a rat’s ass effort to go back -maybe because Tom Hanks and his buddies aboard Apollo 13 almost bought the farm last time out. The biggest obstacle to space launch vehicles carrying human cargo to Mars is the risk-fear of losing lives perhaps in the hundreds before we get the kinks worked out. The estimated flight time is within the frame of 8 to 11 months.
    An that’s one way without a return ticket. Who wants to hear the last words of a loved one vocalized “weez-yuulp” as the oxygen supply system inadvertently sputters out one month into the great beyond. Media reports a manned mars mission may be feasible around 2024. Why not go to the moon next month (again) to take a baby step in a more prolonged, cautious learning curve?

    Elon musk is the greatest huckster since Barnum & Bailey. He should market a new men’s cologne using his own catchy name on the label…”Elon Musk.”



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  • @ Melvin

    Elon musk is the greatest huckster since Barnum & Bailey. He should market a new men’s cologne using his own catchy name on the label…”Elon Musk.”

    A few things we landed on the Moon 6 times Apollo 13 failed and orbited the Moon in Apollo 9 (I think).

    I’d agree, I could think of nothing more terrifying than going to Mars and think it also likely to be a one way ticket. However, sailing wooden boats half way around the world 200 years ago also seems like folly (and the amount of lost ships bears this out). If some humans are so in love with the idea to try I’m not going to stand in their way, and trying will give us massive tehcnical gains even if he fails. But I agree, probably not a good idea.

    As for Elon, he is far from a huckster, his cars work and when the company was in financial trouble he sunk his entire personal fortune into it – not the act of a conman (they tend to get others to throw their fortunes into their projects). What is more he didn’t fluff around with old technology in his cars he adopted technologies that the mainstream car manufactures could have but were too conservative to do. It seems ridiculous to me given the amount of energy that goes into making aluminum that we make our soft drink cans out of it and make our cars out of steel. The best any other car company pursuing electric vehicles could manage was the Prius which is old technology and fraught with compromise. Tesla make a great car with cutting edge technology that will become I think the foundation of all modern vehicles over the next 15 years, he will be sitting on a massive catalog of patents just the software involved in the auto-drive features alone would be worth a fortune – do you think as these features become standard his investors won’t do well?

    The auto drive stuff alone is going is massively underestimated. He is leaping ahead of the pack putting this stuff in cars now, this is genius. Self driving will end up in first elite cars (and aspects are appearing in some now) and these features will ultimately save so many lives that I think it likely that in 15 years from now governments may well require these feature in all new cars, those on the cutting edge will hold all the patents and will reap a fortune as the slower – stupider car manufactures are forced to buy the technology from others. Elon embraces a wholistic approach to what is possible with technology and doesn’t hold back.

    I have for example been listening to podcasts on MP3 players for about 12 years now, it wasn’t until my last car I could actually get a usb port or a input jack to listen to music or podcasts from it or a usb in my car, how expensive is a 3 1/2 mm headphone jack wired into the stereo yet car manufactures are so bloody conservative that they couldn’t see what was staring them in the face for 10 bloodly years! GPS’s are only just becoming standard and built in, same for reverse cameras. Elon on the other hand has almost weekly firmware and software updates to his vehicles, just a couple of weeks ago he added a feature which stops the car from exceeding dangerously high temps, why? So if a kid or dog is accidentally or carelessly locking in the car with the windows shut they won’t die, as soon as the car hits a certain temp the windows open a crack and the aircon turns on just enough to reduce the temp enough so you kid doesn’t die. He gets the possibilities of technology and is not afraid to apply it now. The average car manufacturer (Certainly GM Holden in my country) would still be using drum brakes and solid axles if they had their way.

    Eventually as oil becomes more expensive (even if people don’t buy into AGW) cars will move to electric power or fuel cells, but they will almost certainly be electric. Tesla can adapt to any battery technology simply and quickly without having to retool everything. Just replace one type with another, fuel cell or fast charge lithium – whatever the other manufactures will need to buy his technology or the rights off him and it’s not that far off. As for rockets Elon has made rockets that actually work and can actually land themselves afterwards.

    While much has been made of the failures of a few of his rockets, you only have to read anything about the early space program (“The right stuff”, Yeagers book – can’t remember its name) or any of the early work on rocketry to a multitude of failures. Even when everything is going well most of the worlds old technology rockets burn up in the atmosphere after every launch at a cost of $50 000 000 a go Elon’s landed several now successfully so you again couldn’t call this a failure. If he was a huckster he would not have gone to all this bother.

    I personally think if we can’t manage our problems on Earth we shouldn’t be spreading ourselves out to the other planets or we’ll likely ruin them as well. I fear he is showing the same level of optimistic arrogance that led to many a disaster as the west colonized and reaped death and destruction on many a continent (He would do well to read Robert Hughes “The Fatal Shore” to see how close the first Europeans in Australia came to starving to death, ask the average Aboriginal Australian what they think of this spirit or adventure and they may have a different opinion. However a huckster he is not.

    Anyway I have ranted enough, regards Melvin, have a better look into the guy and the stuff he has done, I really don’t think you could honestly appraise him as a conman afterwards.



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  • Reckless Monkey #5
    Oct 2, 2016 at 8:19 am

    A few things we landed on the Moon 6 times Apollo 13 failed and orbited the Moon in Apollo 9 (I think).

    Apollo 8 looped around the Moon with no (LEM) Landing vehicle.

    Apollo 9 tested rendezvous and docking of the CM and LEM in Earth orbit.

    https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo9.html#.V_EAj_RHpVk

    The primary objective of Apollo 9 was an Earth-orbital engineering test of the first crewed lunar module, or LM. Concurrent prime objectives included an overall checkout of launch vehicle and spacecraft systems, the crew, and procedures. This was done by performing an integrated series of flight tasks with the command module, or CM, the service module, or SM, the joined command and service module, or CSM, the LM and S-IVB stage while they were linked in launch or various docked configurations, and while they were flying separate orbital patterns. The LM was to be tested as a self-sufficient spacecraft, and was also to perform active rendezvous and docking maneuvers paralleling those scheduled for the following Apollo 10 lunar-orbit mission.

    The flight plan’s top priority was the CSM and LM rendezvous and docking. This was performed twice – once while the LM was still attached to the S-IVB, and again when the LM was active. Further goals included internal crew transfer from the docked CSM to the LM; special tests of the LM’s support systems; crew procedures; and tests of flight equipment and the extravehicular activity, or EVA, mobility unit. The crew also configured the LM to support a two-hour EVA, and simulated an LM crew rescue, which was the only planned EVA from the LM before an actual lunar landing.

    The LM descent and ascent engines fired on orbital change patterns to simulate a lunar-orbit rendezvous and backup abort procedures. The CSM service propulsion system, or SPS, fired five times, including a simulation of an active rendezvous to rescue an LM that had become inactivate.

    https://airandspace.si.edu/explore-and-learn/topics/apollo/apollo-program/orbital-missions/apollo10.cfm

    The Apollo 10 mission was a complete staging of the Apollo 11 mission without actually landing on the Moon. The mission was the second to orbit the Moon and the first to travel to the Moon with the entire Apollo spacecraft configuration. Astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan decended inside the Lunar Module to within 14 kilometers of the lunar surface achieving the closest approach to the Moon before Apollo 11 landed two months later.



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  • Reckless Monkey #5
    Oct 2, 2016 at 8:19 am

    I could think of nothing more terrifying than going to Mars and think it also likely to be a one way ticket.

    I think a Moonbase would be an intelligent stepping stone on the way to Mars.

    Elon Musk has some very promising technology in his development of re-usable launch rockets, even though he has had a set-back in the recent crash landing.

    http://spacenews.com/spacexs-reusable-falcon-9-what-are-the-real-cost-savings-for-customers/

    SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket’s first stage successfully landed on its drone ship April 8 during a successful mission to deliver SpaceX’s Dragon capsule to the international space station. The stage is now undergoing a fresh series of test firings as SpaceX prepares for regular reuse of rocket first stages. Investors, customers and competitors are now assessing how much cost SpaceX can remove from its launch price through first-stage reuse.



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  • Reckless is absolutely correct about Elon Musk I reckon.
    “whatever the other manufactures will need to buy his technology or the rights off him” – although Musk made Tesla technology Open Source, which is available for anyone to use free of cost.

    Humans have visited the moon three times as frequently as Melvin imagines, in the Apollo missions 14-17. Also we’re already planning moon visits in roughly a decade, via the CLEP trips. Why double up?
    I think NASA will be far too busy trying to clean up LO space junk to contemplate Mars colonization.

    Musk earned a reputation by achieving the impossible, although his latest vision seems overly ambitious. However, he admits to it being aspirational at this stage. It does sound quite plausible though. More plausible than rejecting climate science while suggesting over-population is a more urgent priority. Explosive population growth will be cured with the education that results from the measures Phil already explained elsewhere. (see Hans Rosling – How not to be ignorant about the world/TED)

    Programs to ameliorate the effects of fossil fuel use need our immediate action, whereas birth rate will decline with decades of education first, or widespread nuclear war.
    The UAE may want to bankroll Musk’s mission to establish a mosque and supporting infrastructure on Mars. They could do this at a fraction of the cost of the F-35 program, and that’s a worthless dud. NASA won’t have to spend a penny on it, although they’re doubling up anyway to protect the lucrative business of Boeing and of others.

    As Reckless said, Musk is no huckster. He’s building his Gigafactory to help with home storage of solar power, as well as SolarCity to produce panels for homes. He accepts climate science and is doing his bit to support it apparently.



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  • @Len Walsh

    Reckless is absolutely correct about Elon Musk I reckon.
    “whatever the other manufactures will need to buy his technology or the rights off him” – although Musk made Tesla technology Open Source, which is available for anyone to use free of cost.

    Hi Len, I knew he hadn’t bothered to patent any of his rocket technology as he said when your competition is nation states like USA, Russia and China why bother trying to keep it a secret? Smart man. If he is also making his software for the Tesla open source then I love him. I know he has been doing deals with a couple of European car manufactures for their upcoming electric vehicles they wouldn’t be paying him if he didn’t have patents on this, so he may be patenting some of his technologies and leaving others open. He may be for example patenting hardware but keeping software open. It may make sense for him to go open source with his software as this would certainly accelerate the development in his cars faster than others and get the systems more capable sooner. Allowing enthusiasts to improve your vehicle for you at no cost makes sense. If you look at android for example. Google took the Linux Kernel (which is open source) and modified it to work with touch screen phones. Therefore any phone manufacture can focus on grabbing and adding their own tweaks under the same license at no cost but Google get a massive increase in traffic and therefore advertising by getting millions of people using their system which is optimized to work with Googles other products and businesses like Google Play, etc. Elon may be working the same way. If you optimise auto drive features or ways of better managing your battery life and you get 10’s of thousands of hours free R&D and the only decent player in the market is you makes sense or even if you are also giving those systems to others you increase the market share away from the petrol cars and hence you lift all electric cars up against the petrol ones, you always have the right to add propriety software latter if another electric car competitor comes close to you on the market. The only other viable opponent at the moment would be what the Nissan Leaf?

    For anyone interested in open source software/hardware and how it can make financial sense then have a look at the ebook ‘Open Life’ http://openlife.cc/ it’s free of course. A short read and much of the commentary about software is out of date now but the principles are still sound.

    Thanks Len I’ll look into that.



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  • @Len Walsh

    For anyone interested in what Len was talking about re-Elon’s opening up his patents I’ve just done a bit of a look around the net and it would appear his strategy is that he makes patents (to stop lawyers from aggressively claiming clients have done so already) and has stated publicly that he will not sue any other electric car manufacturer from developing in this field. However he might enforce his patent rights against say a petrol car manufacturer. So it would appear it isn’t quite open source (although some of his software may well be). anyone interested this site covers it pretty well

    http://www.mercurynews.com/2014/06/12/2014-tesla-motors-making-patents-public/



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  • @Alan4Discussion

    Thanks for the corrections re-the Moon missions

    I think a Moonbase would be an intelligent stepping stone on the way to Mars.

    Yes that would make sense, you could test your ability to be self sustaining, generating enough oxygen etc. and have a rescue mission up your sleeve if it all turns to crap. Takes only 3 days to the Moon.



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  • Sorry about my miscount of manned lunar landing missions from 1969 to 1972: 6 not 3. Thanks to Reckless Monkey and Alan4 for corrections and details.

    It would appear that the march of events and circumstantial evidence have pragmatically truncated actual manned forays into deep space. The shuttle ventures and the “space station” have limited manned projects pretty much to low-earth orbits where they have stayed there lo! these 45 years. Robotic construction of a habitable moonbase is projected between 2030 and 2040. But projects that must guarantee the protection and preservation of human life require huge cost overruns for minimum return. When malfuntions kill a few spacecraft occupants, then future operations are grounded for months at a cost of hundreds of millions. (Think of the shuttle disasters). Missions to Mars are not in the cards for the foreseeable future. Unmanned spacecraft equipped with robotic rovers, sensors and computers can virtually do what any human can do at a fraction of the cost without having ground-control scared pissless about the daily vicissitudes that threaten the
    mortal hide of astronauts lumbering uselessly around in the celestial equivalent of hard-hat diving suits.

    As for Elon Musk, the man is a consummate bullshitter. He is not a scientist or engineer. The achievements in private space travel he takes credit for are not as spectacular or original as they seem. They are in fact carried out by professional aerospace people educated in technical fields he has no clue about.. He basks in the visionary guru role on interviews with an attractive bimbo whose wide adoring eyes register someone mesmerized into a cult.

    There is however a rich irony in a project calculated to spew a gazillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere from burning rocket fuel schleping a million people to and fro from mars while his $100,00 dollar Teslas clean up a teacupful of CO2 on this island earth.



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  • Melvin #14
    Oct 3, 2016 at 3:50 am

    As for Elon Musk, the man is a consummate bullshitter. He is not a scientist or engineer. The achievements in private space travel he takes credit for are not as spectacular or original as they seem.

    He is clearly leading a team of skilled people, and building on the work of earlier organisations, but technical achievements such as getting a prototype reusable 1st stage rocket launch vehicle up and running, are very creditable achievements.

    There is however a rich irony in a project calculated to spew a gazillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere from burning rocket fuel schleping a million people to and fro from mars while his $100,00 dollar Teslas clean up a teacupful of CO2 on this island earth.

    Actually, space launches represent only a tiny percentage of the CO2 human transport systems produce.

    While at present, Falcon 9 vehicles use kerosene-oxygen fuel, plenty of launch vehicles have used hydrogen-oxygen fuel which only produces water as an exhaust product.

    http://www.airspacemag.com/space/is-spacex-changing-the-rocket-equation-132285884/?no-ist
    You can be rich enough to buy a rocket and still get sticker shock. In early 2002, PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, already a multimillionaire at 30, was pursuing a grand scheme to rekindle public interest in sending humans to Mars. A lifelong space enthusiast with degrees in physics and business, Musk wanted to place a small greenhouse laden with seeds and nutrient gel on the Martian surface to establish life there, if only temporarily. The problem wasn’t the lander itself; he’d already talked to contractors who would build it for a comparatively low cost. The problem was launching it. Unwilling to pay what U.S. rocket companies were charging, Musk made three trips to Russia to try to buy a refurbished Dnepr missile, but found deal-making in the wild west of Russian capitalism too risky financially.

    On the flight home, he recalls, “I was trying to understand why rockets were so expensive.

    So there’s just a question of how efficient you can be about getting the atoms from raw material state to rocket shape.” That year, enlisting a handful of veteran space engineers, Musk formed Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, with two staggeringly ambitious goals: To make spaceflight routine and affordable, and to make humans a multi-planet species.

    Nine years later, SpaceX employs 1,500 people and occupies a half-million-square-foot facility in Hawthorne, California, that used to produce fuselage sections for Boeing 747s. Today it is filled with rocket parts, including stages and engines for its Falcon 9 boosters, which can place up to 23,000 pounds of payload in low Earth orbit.

    All very impressive. But what really sets SpaceX apart, and has made it a magnet for controversy, are its prices: As advertised on the company’s Web site, a Falcon 9 launch costs an average of $57 million, which works out to less than $2,500 per pound to orbit. That’s significantly less than what other U.S. launch companies typically charge, and even the manufacturer of China’s low-cost Long March rocket (which the U.S. has banned importing) says it cannot beat SpaceX’s pricing. By 2014, the company’s next rocket, the Falcon Heavy, aims to lower the cost to $1,000 per pound.

    So he set up a low cost business using second-hand equipment.

    Musk wanted to place a small greenhouse laden with seeds and nutrient gel on the Martian surface to establish life there, if only temporarily

    I would be very opposed to contaminating the Martian surface with Earth life-forms – especially before scientific work has been done on its geology, chemistry, and possible life-forms.



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  • It looks like Musk’s innovative electric car business is still expanding rapidly!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-37537799

    US electric carmaker Tesla, which has yet to make a profit, has reported a sharp rise in car deliveries for the past quarter.
    The firm said it shipped 24,500 cars in the third quarter, up 70% on the second quarter and more than double the number delivered in the same period in 2015.

    It also confirmed its 50,000 production target for the second half of 2016.

    The announcement comes amid criticism of the firm after its autopilot system was linked to several accidents.

    The autopilot feature makes the vehicles automatically change lanes and react to traffic, but it is not a fully-fledged self-driving technology.



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  • Melvin

    while his $100,00 dollar Teslas clean up a teacupful of CO2 on this island earth.

    I don’t think you have quite apprehended the different economics of all this. Apart from the battery which currently will need recycling/remanufacturing, the vehicle has a projected road life of 400,000 miles, after which much residual value remains and the recycling of such a simple vehicle can recover this. The Battery will currently need remanufacturing three or four times to match this life. (Currently even before any remedial work is done on ex-vehicle battery packs these are finding great application in peak shaving and off grid applications. (These batteries fail softly and mostly simply slowly lose capacity. They have huge residual value third world implications-

    Eaton and Nissan believe their joint venture will also help to provide cleaner, safer, cheaper and more reliable power to Africa and other places with a poor power infrastructure or off-grid power sources.

    “Over three billion people rely on polluting and inefficient cooking, lighting and heating methods that are expensive and have serious health impacts. Enabling the delivery of cleaner, more affordable energy to these people, including the 1.2 billion people who have no access to electricity at all, will really make a difference,” Brisson added.

    The batteries could also be used by data centres or generation companies who wish to store energy from the uneven generation of renewables.

    https://electrek.co/2016/06/06/tesla-model-s-battery-pack-data-degradation/

    This entirely alters the cost and CO2 propositions. The embodied energy tumbles to way less than half. Teslas are projected to get to $22,000 (equivalent) by 2040. The batteries are expected to double in resilience fall 60% in cost from 2015 to 2020 and the new technology of graphene batteries (very lightweight and capacious ultracapacitors, so very long life themselves) if successful will greatly extend lithium life further by taking all the high current hits. There is way more technology than there is investment for it.

    ALL new technology starts expensive. It is the only way to begin. Early adopters are the techy rich with money to invest and a need for toys to play with. Building low volume premium products first means decent profit margins and a reduced need for manufacturing capital. If there are tech problems (inevitably) you have thousands and not millions of product to fix killing the company. It builds a presitige brand which later gets extended down into higher volume vehicles. (This never works in reberse.) Musk on this is doing it exactly right.



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  • Elon Musk merits considerable praise for what he has accomplished. The CEO visionary who assembled the team that gave the automotive public the Tesla Model S achieved a popularity breakthrough for the ion lithium battery powered car. No mean accomplishment. Still there are tentative questions about the future of the company and his profligate, over-promising management style. The Model S remains in the high-end luxury class priced between $90,000 to $100,000. Starting from a base of zero, statistics that show number-of-units sold multiplying over several years are pretty meaningless. In the United States alone, for example, there are about 260 million registered vehicles. 100,000, 200,00 even a million Model S units sold will not make a dent in aggregate passenger vehicle CO2 emissions. The Nissan Leaf and now the impressive Chevrolet Bolt soon to be introduced in the market are small compact cars that retail for around $40,000, a high price point for the class. Musk prematurely announced the introduction of a Tesla compact model that may come online against stiff competition from General Motors, BMW and other auto makers.

    I’ve read that the energy output of ion lithium batteries has been increasing while their price has been dramatically falling. In any scenario, the success of the all-electric small passenger vehicle (excluding exorbitantly costly luxury models) on a massive scale of economy will depend on out-the-door (full price including tax and license) price points. Currently a $7,000 subsidy from government to each buyer would reduce the out-the-door cost for a basic compact to around $30,000 +. Such subsidies are neither sustainable nor fair to the average income earner and currently go mostly to upper-middle class or upper-class consumers. The $30,000 sticker per se puts the vehicle out of reach for most budgets. ( A dealer recently offered me an out-the-door price for a brand new Honda Civic at $18,000).

    Another factor necessary for massive sales of battery powered cars is the future development of a used car market with heavy depreciation and discounts. How many used Teslas and Leafs do you find sitting on dealership lots, outside the handful that have been repossessed from owners who failed to meet the payments. Most car buyers worldwide are looking for vehicles priced in the range of $5,000 (or less) – $10,000 – $15,000.

    Until car makers come up with a Model-T economy priced version of the ion lithium battery powered car, it will remain trapped in a low-volume niche market.

    As for Musk’s space enterprises, many developments remain to be panned out profitably in the long run. The hyped limited demonstrations reflecting Musk’s own narcissistic delusions of grandeur await future assessments in hindsight.



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  • VW currently sell 5 million cars per annum. Second behind Toyota with a little more.

    They intend to sell 2 to 3 million EVs pa from 30 models by 2025.

    Melvin. All products will become less disposable and cost more. They will constitute dramatically better value service for money. Business models are changing.



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  • @Melvin

    The Model S remains in the high-end luxury class priced between $90,000 to $100,000.

    So any comparison would have to be against other cars in that price range, how does the Tesla compare to the Porches and Ferrari’s in this price range? Better acceleration, far better economy what you have here is a car that uses energy efficiently that is if you drive like a lunatic it will use a lot of it but give massive performance, but if you drive it efficiently it will give a massive range, more seats, more comfort, more storage space, better equipped electronics. And it is beautiful, comfortable very safe and getting safer.

    I’d point out that the Elon has made it clear that the auto-drive features is a Beta technology and drivers should attend to the road in much the same way you do with cruise control. The guy recently killed was watching Harry Potter instead of looking at what he was doing. The real question is how many accidents have these systems avoided?

    Next year Elon is releasing a $35 000 electric car as planned. As for turning a profit, how many of the worlds car manufactures have turned an instant profit? How many are without government subsidy turning a profit now? I seem to remember not so long ago The USA having to bail out Detroit to the sum of how much money? Our own government bailed out our own pathetic (read – highly conservative) car manufactures with the promise that some of that money would go into developing green transport Holden are closing down all Australian manufacturing now and will just do badge engineering. So before you accuse Elon of being a bullshitter, you need to provide evidence that he has in fact be bullshitting people. What has he claimed that is in fact bullshit. I have watched a number of interviews and launches of vehicles and I have not seen him claim personal responsibility for designing every aspect of his products in fact I’ve seen him singing his employees praises and saying he wants employees who want to push the limits of technology. In one sense you are right in suggesting that he hasn’t come up with many fantastically new concepts alone. Many of the ideas and basic design principles in his cars and rocketry have been things I looked at in futurist books in my primary school library as a kid (and I’m now closer to 50 than 40). What Elon has done is actually use his wealth from the sale of PayPal which he coded and invest in a car company and a rocket company that produces products that even at this early stage actually work and do things that no other car/rocket has every successfully done. Sure there have been failures but I’ll quote one of the Shuttle astronauts directly when asked if he was nervous sitting in the pilots seat of the first space shuttle launch

    Anyone who doesn’t feel nervous piloting the maiden launch of massive liquid oxygen rocket just doesn’t understand the problem.

    All new technology has its setbacks when applied in reality so the few failures with his rockets are normal, to be expected, as for over promising the only thing I can see he hasn’t delivered on is time lines which are difficult to anticipate at the best of times. Other than that everything else is going to plan he planned to start with a sports car, he did that, he planned to next make a luxury high end car followed by a more affordable car, he released the model S then the Model x (SUV) and now next year he is releasing his $35 000 car all according to plan, so what has he failed to deliver on. In rockets similar story he planned to make a rocket capable of resupplying the International space station he has done that, he planned to then go on and make the stages reusable, he has done that (although not yet reliably enough). Seems to me he has put his money where his mouth is and I just don’t understand your hostility towards him. You can disagree with the guy about a lot, but where is he bullshitting anyone? Can you be more specific Melvin?



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  • The REAL issue with the Mars venture is the human factor rather than the engineering. Nuts and bolts [or carbon fibre] are the easy part- but how to overcome such things as radiation exposure and psychological pressures, even if the mechanics works perfectly? The Moon astronauts received 20 times the dose they’d have got on Earth in a very short period; Mars may take 3-9 months during which a solar flare is a distinct possibility but just that length of time means very large doses of cosmic rays. Use of carbon fibre is I’d guess a very poor form of radiation shielding.
    Once on Mars, the same problems- effectively zero atmosphere, full exposure? Imagine living permanently indoors, suffering similar conditions to inmates of Supermax prisons? Going out in shielded space suits would hardly be a romp in flowery meadows…
    Reduced gravity– bone loss– other unknown biological effects? NO. It won’t work.



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  • JimJFox #23
    Oct 3, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    The REAL issue with the Mars venture is the human factor rather than the engineering.

    You have identified a key feature.

    Nuts and bolts [or carbon fibre] are the easy part- but how to overcome such things as radiation exposure and psychological pressures, even if the mechanics works perfectly?

    I have suggested that underground dwelling would be a good option for screening from radiation and small meteorite impacts.

    I think there will be psychological parallels with the Antarctic science stations.

    The Moon astronauts received 20 times the dose they’d have got on Earth in a very short period; Mars may take 3-9 months during which a solar flare is a distinct possibility but just that length of time means very large doses of cosmic rays. Use of carbon fibre is I’d guess a very poor form of radiation shielding.

    If large quantities of water can be mined on the Moon, tanks of this would provide screening for astronauts and could also supply bases on Mars’ moons.

    Once on Mars, the same problems- effectively zero atmosphere, full exposure? Imagine living permanently indoors, suffering similar conditions to inmates of Supermax prisons?

    Mars has some large extinct volcanoes, so if there are still intact larva tubes.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lava_tube

    With a few walls built in, connecting tunnels between tubes, and some air-tight linings installed, these caves could be pressurised and fitted out as very extensive habitats. Surface solar cells or nuclear generators could supply power, and plants under artificial light proving food.

    Going out in shielded space suits would hardly be a romp in flowery meadows…

    They would probably be science bases using roving vehicles to move between outside experiments.

    Reduced gravity– bone loss– other unknown biological effects? NO. It won’t work.

    We really don’t know if or how it will work, but I think the number of humans will be limited, they may be operating robot vehicles from orbit – possibly on Mars moons, and much activity will be conducted by robots.



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  • JimJFox #23
    Oct 3, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Reduced gravity– bone loss

    http://www.universetoday.com/14859/gravity-on-mars/

    The average surface temperature is also lower on Mars, ranking in at a frigid -63 °C compared to Earth’s balmy 14 °C. And while the length of a Martian day is roughly the same as it is here on Earth (24 hours 37 minutes), the length of a Martian year is significantly longer (687 days).

    But one big difference is that the gravity on Mars’ surface is much lower than it is here on Earth – 62% lower to be precise. At just 0.38 of the Earth standard, a person who weighs 100 kg on Earth would weigh only 38 kg on Mars.

    This difference in surface gravity is due to a number of factors – mass, density, and radius being the foremost. Even though Mars has almost the same land surface area as Earth, it has only half the diameter and less density than Earth – possessing roughly 15% of Earth’s volume and 11% of its mass.

    While not as serious as the zero gravity of the ISS, the low gravity would need a similar vigorous exercise regime to maintain human fitness for return to Earth.

    For those making a permanent home on Mars, weaker bones might not be so much of a problem.



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  • JimJFox #23
    Oct 3, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    but how to overcome such things as radiation exposure and psychological pressures, even if the mechanics works perfectly?

    There have been several experiments confining people to mock-up bases on Earth, to examine psychological problems.

    There have also been serious scientific studies about bases on Mars.

    http://www.bis-space.com/what-we-do/projects/project-boreas
    In 2006 members of The British Interplanetary Society, led by the scientist Charles Cockell published an extensive report on the design of a human base located at the Martian North pole. This was Project Boreas, and was named after the Greek God of the North Wind. The study ran from 2003 and was an international project involving over 25 scientists and engineers. Its primary aim was to design a station to carry out science and exploration in the Martian polar region. In particular, the retrieval of a core sample from the polar ice cap was seen as a primary objective of the mission giving vital information about the martian geological and climatological variations throughout the planets history.

    The crew would be up to 10 people remaining on the surface for 1173 sol-days. Any crew would have to deal with psychological and social problems with being confined within a small space and with the same people for so long. The crew would be kept busy by solving many technical problems as they occur, or by focusing on the science objectives of the mission.

    The study conclusions allowed for flexibility in exploration objectives, relating to the subjects of geology, geophysics, astronomy, climatology and astrobiology. The crew would embark on daily expeditions across the planets surface and make many discoveries to report back to Earth. The station was designed with present-day technology and considered all aspects to the station such as the power requirements, thermal control, science laboratories, human habitation and life support systems. Other aspects to the mission were also considered such as surface drilling and surface transportation.

    The proposed mission date for such a station was 2038 with a crew staying for the duration of the mission, lasting three summers and two winters, and then returning to Earth in 2042, several years later.

    There are also various suggestions for bases from enthusiasts’ group,
    The Mars Society.



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  • @Phil: “… The batteries are expected to double in resilience [and] fall 60% in cost from 2015 to 2020 and the new technology of graphene batteries (very lightweight and capacious ultracapacitors, so very long life themselves) if successful will greatly extend lithium life further by taking all the high current hits. There is way more technology than there is investment for it.”

    This scenario simply extrapolates the increase in energy production infinitely while reducing unit cost to zero.
    Anthropocentric greenhouse gas emissions should disappear under this scenario before 2040 -calculating a 50% energy output increase combined with a 60% decrease in purchasing-maintenance cost every 5 years. I don’t think so unless we’re all chirping into the wind like Chicken Little. If such potential exists in current technology for infinite power at virtually zero cost, it would catch on faster than the ubiquitous i-phone.

    I called Musk a huckster, a bullshitter because he has publicly announced the “he” expects to colonize Mars with a million people by the end of the century. ( Cutting Elon some slack, he may only be a narcissistic visionary who believes his own bullshit). Alan4 has pointed out that the Falcon 9 uses kerosene fueled rocket engines, a pipsqueak launch vehicle prone to “malfunctions” on the launching pad and in low earth orbit. Jim Fox masterfully summarizes the prohibitive factors against sending humans into perilous deep space and the martian environment. Even with the best rockets and supporting paraphernalia only fools would embark on such a mission over the next ten years.



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  • @ Melvin,

    The $30,000 sticker per se puts the vehicle out of reach for most budgets. ( A dealer recently offered me an out-the-door price for a brand new Honda Civic at $18,000).

    Need to consider the price of fuel compared to charging the car currently. If you buy a car at $18 000 you have not only to fill it every week with fuel (electricity for the same range is less than $10 per charge at my last calaculation – Phil would have a better idea though). Electricity generated by green power is long term cheaper than coal and oil and will get cheaper over time. Oil reserves are getting harder and more expensive to get at thus before two long your $18 000 car may be too expensive to drive. This can be generated cleanly and is being done more so in this country all the time. Also pure electric cars have engines with 1 moving part vs hundreds which means servicing costs will be significantly lower. No worn-out valves, no replacing the cam belt every 100 000 not need to change the oil, oil filters etc. etc. maintenance will therefore be significantly cheaper over the life of the car and largely be around tyre rotation and suspension. regardless you have a point, they are currently too expensive for me and Tesla have a planned path towards more and more affordable cars. His mega battery factory will also greatly reduce the main cost factor – powering the vehicles. The electric motors themselves are comparatively cheap (I priced them a while ago when looking at the possibility of electric light rotor-craft), it the batteries that are holding it back. However even here things are moving rapidly in the right direction, I read one article suggesting researchers have succeeded in doubling the energy capacity of lithium batteries in the lab and this will of course mean not only less batteries required for the same range (therefore cheaper) but also significantly lighter cars (therefore either more range or even less batteries).

    I would like to see cheap conversion kits for 2 wheel drive car. Let’s say you have a front wheel drive like a Honda Jazz, put a couple of electric motors on the back wheels, replace the fuel tank with a smaller one fit as many batteries as you can. Even getting say 50 km out of batteries would get most people to work and back without the motor. There is an opportunity here I think.

    Regards



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  • Melvin #27
    Oct 4, 2016 at 1:40 am

    Alan4 has pointed out that the Falcon 9 uses kerosene fueled rocket engines, a pipsqueak launch vehicle prone to “malfunctions” on the launching pad and in low earth orbit.

    Falcon 9 is a prototype vehicle, which despite teething troubles, has a huge potential as a low cost launch vehicle for communication satellites, weather satellites, Earth survey satellites, and satellite service and refuelling vehicles. – A huge commercial market worth billions!

    http://www.space.com/25259-robotic-satellite-servicing-nasa-technology.html

    Robotically refueling and maintaining satellites in Earth orbit will allow government agencies and private companies to dramatically extend the lifetime of these valuable communications and scientific assets, advocates say.

    When a satellite launches into geosynchronous Earth orbit these days, propellant makes up about half its mass. Lofting a satellite with only a portion of the fuel it would need to complete its mission, with the ability to inject more propellant in the future, would scale costs down considerably and enable more instruments to be packed aboard.

    The unnecessary writing off of these multimillion £/$ assets when they run out of propellant, is a huge loss to the operating companies, who then have to launch replacements.



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  • Reckless Monkey #28
    Oct 4, 2016 at 2:52 am

    I would like to see cheap conversion kits for 2 wheel drive car. Let’s say you have a front wheel drive like a Honda Jazz, put a couple of electric motors on the back wheels, replace the fuel tank with a smaller one fit as many batteries as you can. Even getting say 50 km out of batteries would get most people to work and back without the motor. There is an opportunity here I think.

    Honda tried a hybrid model, but unfortunately dropped it from the latest line up!

    The petrol-electric Jazz Hybrid was dropped from the line-up when the this third-generation model was introduced.

    Perhaps they will introduce a hybrid version to the new (Oct 2015) model later.



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  • Melvin,

    Its like you have no insight into how business currently functions and how products improve, how you have to build both volume and experience to unlock the technological potential. Why have governments provided pump priming feed in tarriffs for renewables? Why have they supported EV batteries?

    Do you see the problem yet? The value arrives all the sooner with these long lived material assetts and perpetual energy assetts if only the market had a better way of supporting them. We’ve sussed it for land. We’ve sussed it for houses now. Favouring long lived investments will attract the formation of long term cash stream businesses and cars with 400,000 mile lifespans.

    As I’ve said in my own current sector technology, an unused 55% uplift in energy efficiency exists. (Energy efficiency, which means less waste heat, which means runs cooler and every ten degrees cooler means double the life span.) The possibility of 200,000 hour lightbulbs exist. Current lamp manufacturers are reducing efficiency to reduce both costs and lifespan and re-create their good old business of throw-away consumables. (The sticker lifespan has never been so dishonest.)

    Technology can solve problems in three areas. It can deliver a service for less capital cost. It can deliver it more reliably throughout its life. It can deliver it for longer.

    Mostly, the way markets are configured, only the first master is served by technology. Mostly folk only see value in the sticker price. But the two other could deliver huge value also. Most importantly cutting waste from excessive manufacturing, waste embodied energy. Technology could power ahead if the markets served all three. They could build sustainable (sic) businesses all the sooner.

    Do you see the problem is old money and old finance and therefore a political problem to be solved?

    The technology is here. The money (on the right terms) is not.

    This scenario simply extrapolates the increase in energy production infinitely while reducing unit cost to zero.
    Anthropocentric greenhouse gas emissions should disappear under this scenario before 2040 -calculating a 50% energy output increase combined with a 60% decrease in purchasing-maintenance cost every 5 years.

    This is a nonsense extrapolation. The 5 year extrapolation is a snap shot of an exponential curve approaching limits. It is though a big deal in itself.



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  • phil rimmer #31
    Oct 4, 2016 at 6:19 am

    A spam filter appears to have eaten a biggish comment of mine. It seems very hungry. It ate it twice. I hope its finished.

    It ate one of mine on Honda electric cars earlier!



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  • Reckless.

    We were working on some vehicle infra-structure stuff at Cranfield University about four years ago. They were indeed working on a plug in assist module in the boot/trunk powering hub motors on the rear wheels. This plug in was intended to assist on longer journeys but complete most short ones to work, to the shops, particularly where ICE efficiencies are pants.

    Our suggestion to them was the EV city car as “pseudo-tractor”. With longer journeys into the wilds, or needing more capacity you hire, when needed, powered articulated and rigid coupled trailers of various sorts for more people/ cargo/ICE long journey assist.

    Most popular might be a powered trunk plus ICE trailer.



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  • Alan

    It ate one of mine on Honda electric cars earlier!

    I’ll see if it re-appears. I have a copy back at home so will repost later if not.

    Melvin. I did respond to you. Honest!



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  • phil rimmer #31
    Oct 4, 2016 at 5:06 am

    The technology is here. The money (on the right terms) is not.

    Perhaps that is why those like Musk, who have money and vision, are so prominent in these fields!



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  • Reporter: You are building this factory with more than a billion dollars in state incentives. Solar panels get big tax subsidies, cars get by with a lot of subsidies as well. Will these businesses ever be sustainable without these kind of subsidies?

    Elon Musk: With respect to some of the other elements for solar panels and EVs, the big issue we have is that in reality if you accept the scientific consensus every oil burning activity is subsidized, dramatically. If you believe there is a value to the CO2 capacity of the atmosphere and oceans and that CO2 capacity is not being paid for by the price at the gas pump or the coal that is being burned for electricity generation or whatever its use may be then every single fossil fuel burning activity is massively subsidized. This has become sort of an ideological issue because there are people who think that global warming is not true. So if you believe it is not true then it is a subsidy for sustainable energy. If you believe it is true then all we are doing is trying to match the inherent subsidy for fossil fuels, match that on the sustainable energy side. That is all it is doing. It is not one is getting a subsidy and the other one isn’t. Fossil fuels are already getting a massive subsidy if you believe in global warming. If you don’t then it seems really unfair. If you do then it is like oh we are just trying to correct it.

    Musk, despite his libertarian stance, recognises the tragedy of the commons and recognises governments alone are the necessary agents for action on this topic. I would wish the bigger moral position of sustainability (which applies to all resources not just fresh, more transparent, air) figured additionally in these arguments, but folk are selfishly short-termist in their moral reach.

    Musk is successful though because he is a teller of simple stories. He raises money privately and from governments because of this. (I would, and do, laughably fail at this because this is actually deeply complex in how it will all work together and I rather relish the rich potentials of all this complexity and can’t understand why the public don’t love this also. I work with others who cut such curlicued crap.)



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  • @Phil -interview with Musk: Reporter: You are building this factory with more than a billion dollars in state incentives. Solar panels get big tax subsidies, cars get by with a lot of subsidies as well. Will these businesses ever be sustainable without these kind of subsidies?

    The myopic point is that government provides huge subsidies to companies for fossil fuel extraction, refining, storage and distribution. If such subsidies were reduced to near $0 gradually over a period of ten to 20 years while taxes “realistically” imposed “environmental” and health costs on the fossil fuel industry – calculated by environmentalists to to be in the hundreds of trillions of dollars- the industry and the energy fuels it supplies to world populations world disappear along with billions of people starving to death (and in northern or high altitude climes, freezing to death.) The redemptive scenario calculates that a shift in government subsidies to solar and wind renewables supplemented with ion lithium battery (plus other battery technology)
    energy storage would meet any growing world energy demands by decoupling energy generation from CO2 emissions. On the face of it, this is an absurd vision for the foreseeable future.

    Governments have always allocated subsidies for the necessary or debatably desired public good. Currently, governments, even in the most developed nations, must spend the vast share of annual tax revenues in their treasuries enhanced with borrowed money (bonds, treasury notes) on meeting the day-to-day functions of government, the personal and business needs of the people: Education, food, housing, infrastructure construction and maintenance, medical care (Medicare, NHS), and pension funding (Social Security), bureaucratic and regulatory agency operating expenses, policing and national defense and so on. Subsidies to fossil fuel industries seem lopsided because people have immediate, urgent, indispensable needs for transportation, heating, cooling and lighting. No one can sit around for 5 to 20 years waiting for their battery-powered car to be delivered to their garage.

    The argument for government subsidies and planning to bring about a revolutionary zero-emissions energy infrastructure on a global scale is fatally inadequate. Governments can accomplish very little with subsidies alone that represent a tiny fraction of 1% of economic productive value. In the marketplace for renewable energy, private sector enterprises must produce goods and services which encourage rapidly growing aggregate demand and subsequent investment. Elon promises that Tesla’s Model 3 compact car will be available in high[er] volume by the end of 2017 for $35,000 dollars. Include options, tax and license then figure a conservative out-the-door price to be $40,000. Governments even in affluent western nations cannot afford for long -say a 20% subsidy of $7,000 to individual buyers who already belong to high[er] income classes. Over 98% of the world’s people will either be unable to afford the subsidized retail price or live in countries that cannot afford to even “subsidize” access to clean water.

    Elon Musk must strategize the trick of morphing into a 21st century Henry Ford. He’s got to put out these wunder-cars at price points in the range of $15,000 to $18,000 anticipating at least a decade gap before a used (pre-owned) EV market starts to emerge with unit prices below $10,000. Simply asserting, “Well, we can do that tomorrow” doesn’t cut it.



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  • Melvin

    Please tackle my request for new governement action (not your own suppositions or existing government policy). I have been asking for tax reforms not subsidies. I have been asking for market reform not dirigisme.

    I am happy to see Nationalised in one way or another some key infrastructures to preserve expertise over long periods, but I am also keen to re-engage that underutilised 20% of private capital.

    Subsidies are better targetted at the needy consumer.

    The poor already have quite small carbon footprints. We have already talked about providing energy subsidies for the enrgy poor. Oten the best way to invest in the poor is by making them recipients first for negawatts, efficient heating and lighting tech, insulation etc. Such topical problem solving creates a longterm benefit for the poor over the rich.



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  • @ Phil: “Please tackle my request for new governement action…”

    By “my request” I suppose you mean your desiderata that is long on goals and short on details about how to achieve them. We can all recommend how we believe “the system” should work to solve the world’s problems.

    I have been asking for tax reforms not subsidies. I have been asking for market reform not dirigisme.

    Tax reforms are often subsidies in disguise. By “tax reforms” I suppose you mean increased taxes on fossil fuels. Coal – twice as CO2 dirty as natural gas – would be a fat target in the popular imagination. Let’s tax coal production and consumption out of existence in the world energy mix over the next 20 years. Our friends in China (India and elsewhere) would be the first to squeal like a stuck pig because coal is currently integral to their energy plans at least until mid-century according to EIA projections. How do we ignore “existing government policies” when these projections are baked in those very policies? We can likely ride some trends toward reducing global coal use in favor of natural gas that burns 50% cleaner than coal, but we’d soon have to worry about the huge methane emissions from natural gas and start imposing high taxes on that fossil fuel, and also hit oil hard to discourage exploration and extraction for undiscovered new reserves.

    Using revenues from these new taxes partially to encourage investment and consumption of renewables might be tricky because we could inadvertently cause, apart from millions of layoffs in the “old” fossil fuel industries, global energy shortages affecting the lives and the quality of life of billions, and additional billions soon to be born. Timing would be crucial in a world where professional projections (not mine personally) forecast a mix of fossil fuels supplemented by renewables to meet global energy needs for most of the 21st century.

    The poor already have quite small carbon footprints. We have already talked about providing energy subsidies for the enrgy poor.

    We’re forgetting how those small carbon footprints led the poor of China to prosperity by burning a shitload of coal over the last 40 years and how they intend to keep going down the same path with some mitigation for decades. What makes you think other poor people in the world will not follow in their footsteps?

    Somehow we have strayed from the topic; Elon Musk’s ambition to colonize Mars with a million settlers by the turn of the century. That’s OK. I welcome your comments but I’ll have to leave off here.



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  • @Melvin

    Our friends in China (India and elsewhere) would be the first to squeal like a stuck pig because coal is currently integral to their energy plans at least until mid-century according to EIA projections. How do we ignore “existing government policies” when these projections are baked in those very policies?

    Cigarettes are an example of a good tax. If you are going to have to raise money from the public you should tax things causing harm . Cigarettes and smoking in my country is generally on the decline, largely because of tobacco taxing. People I know who have quit smoking in recent years all stated cost as one of the biggest factors. Likewise coal should be taxed. In Australia we supply a very large proportion of the worlds coal our politicians squeal that Australia with such a small population can’t possibly influence climate change because China and India have such high demand for coal. Well we could influence it very much if we had the balls to back the alternative energy industry and stop exporting coal prices world wide would definitely increase. Of course we don’t because there is some short term dollars to be made at the cost of many more dollars in the coming decades dealing with the consequences. Humans are not good at calculating risks.



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  • Melvin #41
    Oct 4, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Elon Musk must strategize the trick of morphing into a 21st century Henry Ford.

    Musk is catering for the “Rolls-Royce / Aston-Martin end of the market.
    Other manufacturers (Nissan, Toyota, Renault, Honda, etc.), are going for the “Henry Ford” end!

    He’s got to put out these wunder-cars at price points in the range of $15,000 to $18,000 anticipating at least a decade gap before a used (pre-owned) EV market starts to emerge with unit prices below $10,000. Simply asserting, “Well, we can do that tomorrow” doesn’t cut it.

    It seems some manufacturers already did it yesterday – according to the consumer magazine “WHICH?”.

    http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/cars/article/best-cars/best-electric-cars

    Best used electric cars – Typical price £5,471 – Brand score 76%, Tested Jan 2011

    This small, cheap to run electric car is best suited for the city where there is plenty of access to charging points. If you can keep it charged you’ll find a car that’s quiet and easy to drive.



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  • Melvin

    I suppose you mean increased taxes on fossil fuels.

    No! What I’ve been arguing for from the outset.

    Government reform of the money markets to preferentially incentivise long-term assett based investments over short term casino banking/trading by any means including tax reductions/deferrals on cash generated by the assett. Increasing trader liability for some kinds of shorter term losses would not go amiss by demanding traders produce risk analyses for their clients for every trade or some such reducing trade numbers but increasing. Properly rebuilding Glass Steagall type trading barriers. Properly legislating for stability and preferentially non-zero sum investments is what is needed anyway.

    The USA is falling behind. Its solar panel industry, once at the front of the curve, was trashed because it couldn’t sustain the investment levels to win trough into Chinese volumes. Flow batteries will go the same way. Musk has a singular vision and I think he is wrong in envisaging battery storage per house. Flow storage per community, based in local shopping mall car parks, with per house storage a Cloud- type but local service buying cheaper bulk power and providing level3 (very fast) charging to vehicles of shoppers, ticks far more boxes and will have faster sign up by being a mere service from your utility supplier. InGaN Solar Concentrated PV promises up to 70% efficiency and much of the balance as steam at 120 celsius, pretty high grade heat. There isn’t the investment to spare to progress this.

    More in parallel is needed to find the right mix. Nearly all technologies will end up being used because they have unique virtues so investment should rarely become a total risk.



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  • Electric cars are planned that will never be owned. (Riversimple. Others are planned.)They are leased and the leasing company takes all maintence responsibilities. Service based leasing models are probably the future for most folk, when not renting like Parisians and Autolib.

    Myself, I favour owning city car/tractors with leased or rented add-ons.



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  • Melvin #27
    Oct 4, 2016 at 1:40 am

    Alan4 has pointed out that the Falcon 9 uses kerosene fueled rocket engines, a pipsqueak launch vehicle prone to “malfunctions” on the launching pad and in low earth orbit.

    As I point out @#29, Falcon 9 has many uses as a commercial satellite launcher offering a competitive price to an increasing range of world-wide customers: – launching satellites such as this one, which was built by Airbus!
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-37562519

    Peru’s first national satellite, PerúSAT-1, has returned its maiden image of the country.
    It features the vast Cuajone copper mine in the Andes, where some 170,000 tonnes of metal are taken from the ground each year.

    Built by Europe’s Airbus group and launched on 16 September, PerúSAT-1 can see features as small as 70cm.

    Its pictures will have myriad uses – from agriculture and urban planning to border control and disaster relief.

    The satellite is being operated by the Peruvian space agency, CONIDA, at a height of 695km.

    I would imagine that similar satellites will be monitoring the hurricane damage and relief efforts, in and around the Caribbean now , and in the near future.



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  • Further to #45:-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-37559247

    Tesla’s former rival in pioneering electric cars, Henrik Fisker, has re-entered the electric car market announcing two new models.

    For his new venture, Mr Fisker has announced both a high-end car as well as an affordable mass-market model.

    Carmakers worldwide are increasingly focusing on the electric market.

    Reviving his rivalry with Tesla, Mr Fisker promised “a significantly longer battery life and range than any battery currently on the market”.

    “Both the technology and the market are more mature now than when we first started out as pioneers in the electric vehicle industry, and our new vehicle will be the most innovative and cutting-edge electric car ever created,” he said.

    Before starting his first electric car company in California, the Danish designer worked for car firms including Aston Martin and BMW.

    Traditional carmakers like General Motors, Renault Nissan or Volkswagen are also moving into all-electric vehicles.



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  • @ Alan4 and PhiL:

    *”Cumulative global sales of highway legal plug-in electric passenger cars and light utility vehicles passed the 1.5 million unit milestone in May 2016… Despite their rapid growth, plug-in electric cars represented 0.1% of the one billion cars on the world’s roads by the end of 2015.

    As of August 2016, cumulative sales by country were led by the United States with a stock of over 500,000 highway legal light-duty plug-in electric vehicles delivered since 2008. China ranks second with more than 493,000 units sold through August 2016, followed by Japan with about 142,500 plug-ins sold through July 2016.[1] About 550,000 light-duty plug-in electric passenger cars have been registered in Europe up until August 2016, making the continent the world’s largest light-duty plug-in regional market. As of July 2016, sales in the European market are led by Norway with over 112,700 units registered, followed by the Netherlands with over 95,500 units, and France with over 94,500 units.[1]* (Wikipedia)

    The disproportionate share of sales by country/region, apart from the tiny cumulative sales figures, bodes ill for the future sales penetration of the battery powered car into world markets. Unit sales by country are dominated by rich elites in the United States, China, Japan and Europe. Within the United states, sales are clustered within a handful of affluent states and urban areas: California, New York -Los Angeles [California], Washington D.C., New York City [New York], Chicago [Illinois]. In the European Union, sparsely populated Norway with 5.2 million people endowed with one of the highest per capita incomes in the western world, dominate EV registrations in absolute numbers over those of populous Germany, France and the UK.

    Of the 11 million hybrid (electric- ICE) sold world wide, 36% are in the United States.

    The conclusion seems inescapable. Outside several minuscule affluent enclaves located in a handful of developed countries with mature economies, the EV and the hybrid passenger vehicle has not scratched the competitive surface of the growing, monstrous proliferation of the gasoline (including diesel) powered automobile.



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  • Melvin #50
    Oct 5, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    *”Cumulative global sales of highway legal plug-in electric passenger cars and light utility vehicles passed the 1.5 million unit milestone in May 2016…

    The new technologies will take time to develop full production facilities and support infrastructure.

    They also need a parallel development of green electrical generating capacity with political support from governments.

    http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2016/02/electric-vehicles-oil-prices

    The Bright Future Ahead for Electric Vehicles, in 4 Charts
    A new market forecast from Bloomberg New Energy Finance paints a rosy picture for the future of electric vehicles, rising from about 1 percent of global annual vehicle sales today to 35 percent by 2040—about 41 million cars. That’s good news for Musk and other scions of clean energy. Whether it’s good news for the planet remains to be seen.



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  • @ Alan4 “Bloomberg New Energy Finance paints a rosy picture for the future of electric vehicles, rising from about 1 percent of global annual vehicle sales today to 35 percent by 2040—about 41 million cars.”

    You’re not looking at the graph in total. The projection of 41 million new EV sales projected for 2040 over the 1.5 million sales recorded between 2008 and 2016, also projects global annual sales of all passenger vehicles rising from 80 million in 2015 to 120 million in 2040. The share of new ICE plus ICE-Electric (Hybrid) sales remains virtually unchanged in 2040 from 2015 at around 80 million. Even this most optimistic of scenarios, in the battle of contending statistics, forecasts a major role for gasoline/diesel powered cars by mid-century.

    “As I point out @#29, Falcon 9 has many uses as a commercial satellite launcher offering a competitive price to an increasing range of world-wide customers: – launching satellites such as this one, which was built by Airbus!…”

    I appreciate the usefulness of putting more and more satellites into low earth orbit at lower cost. The topic is about Mr. Musk’s promise to build a fleet of rockets that will take a million settlers to Mars and build a permanent colony there by the end of the 21st century.



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  • By definition Conservatives are fearful of change. They frequently envy clever, can-do people like Musk, who can effect change. Modern technology terrifies them, hence their obstinate Denial of renewable solutions to the climate crisis. Fortunately progress will continue anyway, thanks to individuals like Musk, and our own Phil Rimmer.



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  • I don’t think it’s too soon to have a conversation about the ethics of invading another planet. There is little doubt that the introduction of alien organisms will alter Mars forever and there is always the unintended consequences that I’ve yet to hear mentioned in all the yammering about “colonies”.



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  • Riconui #54
    Oct 6, 2016 at 2:05 am

    I don’t think it’s too soon to have a conversation about the ethics of invading another planet. There is little doubt that the introduction of alien organisms will alter Mars forever and there is always the unintended consequences that.

    That is why the first humans on Mars should be at a properly organised science base, and not some amateurs carrying out a media based stunt.

    There needs to be proper quarantine facilities with double-skin space-suits.
    There should also be proper disposal or internal recycling of sealed waste packages.

    A double-skin space-suit outer skin, is fastened on to the outside of the external wall of the station and is entered through a trapdoor in the back of it, by an astronaut wearing an inner suit.

    When the astronaut is inside it, it un-clips from from the outer wall of the station, leaving the inner half of the door still attached to the station wall and sealing the doorway, while the astronaut carries out, outside activities.

    When the astronaut returns, he clips the hatch in the back of the suit, to the hatch in the wall, with seals trapping any external dust between the exposed suit hatch and the exposed wall hatch layers.
    The now closed double-skin hatch door then opens (with the two halves fastened firmly together), for the astronaut to enter the station air-lock, with any external dust contained INSIDE the double-skin of the hatch door. The edge seals are treated, cleaned, and kept sterile.

    When exiting the station, the process is reversed, the station side of the inner door-skin remains attached to the station, inside the station, and the facing internal two surfaces of the hatch separate and are once again exposed to the exterior environment.

    This way ( apart from a very fine edge on the seals), the interior of the space suit and the station, are never exposed to contamination from the external environment and the external environment, is never exposed to contamination from the station, or the inside of the space suit.

    There would also need to be similar access to any enclosed vehicles, although open vehicles could be driven while wearing the space-suit.

    This deals with the bio-issues on any extra-terrestrial location, and with the problem of Moon-dust carried inside the craft on suits and equipment, which was encountered by the Apollo astronauts.

    The details of this suit are given in the “Project Boreas Report” I mentioned @#26.



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  • Meanwhile, one of Musk’s competitors has also been pressing ahead!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-37568540

    Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has furthered his ambition to launch people into space by practising a critical safety manoeuvre on his New Shepard vehicle.

    The rocket and capsule system launched normally from its Van Horn, Texas, desert pad on Wednesday but then made an early separation during the ascent.

    A motor in the capsule pushed it clear to parachute back to the ground.

    The “abort” simulated what would happen if the booster were ever to develop a problem as it climbed into the sky.

    Before Mr Bezos’ Blue Origin company starts putting people on the New Shepard system, there has to be confidence that lives can be saved in the event of an emergency.

    New Shepard is a sub-orbital vehicle – that is, it delivers sufficient thrust to put its capsule only briefly into space.

    What is remarkable about New Shepard is that it is totally re-usable – both the booster and the capsule.

    Ordinarily, boosters are expendable. It is only recently that rocket vehicles have started to fly themselves back to Earth after a flight for a new mission.

    The booster used in Wednesday’s outing was making its fifth flight. Before the test, Blue Origin said it was unlikely to survive the demonstration due to the instability that is introduced by a mid-flight escape of the capsule.

    But the booster had no difficulty handling the disruption of the abort manoeuvre and brought itself down under control. It will now be put on show in a museum.

    The online retail entrepreneur also plans to build a much bigger rocket system that he will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

    The booster for this, called New Glenn after the famous American astronaut John Glenn, should make its maiden flight before the end of the decade, Mr Bezos says.



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  • By definition Conservatives are fearful of change. They frequently envy clever, can-do people like Musk, who can effect change. Modern technology terrifies them, hence their obstinate Denial of renewable solutions to the climate crisis. Fortunately progress will continue anyway, thanks to individuals like Musk, and our own Phil Rimmer.

    Nobody on the thread is required to self-identity as “conservative” or be stigmatized by others with any other meaningless label or psychoanalysis. It may be helpful to keep in mind the initial question of why NASA has not returned manned spacecraft to the moon for 44 years. One suggested answer is that NASA is “fearful” of losing lives needlessly when robotic devices can accomplish exploratory, construction, and maintenance tasks equipped with abilities that far exceed those of fetch-and-carry humans. I suspect that advances in unmanned space probes constitute informed systemic resistance to incur the prohibitive costs of investing tight budgetary resources into the redundant technology necessary for human deep-space survival.

    Near earth orbit space shuttles and space stations fit neatly into budgets whereas building elaborate stations on the moon for human occupancy to serve as launching sites for manned missions to Mars will be harder to justify. The enduring fascination with the science fiction allure of Colonizing other planets, traditionally projected into future centuries, will continue to hold the popular mind captive. Who knows? “We” may land small crews of astronauts on Mars before the end of the century. But colonies? I doubt it.

    Climate change brings challenges to technology and political and economic systems that are not being addressed on a comprehensive global scale. The elephant in the room is overpopulation, the mess that is here now and the greater mess that will arrive before mid-century largely generated out of sub-Saharan Africa, the species-specific pandemic that will be the death of us unless we overcome embarrassment and start talking about effective solutions.



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  • Melvin #58
    Oct 6, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    It may be helpful to keep in mind the initial question of why NASA has not returned manned spacecraft to the moon for 44 years.

    The reason why the last Apollo Moon missions were cancelled, and why the US has not been back since, is that the “Race to the Moon” was a political one-upmanship exercise to “beat the Russians”, with the science objectives added as an afterthought at the last minute.
    Once the political publicity objectives had been met, the political appetite, and US public appetite, for big budget Lunar space spectaculars had been satisfied.

    Meanwhile the Russians recognised that the US had pulled the publicity coup, of being first with a Moon landing, but which was not part of a continuing longer term manned Lunar strategy.

    The Russians then went ahead with their long-term man in space projects, building up experience with the long-term habitation of orbiting space-stations. – Experience and expertise, which has been invaluable in the later joint ISS project.



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  • Melvin #58
    Oct 6, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Near earth orbit space shuttles and space stations fit neatly into budgets

    The Space Shuttle was specifically designed to carry large military satellites to Earth orbit, and was part funded by large military budgets.
    Now that the electronics are much smaller and lighter, it has been replaced by the robot US Air Force X37 mini shuttle.
    http://www.space.com/30245-x37b-military-space-plane-100-days.html

    and space stations fit neatly into budgets

    The cost of the Space station is so great, that its funding is shared internationally in financial agreements between the fifteen nations!

    whereas building elaborate stations on the moon for human occupancy to serve as launching sites for manned missions to Mars will be harder to justify.

    I don’t think it makes sense to launch any manned missions to Mars from the Moon.
    Some robot ferries may dock in orbit, with Mars bound craft, to provide fuel mined and manufactured on the Moon, but there is no point in landing people on the Moon, only to subsequently relaunch them back into orbit, and then on to Mars.



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  • I don’t think it makes sense to launch any manned missions to Mars from the Moon.

    Your answer makes logistical sense but raises the question: Why does it make sense to launch any manned mission to Mars from earth in the first place?

    Some robot ferries may dock in orbit, with Mars bound craft, to provide fuel mined and manufactured on the Moon,

    If robots can mine and refine rocket fuel on the moon, load it aboard robot ferries sudequently docking in orbit to refuel Mars bound craft essentially doing so much of the heavy lifting at zero risk to human life, why not just make the “Mars bound craft” another “robotic entity” thrown into the mix at zero risk to human life and at far less cost?

    but there is no point in landing people on the Moon, only to subsequently relaunch them back into orbit, and then on to Mars.

    Then what is the point of landing them on Mars just for the payoff of an exorbitantly priced cheap momentary thrill?



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  • Melvin #63
    Oct 7, 2016 at 1:36 am

    If robots can mine and refine rocket fuel on the moon,

    I did not say the mining operation was entirely conducted without humans. Only that the transfer to orbit was robotic.

    load it aboard robot ferries subsequently docking in orbit to refuel Mars bound craft essentially doing so much of the heavy lifting at zero risk to human life, why not just make the “Mars bound craft” another “robotic entity” thrown into the mix at zero risk to human life and at far less cost?

    The bulk of Solar-System exploration is being done by unmanned craft, and that will continue, but it does not impinge on the value of manned operations where these do the job better.

    but there is no point in landing people on the Moon, only to subsequently relaunch them back into orbit, and then on to Mars.

    Then what is the point of landing them on Mars just for the payoff of an exorbitantly priced cheap momentary thrill?

    Cheap thrills only apply to fanciful media stories about space exploration.
    Nobody pays millions to give some astronaut a cheap thrill!
    Being an astronaut is a highly skilled job requiring years of training.

    The issue of it being pointless to divert Mars bound astronauts to the Moon as an energy and time wasting detour, has nothing to do with the value of manned exploration and scientific studies of planets or moons.

    The difference in choice of samples, quality, and quantity, of Moon-rocks returned by the Apollo astronauts, compared to the Russian robotic sample return mission, makes a good case for human participation in selected projects.



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  • On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced before a special joint session of Congress the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade. A number of political factors affected Kennedy’s decision and the timing of it…. After consulting with Vice President Johnson, NASA Administrator James Webb, and other officials, he concluded that landing an American on the Moon would be a very challenging technological feat, but an area of space exploration in which the U.S. actually had a potential lead [over the Soviet Union]. Thus the cold war is the primary contextual lens through which many historians now view Kennedy’s speech.
    The decision involved much consideration before making it public, as well as enormous human efforts and expenditures to make what became Project Apollo a reality by 1969.

    The rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union to put satellites into low earth orbit, escalated into a rivalry to put humans into low earth orbit in the 60s and culminated with an undisputed U.S. victory with the moon landing in 1969. Ironically, the “manned” missions came to be judged among world leaders, technocrats and popular opinion at home and abroad as a crucial measure of which super-power was “winning” the Cold War. The funding for the moon landing was driven in large part by geopolitics and national prestige. Ironically the fall of the Soviet Union in the 90s had nothing to do with the relative merits of national space programs.

    No one contests the technological achievements of manned space flights or the acumen and courage of astronauts. Rapid technological advances in unmanned space vehicle exploration into deeper space, however, have dampened enthusiasm for government spending of hundred of billions, probably trillions on protecting astronauts constrained by limited mobility and productivity in highly perilous environments.

    If we are going to entertain scenarios of manned missions to mars, building human-occupied stations on the moon, and so on, we need to entertain a cost-benefit analysis that launches actual projects. So far there has been much talk but little action. I suspect that value-added components of manned missions to Mars exerts little persuasive power on decision makers who are left only with costs they perceive to be prohibitive compared to the benefit of having a few astronauts walk (or drive) around on Martian terrain for a few days or weeks.



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  • Melvin #65
    Oct 7, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    If we are going to entertain scenarios of manned missions to mars, building human-occupied stations on the moon, and so on, we need to entertain a cost-benefit analysis that launches actual projects.
    I suspect that value-added components of manned missions to Mars exerts little persuasive power on decision makers who are left only with costs they perceive to be prohibitive compared to the benefit of having a few astronauts walk (or drive) around on Martian terrain for a few days or weeks.

    The problem is, that you have little perception of the cost benefit analysis of the on-going science and earlier results, from the Apollo missions, on which to base opinions or guesses about the future.
    I have already pointed out, the potential for further developments of human participation in space based enterprises.
    I have also pointed out already @#64 that much work will be done robotically or remotely.

    @#64 – The bulk of Solar-System exploration is being done by unmanned craft, and that will continue, but it does not impinge on the value of manned operations where these do the job better.

    Mars and some other planets, are simply too distant for real-time remote operation of equipment.



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  • I was watching a prograam about the meteorite that collided with Scotland 1.2bn years ago. It was a fascinating piece of geological detective work. I thought how impossible it would be even now to achieve this is some remote or automated way.

    The problem is one of how to cater for the unexpected. Detectors and search algorithms to be reliable must know pretty much what they are looking for if they are to reliably find it.

    A mature scientist’s brain has more capacity for cognition of the utterly novel than billions of dollars worth of autonomous kit.

    Learning to be truly self sufficient on a planet surface in a practical and illustrated way may be reason enough to do this.

    Worrying over the life of a Russian or a Turk is therapeutic for folk, not from Russia or Turkey.

    Before we learn to live away from the planet as a solution to our current ills (which is a bad aspiration for the moment) we must learn to live sustainably as supervisers of rare metal mining at Lagrange 4 or 5 to where we bring back the asteroid spoils for final processing.



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  • Alan4: “The problem is, that you have little perception of the cost benefit analysis of the on-going science and earlier results, from the Apollo missions, on which to base opinions or guesses about the future.”

    I (Melvin) said: “we need to entertain a cost-benefit analysis that launches actual projects.”

    The conversation has come full circle. When do you expects NASA to announce a manned mission to the Moon
    to find a suitable location for the construction of a human-managed moon base suitable for fuel mining operations, the first actual step in a project to send humans to mars. The successful technology for accomplishing this modest first step is 44 years old. Talk, cheap and plentiful as it is, grows awfully silent
    when practical questions are asked.



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  • Melvin #68
    Oct 8, 2016 at 1:48 am

    I (Melvin) said: “we need to entertain a cost-benefit analysis that launches actual projects.”

    Until there is an understanding of the benefits and potential benefits, such exercises are pointless, and frequently counter-productive.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/10/british-trio-win-nobel-prize-in-physics-for-work-on-exotic-states-of-matter/#li-comment-212285

    As I pointed out on this other discussion:- if benefits are not evident, or those making decisions lack perception and vision, foolish obstructive decisions are made on the basis of ignorance.

    The conversation has come full circle. When do you expects NASA to announce a manned mission to the Moon

    That is mainly a political question rather than a scientific one.

    to find a suitable location for the construction of a human-managed moon base suitable for fuel mining operations,

    There is a probable, largely robot operated site, already selected, and the discussion of a badly written misleading article about the project here:-

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/07/nasa-is-seriously-considering-terraforming-part-of-the-moon-with-robots/

    the first actual step in a project to send humans to mars.

    The mining of fuel is probably not “a first step in sending humans to Mars”, but a human Moon-base would be a good preparatory exercise, and constructive step to further exploration. A base on one of Mars’ moons would also merit consideration.

    The successful technology for accomplishing this modest first step is 44 years old.

    No it isn’t! Neither Apollo nor the Shuttle were technologies for delivering habitation modules or setting up a manned Moon-base.
    The technology for delivering the Curiosity Rover to Mars, or the robotic landing of 1st stage launch vehicles back on Earth for reuse, is more relevant.

    Talk, cheap and plentiful as it is, grows awfully silent
    when practical questions are asked.

    This is the opposite of what happens in scientific and technical projects.
    Practical questions are covered in detail, with an assortment of technical models and proposed solutions considered. – but of course those who only look at superficial media stories, have no perception of these.



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  • @Melvin #58

    It may be helpful to keep in mind the initial question of why NASA has not returned manned spacecraft to the moon for 44 years.

    No, the article was about the aspirations of one private individual, who has never sent anyone to the moon. You appear to have neglected reading Eric Berger’s article.

    “The estimated flight time is within the frame of 8 to 11 months.”

    No, Musk plans involve a transit time of only 3 months.

    “Why not go to the moon next”

    We are already planning further manned lunar missions within a decade, as I’ve indicated, via CLEP. Why should Musk compete?

    “Elon musk is the greatest huckster…”

    Envy?

    “Musk’s own narcissistic delusions of grandeur…”

    Fear of science, renewable energy and of electric vehicles appears to be a conservative inclination. Untrained (unqualified) conservatives aren’t renowned for making accurate psychiatric diagnoses.

    “The elephant in the room is overpopulation”

    No, that’s the latest Denialist diversionary tactic. Curtailing fossil fuel use is the urgent problem.



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  • Melvin #68
    Oct 8, 2016 at 1:48 am

    When do you expects NASA to announce a manned mission to the Moon.

    Perhaps this will motivate them!

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-space-moon-idUSKCN0XQ0JT

    China aims for manned moon landing by 2036

    @#64 – The bulk of Solar-System exploration is being done by unmanned craft, and that will continue, but it does not impinge on the value of manned operations where these do the job better.

    We would not now have had years of a functional Hubble Space Telescope, if it were not for manned missions when robots were inadequate.



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  • China may well eat Musk’s lunch also if the US government don’t snap to it and fix under investment and its own forward commitments to EV adoption.

    https://thinkprogress.org/china-to-boost-electric-vehicle-sales-10-fold-211053eb032b#.8ws27qd21

    The EV potential to multiply up renewable infrastructure value, by using night-time wind and mid-day solar and peak shaving in return is huge and Musk cannot with simple market muscle optimise these compound commercial opportunities. Governments must favour such compound businesses prompting standards (because there is no compound business to do so in the usual way) and tax incentives. The dirigiste Chinese have no such organisational impediment.

    It is interesting again how swiftly the old projections need to be updated in the light of new government and company policy. Bloomberg New Energy Finance must revise its already quite exciting prediction upwards in the face of the VW (the worlds second largest vehicle maker) announcement that half of its production will be electric by 2025. This latter surprise announcement undoubtedly comes in part as a response to their earlier diesel efficiency v. emissions scandal. Its an ill wind….



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  • @Melvin #68

    I (Melvin) said: “we need to entertain a cost-benefit analysis that
    launches actual projects.”

    A cost-benefit analysis of Elon Musk’s Interplanetary Transport System could be compared to military procurements. Musk estimates his Mars project will cost $10 billion. Critics suggest the likely figure to be more like three or four times that amount. NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion crew capsule will cost at least $30 billion. Both projects appear to be feasible, and as Alan explained the benefits are difficult to quantify.

    The F-35 fighter program is estimated to cost $400 billion, from which no apparent benefits will ensue.

    The F-35 is a dud which can never be modified to be effective. After decades of development this weapon system remains non-operational and tests verify it is inferior to the aircraft it is supposed to replace. The US would save enough money to fund space exploration, decent education and a health plan for citizens and have spare funds remaining by cancelling the F-35. Military effectiveness would also be enhanced, simply by retaining their existing (superior) aircraft.



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  • Melvin #65
    Oct 7, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    If we are going to entertain scenarios of manned missions to mars, building human-occupied stations on the moon, and so on, we need to entertain a cost-benefit analysis that launches actual projects. So far there has been much talk but little action.

    Not really! There have been, and are, various serious studies and research projects.
    As I said earlier, a lack of awareness by yourself, has no relevance to what NASA and its associated contractors are actually doing.

    http://www.nasa.gov/nextstep

    For the original NextSTEP, NASA sought proposals for concept studies and technology development projects in three key areas: advanced propulsion, habitation, and small satellites. NASA selected 12 awardees – seven in habitation (four integrated habitation concepts and three advanced life support systems and integrated concepts), three in propulsion, and two in small satellites.

    NextSTEP is a public-private partnership model that seeks commercial development of deep space exploration capabilities to support more extensive human space flight missions in the Proving Ground around and beyond cislunar space—the space near Earth that extends just beyond the moon.

    NASA issued the original NextSTEP Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) to U.S. industry in late 2014, and issued the second NextSTEP BAA in April 2016. The second NextSTEP BAA is an omnibus announcement with appendices that will solicit proposals in specific research areas.

    An important part of NASA’s strategy is to stimulate the commercial space industry to help the agency achieve its strategic goals and objectives for expanding the frontiers of knowledge, capability, and opportunities in space. A key component of the NextSTEP partnership model is that it provides an opportunity for NASA and industry to partner to develop capabilities that meet NASA human space exploration objectives while also supporting industry commercialization plans.

    The two NextSTEP BAAs are outlined below. NextSTEP is open to all categories of U.S. and non-U.S. institutions (NASA Centers and other FFRDC and Government agencies, companies, universities, nonprofit organizations). Eligibility for participation is tailored for each research area.

    Due to the industry response to the initial NextSTEP BAA and the progress that the selected partners achieved, NASA issued a second NextSTEP BAA in April 2016, called NextSTEP-2. The NextSTEP 2 BAA is an Omnibus solicitation that was issued with the intent of releasing appendices for specific topics as needed.

    The first appendix under NextSTEP-2, Appendix A, was issued on April 19, 2016, with a focus on developing deep space habitation concepts, engineering design and development, and risk reduction efforts leading to a habitation capability in cislunar space. The objective of this solicitation is to identify habitation concepts that can support extensive human spaceflight missions in the Proving Ground (around and beyond cislunar space) while encouraging application to commercial habitation capabilities in low-Earth orbit.

    Companies that are selected under NextSTEP-2, Appendix A will “on-ramp” with the currently awarded NextSTEP habitat contractors and work toward the same objectives for developing and validating prototype habitats.

    The duration of NextSTEP-2 contracts will vary depending upon the complexity of the studies or development effort. NASA anticipates phased approaches that may extend up to 5 years.



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  • @Melvin #58

    *It may be helpful to keep in mind the initial question of why NASA has not returned manned spacecraft to the moon for 44 years.*

    No, the article was about the aspirations of one private individual, who has never sent anyone to the moon. You appear to have neglected reading Eric Berger’s article

    Len: Technically I asked the question in the context of Elon Musk’s aspirations to send a million people to Mars by the end of the century. Why not “practice” landings and furthering research for deep space exploration by
    sending manned spacecraft back to the Moon on a regular basis at a minimum cost and risk to human life?

    A cost-benefit analysis of Elon Musk’s Interplanetary Transport System could be compared to military procurements. Musk estimates his Mars project will cost $10 billion.

    Len. I’ve been too hard on an obviously brilliant entrepreneur. Nevertheless he’s highly deluded about this Mars thing on many fronts. I will stick my neck out and bet that he never launches more than a token unmanned rocket in the direction of the Red Planet. Unless he’s oblivious to the consequences of bankruptcy pursuing a pipedream, he’s not going very far with this boondoggle.



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  • Melvin #76
    Oct 8, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    @Melvin #58 – It may be helpful to keep in mind the initial question of why NASA has not returned manned spacecraft to the moon for 44 years. One suggested answer is that NASA is “fearful” of losing lives needlessly when robotic devices can accomplish exploratory, construction, and maintenance tasks equipped with abilities that far exceed those of fetch-and-carry humans.

    Alan @#69 -No it isn’t! Neither Apollo nor the Shuttle were technologies for delivering habitation modules or setting up a manned Moon-base.

    Melvin #76 No, the article was about the aspirations of one private individual, who has never sent anyone to the moon.
    You appear to have neglected reading Eric Berger’s article

    This is simply wrong!
    The article is about a major rocket and rocket engine, manufacturing company and its founder! A company involved in various projects.

    Alan4discussion #75 – Oct 8, 2016 at 6:05 pm – As I said earlier, a lack of awareness by yourself, has no relevance to what NASA and its associated contractors are actually doing.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elon_Musk#SpaceX

    In 2006, SpaceX was awarded a contract from NASA to continue the development and test of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft in order to transport cargo to the International Space Station, followed by a US$1.6 billion NASA Commercial Resupply Services program contract on December 23, 2008, for 12 flights of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the Space Station, replacing the US Space Shuttle after it retired in 2011.

    SpaceX is both the largest private producer of rocket motors in the world, and holder of the record for highest thrust-to-weight ratio for any known rocket motor.[71] SpaceX has produced more than 100 operational Merlin 1D engines, currently the world’s most powerful motor for its weight.



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  • Melvin

    I share some of your concern over Musk’s interplanetary adventure. There are so many holes in the whys and wherefores. I think, though, big public ambition is energising. I think a sense of adventure might be a cure for a potentially boring long term future. After a century or two of comparative hot hell with global warming and huge population migrations and infrastructure collapse, we will emerge into a happy bland sustainable mode, that for many may be the Hitchens hell of heaven. We need to rediscover our potential to achieve things.

    One of the areas of interest to me is aeroponics and algal cultivation. Using energy to turn rocks and CO2 into stuff from food to plastics to drugs is a growing (sic) discipline. The solar flux is about half that of earth but developing the technology for high PV efficacy (e.g. InGaN solar concentration) and putting it to work to make pretty much everything, would have astonishing implications for the improved sustainability for the temperate regions of our own planet.

    I think a sense of our own ability to do things is part of overcoming say trend fatalism and realising we really can act when effort is concerted.



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  • Melvin #76 No, the article was about the aspirations of one private individual, who has never sent anyone to the moon.
    You appear to have neglected reading Eric Berger’s article

    This is a bit of a strawman diversion!! –
    No one individual or company, ever sent anyone to the Moon!

    http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-apollo-program
    Apollo’s moon mission was one of the most expansive government … 34,000 NASA employees and 375,000 outside contractors took part



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  • Melvin #76
    Oct 8, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    Technically I asked the question in the context of Elon Musk’s aspirations to send a million people to Mars by the end of the century. Why not “practice” landings and furthering research for deep space exploration by sending manned spacecraft back to the Moon on a regular basis at a minimum cost and risk to human life?

    Do you have any good reason to believe that a heavy lift booster, designed for moving large masses to Earth orbit, with the long term objective of transporting people and materials to Mars, would not be used under contract in the mean time, for lifting large masses of modules and equipment designated for a Moon-base, should such a construction be decided upon?

    by sending manned spacecraft back to the Moon on a regular basis at a minimum cost and risk to human life?

    I don’t think anyone has suggested that human space-travel is low risk, or low cost. “Cheaper than at present”, does not mean “cheap”!



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  • Alan #81

    Perfect illustration of the folly of trend fatalism. Thanks for this. Like all cultural changes technological changes have a very high rate of change once the positive reinforcement processes kick in. Like the telegraph or trains, gay marriage approval or TV, the hand held omni-gizmo.

    Almost never have these moments of rapid transition been planned for.

    Governments make all the difference. Again the hands-off (perhaps I should say, bought off) US government stand to lose out for ideological (or even more dishonourable) reasons.



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  • @Melvin
    #76

    “Why not “practice” landings and furthering research for deep space
    exploration by sending manned spacecraft back to the Moon on a
    regular basis at a minimum cost and risk to human life?”

    We don’t need to practice something we learned how to do halfway through the last century. Your suggestion is like conducting sea trials for a new blue water aircraft carrier in the Panama canal. Musk’s ITS is designed for interplanetary travel, not for fishing in the local creek. Besides, we’re already planning to resume manned lunar missions, as I keep reminding you, within a decade.

    he’s highly deluded about this Mars thing on many fronts.

    Musk’s plans appear perfectly feasible, despite your lack of awareness.

    “pipedream…boondoggle”

    Wilbur and Orville Wright had critics too. Critics without vision and insight, oblivious to the potential of manned flight. There will always be people braver than you or I, willing to embark on such risky adventures.



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  • Len Walsh #83
    Oct 9, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    We don’t need to practice something we learned how to do halfway through the last century. Your suggestion is like conducting sea trials for a new blue water aircraft carrier in the Panama canal. Musk’s ITS is designed for interplanetary travel, not for fishing in the local creek.

    There are significant differences even in the propulsion systems required for a Mars mission compared to the days of travel to the Moon:- particularly in regard to the use of ion-drive rockets.

    Musk is well versed in rocket engineering – not so much on Mars’ living requirements, and environmental management on bases.

    @Melvin –
    Musk’s plans appear perfectly feasible, despite your lack of awareness.

    I think his transportation systems will be feasible and may well become incorporated in bigger projects.

    “pipedream…boondoggle”

    Without putting too fine a point on it, I would suggest that having read ALL of one peer-reviewed study on Mars bases and bits of some others, my own perceptions are somewhat deeper than this!



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  • Alan4discussion #84
    Oct 10, 2016 at 5:08 am

    There are significant differences even in the propulsion systems required for a Mars mission compared to the days of travel to the Moon:- particularly in regard to the use of ion-drive rockets.

    Musk is well versed in rocket engineering – not so much on Mars’ living requirements, and environmental management on bases.

    As I was saying yesterday:-

    I think his transportation systems will be feasible and may well become incorporated in bigger projects.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-37624207

    President Barack Obama says the US will work with private companies on its plan to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

    President Obama announced his proposals for a crewed mission to the Red Planet in 2010.

    But Nasa’s plan to realise this presidential vision has been broadly criticised, particularly by Congress.

    In an article, President Obama pledged to work with private companies to “to build new habitats that can sustain and transport astronauts”.

    “We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time,” Obama said in an opinion piece for CNN.

    The comments are not entirely surprising: Nasa is already working closely with the private sector to resupply the International Space Station. And many private space firms – particularly SpaceX, whose Dragon capsule delivers cargo to the ISS – have made no secret of their ambitions to explore Mars.

    Last month, Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX, outlined his proposal for a permanent base on Earth’s smaller, colder neighbour.

    Reaction to this plan was mixed: some space experts criticised the plan as unrealistic, while others praised Mr Musk for outlining a detailed – and audacious – architecture for getting to Mars.

    “Getting to Mars will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators, and we’re already well on our way.”

    He said that he would be convening leading scientists, engineers and innovators in Pittsburgh this week to “dream up ways to build on our progress and find the next frontiers”.



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  • phil rimmer #82
    Oct 9, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Alan #81 – Perfect illustration of the folly of trend fatalism.
    Thanks for this.
    Like all cultural changes technological changes have a very high rate of change once the positive reinforcement processes kick in.

    Some initiatives do seem to be picking up speed – and could be more widely copied!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37654584

    Electric cars could be given priority at traffic lights and exempted from one-way systems, under new proposals.
    The government’s planned clean air zones are intended to encourage drivers to choose less-polluting electric cars.

    Proposed for five UK cities by 2020, the clean air zones will also introduce restrictions on older, polluting commercial vehicles.

    Environment minister Therese Coffey said: “We need to tackle air pollution.”

    The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has told Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton to introduce clean air zones within four years to reduce pollutants, which are linked to the deaths of 40,000 people a year in the UK.

    The clean air zones are the government’s response to a UK Supreme Court ruling, which ordered it to take action to meet European limits on air pollution.

    These five cities were chosen for their high levels of nitrogen dioxide, often caused by diesel fumes. Other local authorities in England will be able to create clean air zones voluntarily.

    Within the zone, local councils can create new road layouts allowing electric vehicles to bypass one-way systems or get priority at junctions. They could also be given preferential parking spaces and lower charges.

    A Defra spokeswoman said: “It may be that in a one-way system they have an extra lane in which electric vehicles can go against the traffic or that they have filter lanes at traffic lights.”

    Councils with clean air zones are also expected to restrict access to older buses, coaches, taxis and lorries with emit high levels of gases such as nitrogen dioxide. Birmingham and Leeds also plan to extend restrictions to polluting vans.

    This could mean a charging zone for commercial vehicles with high levels of emissions, or by introducing stricter licensing requirements for buses and taxis.

    These charges and restrictions will not be applied to private cars or motorbikes, Defra said.

    The number of ultra-low emissions vehicles such as electric cars registered in the UK rose by 250% in the last two years.

    A £35m plan to increase the use of electric vehicles was also launched by the Department for Transport, offering thousands more charging points across the country.



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  • Alan4discussion #72
    Oct 8, 2016 at 7:54 am

    China aims for manned moon landing by 2036

    Following on from my link on this earlier comment!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-37670842

    China is to launch two men into orbit on Monday morning as it continues to develop its ability to explore space.

    The astronauts will take off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northern China, Chinese officials said.

    The plan is for them to dock with and then spend 30 days on board the Tiangong 2 space station testing its ability to support life.

    This and previous launches are seen as pointers to possible crewed missions to the Moon or Mars.

    In 2013 China successfully landed its uncrewed Yutu rover on the Moon.



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  • Meanwhile the automated research goes on:-

    Europe’s Schiaparelli spacecraft is on course to land on Mars.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-37673617

    The 577kg probe separated successfully from its mothership on Sunday at 14:42 GMT (15:42 BST; 16:42 CEST).

    It is now on a direct path to intercept the top of the Red Planet’s atmosphere on Wednesday.

    The module will then have just under six minutes to reduce its 21,000km/h entry speed to zero in order to make a relatively soft flop-down on to Mars’ dusty surface.

    Schiaparelli is a technology demonstrator. It is intended to showcase the European Space Agency’s (Esa) ability to land on Earth’s near neighbour.

    Esa controllers in Darmstadt, Germany, were able to confirm the separation of the module from its carrier satellite – the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter – thanks to a radio transmission beamed across more than 170 million km of space.

    Schiaparelli is now on its own; there is nothing anyone can do to change its trajectory or to give it new commands.

    Its landing sequence on Wednesday is fully automated. The probe will rub off most of its entry speed thanks to a heatshield that will push up against the Martian air. The combination of a big parachute and a cluster of rockets will then bring it to a near standstill just above the surface. Schiaparelli’s final two metres will see it dump down on to its belly.

    The Esa probe will emit UHF tones during its entry, descent and landing phases, which an Indian radio telescope will endeavour to capture and relay to Darmstadt. If the Indian facility can still hear Schiaparelli at 15:00 GMT (16:00 BST; 17:00 CEST) on Wednesday, it will mean the Italian-built module is safely on the surface.

    While the landing attempt will no doubt occupy the media’s and the public’s attention in the coming days, Esa also has the very important task of “parking” the Trace Gas Orbiter at Mars.

    Twelve hours after ejecting Schiaparelli, the satellite was due to change course to avoid following on behind the module and its collision path with the planet.

    This manoeuvre will be followed by a “big burn” on the TGO’s main engine on Wednesday, to put it on a large ellipse around Mars.

    The orbiter will spend the coming years studying the behaviour of atmospheric components such as methane, water vapour and nitrogen dioxide.



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  • @89 – The orbiter will spend the coming years studying the behaviour of atmospheric components such as methane, water vapour and nitrogen dioxide.

    It is fortunate that the orbiter remains after the lander malfunctioned and crashed! These are still risky enterprises!



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