I strongly recommend reading the enclosed links and watching the provided insightful video to understand his narrative:
Musk addresses the intrigued public in Mexico.
Needless to say that he´s surely the most exciting entrepreneur alive by far, on his breakthrough lecture on september 27 2016 during the 67th International Astronautical Congress Guadalajara, Mexico, Musk centered on the technical side of things which through complex engineering will be solved, no doubt, the real challenge, however, is the human biological and psychological “engineering” side of things.
Althought the real motor of the Mars initiative is Bob Zubrin, this remarkable docummentary covers all the bases you need to know about it:
Hence, my comments (issued as points on the all-important “Human Factor”, which NASA knows all about), are really questions which any would-be Mars traveller/colonizer (let´s call them “travelizers” from henceforth) needs to have them addressed and solved.
I´m not saying it can´t be done, mind you, I´m saying it´s a lot more complex than just solving the economics and engineering side of the fuel, fuel cell and passenger compartment construction, artificial gravity generator, engine efficiency, the rocket´s parts re-usability, and putting a price to it all.
First, Musk´s Spacex is evidently already becoming a NASA (US government) outsourcer and supplier for satelite launching and placings and will be an ore exploitation contractor for NASA in Mars for certain.
So would the travelizers be expected to mine the ore as part of their colonization process? Would they be paid for this? Or would they be like the Alaska rush gold prospectors of the 19th and 20th Centuries?
Or would they just be settlers and leave the mining to paid professionals who would accompañy them on the journey?
Second, although they are not telling, NASA knows that only a specialized selection of highly prepared crew of travelizers in science, engineering, agriculture, medical biology and behavioural psychology can make it into the Mars programme for it to succeed.
It´s higly unlikely that any Tom, Dick and Jane (who wouldn´t otherwise know one another), could make the long six-month voyage in such a cramped space without killing each other for real. Let alone colonize a planet from scratch with all that it entails.
So the psychological implications & perils of such a long voyage on such a small ship´s quarters filled with 100 or 200 “ordinary folk” making the extraordinary effort of colonizing a planet is a far greater challenge than the engineering dilemma.
And in the same subject, there´s the ever paramount sexual issue to consider. On the one hand, men are by nature more adventurous than women, so chances are that women would numerically represent less than a third of the space travelizers.
In places like Alaska or mountain expeditions, where women amount to appproximately 10-15% of the population, sexual tensions arise and territoriality (reptilian factor) situations set it, complicating even further the trip and the colonization efforts alone with intrigue and competition for the female gender.
If few women go, would they have to get involved with most men? Or, can only couples go? Or will sex be strictly outlawed altogether to avoid those problems? Since this is a human heterosexual issue, the same would apply equally to homosexual travelizers. We have seen with priests what happens when their sexual needs and desires are thwarted, they oftentimes thrive elsewhere with catastrophic consecuences.
In the case of current astronauts, most are married and they tend to be monogamous, however, their current missons last for a much lesser period of time than the Mars colonization requires.
Also, it has been shown that strong, unprotected UV exposure (as in a non-electromagnetic field), impairs proper brainwave function, so they will have to deal with that as well, as the ship will be heavliy bombarded with strong UV, gamma and x-rays. But let´s assume that the engineering side of things can take care of this one (and only of this one).
Objectively, pragmatically and strictly speaking, selection criteria for colonization (of anywhere) should be brutal with as little favoritism as possible: youth, intelligence, fitness, resourcefulness and fertility (for authentic colonization on a reproductive base), should be of paramount importance. Do the above requirements bode well with a hefty bank account to make the trip?
Rich people generally bode highly in narcissism and egoism (as their lives are made easier by receiving/having too much), which are not good traits for a cramped 6-month Mars trip, much less the colonization of it, as they must overcome cabin fever at all times and work equally hard as everyone else without the vanity or pride which usually accompanies the wealthy.
The Mars crews should be the most overall prepared (physiologically and psychologically) and the most proficient hands-on (in engineering, science, medicine, et al) humans in history to make it work, period.
Third, Musk says the trip would cost a mere $200,000 usd for a one way ticket (that´s just for the flight), provided that the ship´s full (more so if the ship´s less than full).
So that arises the question “why would non-millionaires pay so much from their own pockets for an extremely perilous journey?”. And what about the NASA/Spacex training, who will pay for that or how much will that cost?
Continuing the question of who would pay the cost of a decent suburbial house for a dangerous trip with highly uncertain results in which they have to do all the hard work?
If no doubt, only the healthiest (disease-free), fittest, strongest and smartest holder´s of the trip´s cost would be selected, and since older and less healthier people usually have more money than the younger and stronger ones, and the old ones are less risk-prone, how would they solve the problem of natural selection vs money holders?
It has been shown that as people age, they tend to have a little more money and less will for adventure, especially for extreme hazardous adventure. In fact, there is a gene for adventure and novelty and only about 1 in 4 (25%) of all people have it, it´s called the Dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4).
So only 1 in 4 would want to make the trip if they have the money and are not tied down (married, kids, mortgage, steady job, etc.)…but the USA will have close to 350 million people in 20 to 30 years, so statistically, getting a million people to go to Mars is possible (assuming that only US citizens are cleared with NASA and Spacex).
Fourth, there would be a need for exoplanetary police or military personnel of some kind and also special laws for guarding the interests and claims of the countries/nationalities represented by the travelizers; a set of mars citizenship laws or martian laws if you will.
And on the same page, legal interplanetary passport implications would have to be issued (from whom, a UN Galactic?).
Fifth, there would be a need for martian physicians too, since all kind of new illnesses would be the norm (anything from radiation exposure, to severe cabin fever, to bone and muscle diminishing and brain affections of all kinds).
Sixth, there would have to be a standard age distribution curve, thus, at what age should the travelizers be allowed to travel/colonize? Would they travel with their families? At $200,000 usd a seat each?
Seventh, the cost or martian living. If it is already unbearably costly on Earth, will they give out free land to colonizers so they could have immedeate escrow? Or would they have to pay for the land? Or would it be a “kibbutz” type of deal? Who would want to pay that much for owning nothing? That´s the problem with the so called “american way of life” and “american dream”, that they want to own things, since it´s Musk and the USA who are vying for this, they must look into it from an ideological perspective to establish a “martian way of life” to attract wannab travelizers.
Eighth, does Musk expect that Mars travelizers travel back and forth every 2 years for 6 months paying $200,000 per trip? Or he wants travelizersizers to stay for a very long time or never come back?
Ninth, on the biological side of things, how many Sieverts (Sv) of ionizing radiation would passengers receive whilst in transit to Mars and during their stay in the planet, in such a weak atmosphere and weaker electromagnetic field to protect the travelizers like the one on Earth, what are the allowances for that? What about martian healthcare? Who will pay for that?
Since in space travel, and because there is radiation in space because of solar wind and cosmic rays, NASA has the rule that in 10 years of service, an astronaut should not receive more radiation than would increase in 3% the probability of suffering a deadly cancer in the future.
Using this standard, NASA calculates the maximum amount of radiation an astronaut should receive in 10 years of service (based on rough estimates, without much statistics available): 5
Men of 25 years: 0.7 Sv; Women 25 years old: 0.4 Sv
Men 35 years old: 0.9 Sv; Female 35 years old: 0.6 Sv
Men of 45 years: 1,5 Sv; Female 45 years old: 0.9 Sv
Men of 55 years: 2.9 Sv; Women 55 years old: 1.6 Sv
How many years of service would 6 months (1 Earth-Mars trip) in space and a short 6- month stay in Mars represent in Sv?
How long would each individual stay be for?
Ninth, gravity and atmospheric pressure is much lower than on Earth by as much as two thirds, therefore, muscle and bone would weaken to the point of brittleness, so a long stay there even with lots of excercise and heavy physical workloads would be unsustainable for a long time in order to maintain proper health.
We have to remember that our genes were designed and effectively evolved to function on Earth with it´s caracteristics and not on Mars or elsewhere, so serious adaptations for sustained colonized life may be neeed to make this work.
Some astronauts have been reported to grow up to 4 inches in height due to ingravity, to which they shrink back when they return to Earth and it takes them a long time to recover fully from fatigue at normal gravity (9.81 m/s²) and pressure (14.7 psi).
Would all that be worth $200,000 usd just for the trip alone for a short stay? We have to consider that billionaires and millionaires would not be the only ones to apply. In any case, if the world´s economy continues as it is, there will be fewer rich people in 20 and 40 years from now.
Tenth is the overall cost (at least initially) of the all the survival supplies needed and for how long per each initial colonizer (medicines, food, crops, fertilizers, building materials, and misceleanous things), all that would be paid by whom?
My final and eleventh point is that Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote and said that it´s war drivers and economic reasons that make nations invest greatly on perlious travels and proyects (he mentioned Columbus being sponsored by Queen Elizabeth of Spain to become an empire and Kennedy and LBJ sponsoring the space programme for fears of Russia getting ahead of them militarily).
So, aside from Musk´s childhood dream of going to Mars (something he may realistically, personally never be able to do himself nor see it done by others in his lifetime), what is really driving this?
Also, I am assuming that Musk´s 1 million colonizer´s figure is consistent with the costs of the entire proyect and that´s how many people they need there for whatever it is that they will do there (appropiate, colonize, mine, agriculturalize, etc.).
The following Discovery Canada two part science-dramatization is extremely interesting as it covers realistic problem areas, with a special emphasis on the paramount Human Factor, and somewhat offsets the Zubrin docummentary of what can happen if the human factor is ignored:
For some reason, engineers and scientists downplay the vital human factor, which is really what can make any mission succeed or fail.
Finally, let´s not forget that Musk, as brilliant as he is, he is foremost, a shrewd billionaire-industrialist-business man.
This all reminds me of the 1981 Sean Connery movie Outland (and its implications):
I have talked about this with some people and read what many have remarked in many forums talking about this, and many think that with there being so much to do on Earth still like reducing CO² and CH4 emissions, solving the poverty and hunger problems, reforesting jungles and forests alike and so on and so forth and such like, colonizing a planet is clearly an economic driven factor to extract its contents (which only NASA really knows what they are), so it seems that as the age of the depleted Earth fossil fuels declines into the sunset, the race for depletion of exoplanetary ores begins into the sunrise, I suppose somebody has to do it, it might as well be Musk and Spacex.