We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Manned Mission To Mars

Macro level technological progress has been stagnating for a few decades now. This causes mood dampening among large swaths of the population as people see a sharp contrast between small and large tech developments. The global human herd needs a psychological and social uplift in the form of putting one of the homo sapiens onto a planetary neighbor, Mars.

Such an achievement will speak well of development in cultural and political prioritization. Hundreds of millions of world's children also need an additional, inspirational, and visible developmental journey (besides small gadget fetishism and architecture) to nudge them towards the fields of engineering and science. Otherwise, we'll lose another talented generation to temptation of crime and gambling (financial sector), murder (exotic next-gen weapons sector), and professional lying/snake oil sales (marketing).

The mission summary

We currently have good satellites circling Mars to find the perfect landing spot. It should be within a flat geological depression to provide protection against the winds (and corresponding abrasion from blowing sand). The area of course would be at the optimal climate point and hopefully have diversity of minerals to augment the sent equipment. The landing spot must first see an arrival of a number of robotic supply landing modules (each sent twice-thrice to prevent mission delay from loss of one). This means that when the human team actually lands, they will be within short walking/driving distance of 10-20 supply/building material sheds. Economies of scale (and corresponding resource cost reduction) should be definitely utilized when manufacturing the landing craft. Some materials within the sheds can perhaps also be constructed with a degree of dual use functioning in mind (so if 2 food farm craft blow up on entry, the transport equipment could serve as farming equipment at the cost of reducing scientific scouting missions).
Explosives, cutting tools should be provided to create an additional protective crater which would serve as a sort of a large "basement" for the hardened small biodome vegetable garden to feed the explorers. A fission reactor would be essential as an energy backbone of the operation and of course be supplemented by solar. The fission reactor module should have track attachments so it can be moved where desired. The same tracks can be utilized to bring the other landed modules closer to the home base. The earth and rock from the basement crater are to be utilized as bricks to build a protective wall around the biodome/research lab.

The manned mission should involve at least 2-3 manned vehicles to continue the mission in case 1 is tragically lost and to expand the settlement in the best case scenario of each robotic module arriving safely. The settlement itself utilizes the maximum amount of nano-infused cutting edge hardened materials to reduce wind and environmental damage. This would provide the base the longevity to serve as a ready to use nucleus for additional future missions and expansions. The mission design would provide tools to prepare and make use of potentially unusual quantities of accumulating sand in the area (to further fortify the base). Mission strategists will conceptualize ways to turn any major crisis into an opportunity for augmentation. We can't forget about robotic helpers toiling on the surface and reducing the caloric/oxygen burn of their human companions.

The mission itself will end up looking not just like a beefed up version of the lunar mission but a major leap (no pun intended) forward, quantitatively and qualitatively. A uniquely 21st century global enterprise.

Addressing stupid objections:

I would like to start with a quote about the benefits of the space program:

"It has been conservatively estimated by U.S. space experts that for every dollar the U.S. spends on Research and Development in the US Space Program, it receives $7 back in the form of corporate and personal income taxes from increased jobs and economic growth."

I have seen estimates that put the number even higher. This means that even within the current parasitic monetarist price system, engaging in space exploration holds tangible financial, technological, social, and scientific rewards (as well as less tangible psychological and spiritual ones).

"But what about all the infrastructural development we need to do on earth!!?? Waahhhh!! Lets take care of this first!!"

Shut up. Obviously we need to develop energy, water, food, transport, and shelter infrastructure but at the same time the space program provides a solid way and reason to push the boundaries of known engineering. Here is another quote from a previous article about how the public may respond to anything that benefits them in the long term:

""But.. but.. Colonizing the Western hemisphere is too expensive!! Colonizing Siberia is too expensive!! Erie canal is too expensive!! Suez and Panama canals are too expensive! Transcontinental and TransSiberian railroads are too expensive! Hoover dam is too expensive!! Man on the moon is too expensive! We want to live in cheap mud huts! Public education for all is too.. blah blah blah"

Such luddite human traitors always get silenced when their children are enjoying a brand new civilization (that grew out of seeds that turned out to be relatively cheap in the long term).""

Indeed. We have 7 billion monkeys on this planet and we can expand our efforts in parallel like never before. Think about how much infrastructure was built in 20th century compared to the 19th. That's right. The 21st century can do the same to the 20th. We can colonize the moon and Mars, terraform large swaths of the Earth to support life and agriculture, and integrate all of this with fast transport and energy feeds.
The spine of the Eurasian center of planetary political force for the foreseeable future (Berlin-Moscow-Beijing axis) has an excellent opportunity coming up to scoop up thousands of Anglo scientists. Decline of the Wall Street-City of London-Washington DC power triangle poses a danger. Many next generation weapons and space scientists will soon find themselves out on the street and losing valuable skills and experience. Eurasia should scoop them up and make use of their talents to expand humanity's reach towards the stars.

"The cost!!! What's the cost in fiat currency!!!??? This will ruin us all!!"

Once again, shut up. The amount of fiat money borrowed and printed to engage in years long occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq could have built a space lunar settlement, a helium 3 mining complex, AND sent half a dozen missions to Mars. The cost of initial cruise missile blasts against Libya was enough for a solid scientific exploration satellite cluster. People complaining about the cost of space exploration tend to be either physiologically emotional types without any knack/admiration for engineering and science OR rabid free market zealots without any knack for what human progress actually means.

Technology, technology, and more macro level technology. Space exploration is the technological tip of the spear when it comes to macro level tech development (macro level tech development has been stagnating ever since inflationary fiat capitalism ran out of steam in the late 1960s).

Who will be the Christopher Columbus of the 21st century? Which international cluster of societies will produce one? Let's find out.

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