Category Archives: Why We Must Settle Mars

NYTimes on Cultural Stagnation – Why the Americas Aren’t Speaking Italian…

“In 1315, when the Venetian city-state was at the height of its economic powers, the upper class acted to lock in its privileges, putting a formal stop to social mobility with the publication of the Libro d’Oro, or Book of Gold, an official register of the nobility. If you weren’t on it, you couldn’t join the ruling oligarchy.
The political shift, which had begun nearly two decades earlier, was so striking a change that the Venetians gave it a name: La Serrata, or the closure. It wasn’t long before the political Serrata became an economic one, too. Under the control of the oligarchs, Venice gradually cut off commercial opportunities for new entrants. Eventually, the colleganza was banned. The reigning elites were acting in their immediate self-interest, but in the longer term, La Serrata was the beginning of the end for them, and for Venetian prosperity more generally. By 1500, Venice’s population was smaller than it had been in 1330.”

(…also why we need to replace our income tax with an accumulated wealth/net worth tax:

International Day of the Girl

Important reasons for Mars settlement stem from the cultural change millions of people living on another planet will catalyze here on Earth – simply by the fact of their thriving as a robust vibrant civilization on Mars. Settlements will need to educate every person to their fullest potential. Anticipation of such a society through depictions in film, concept art, mission plans, business proposals, fiction writing, etc., reenforces progressive cultural change now, here on Earth.

"Settling Mars" | A Preview of the Upcoming Documentary

(we really need to STOP USING THE TERM “COLONIZE” – please!)

Also, it is important to note that without several decades of rudimentary, relatively easy terraforming, early settlements will not look like the image above. Surface solar and cosmic radiation will force early settlements underground (either buried beneath several meters of soil or tunneled into mountainsides).  Space activists favoring other destinations than Mars often deride such artists concepts as “fantasy”…the most realistic depictions of early settlements show only airlocks and telerobots on the surface, with cross-sections of extensive subsurface environments.  

What Would Zheng He Do? Mars to Stay

 Replica of Zheng He’s treasure ship in Nanjing’s Baochuan Shipyard. Courtesy of
In 1424, the Yongle Emperor died. His successor, the Hongxi Emperor (who reigned for only one year between 1424–1425), decided to stop Zheng He’s voyages. Zheng He traveled only once more during the reign of Hongxi’s son, the Xuande Emperor. After that final expedition the voyages of the Chinese treasure ship fleets were ended. Xuande believed his father’s decision to halt the voyages meritorious, and thus “there would be no need to make a detailed description of his grandfather’s sending Zheng He to the Western Oceans.” This, and the claim that the voyages “were contrary to the rules stipulated in the Huangming zuxun, Ancestral Injunctions of the August Ming, the royal founding documents laid down by the Hongwu Emperor…” led the conservative Mandarin Confucian bureaucracy to scuttle the entire 250 ship fleet – by far the largest of their time – and burn the shipyards. 
By the 1500s building a ship in China with more than two masts was punishable by death. Confucian bureaucrats feared an independent maritime merchant class empowered by exposure to new cultures and foreign technologies. In 1511 Portuguese ships sailed into Canton, China. 

The Speculative Film “1421: The Year China Discovered America” Part 1 of 2

The Speculative Film “1421: The Year China Discovered America” Part 2 of 2

SpaceX’s Founder Elon Musk’s Caltech Commencement Address

“A rapidly reusable transport system to Mars. It’s something right on the borderline of impossible. But, that’s the sort of the thing that we’re trying to achieve with SpaceX.”

From Elon Musk’s 2012 commencement address at Caltech: “What are some of the other problems that are likely to most affect the future of humanity? Not from the perspective, ‘what’s the best way to make money,’ which is okay, but, it was really ‘what do I think is going to most affect the future of humanity.’ The biggest terrestrial problem is sustainable energy. Production and consumption of energy in a sustainable manner. If we don’t solve that in this century, we’re in deep trouble. And the other thing I thought might affect humanity is the idea of making life multi-planetary.

“The latter is the basis for SpaceX and the former is the basis for Tesla and SolarCity. When I started SpaceX, initially, I thought that well, there’s no way one could start a rocket company. I wasn’t that crazy. But, then, I thought, well, what is a way to increase NASA’s budget? That was actually my initial goal. If we could do a low cost mission to Mars, Oasis, which would land with seeds in dehydrated nutrient gel, then hydrate them upon landing. We’d have a great photo of green plants with a red background [Laughter]. The public tends to respond to precedence and superlatives. This would be the first life on Mars and the furthest life had ever traveled.

“That would get people excited and increase NASA’s budget. But the financial outcome would be zero. Anything better would on the upside. So, I went to Russia three times to look at buying a refurbished ICBM… [Laughter] …because that was the best deal. [Laughter] And I can tell you it was very weird going late 2001-2002 to Russia and saying ‘I want to buy two of your biggest rockets, but you can keep the nukes.’ [Laughter] The nukes are a lot more. That was 10 years ago.

“They thought I was crazy, but, I did have money. [Laughter] So, that was okay. [Laughter] After making several trips to Russia, I came to the conclusion that, my initial impression was wrong about not enough will to explore and expand beyond earth and have a Mars base. That was wrong. There’s plenty of will, particularly in the United States. Because United States is the nation of explorers, people came here from other parts of the world. The United States is a distillation of the spirit of human exploration. If people think it’s impossible and it’s going to break the budget, they’re not going to do it.

“So, after my third trip, I said, okay, what we need to do already is try to solve the space transport problem and started SpaceX. This was against the advice of pretty much everyone I talked to. [Laughter]. One friend made me watch videos of rockets blowing up. [Laughter] He wasn’t far wrong. It was tough going there in the beginning. I never built anything physical. I never had a company that built something physical. So, I had to bring together the right team of people. We did all that, then, failed three times. It was tough, tough going.

There’s more to happen for humanity to become a multi-planet species. It’s vitally important. And I hope that some you have will participate in that at SpaceX or other companies. It’s really one of the most important things for the preservation and extension of consciousness. It’s worth noting that Earth has been around for 4 billion years, but civilization in terms of having writing is only about 10,000 years, and that’s being generous.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson: "Audacious Visions"

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
Antoine St. Exupery

Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Audacious Visions”:

Currently, NASA’s Mars science exploration budget is being decimated, we are not going back to the Moon, and plans for astronauts to visit Mars are delayed until the 2030s—on funding not yet allocated, overseen by a congress and president to be named later.

During the late 1950s through the early 1970s, every few weeks an article, cover story, or headline would extol the “city of tomorrow,” the “home of tomorrow,” the “transportation of tomorrow.” Despite such optimism, that period was one of the gloomiest in U.S. history, with a level of unrest not seen since the Civil War. The Cold War threatened total annihilation, a hot war killed a hundred servicemen each week, the civil rights movement played out in daily confrontations, and multiple assassinations and urban riots poisoned the landscape.

The only people doing much dreaming back then were scientists, engineers, and technologists. Their visions of tomorrow derive from their formal training as discoverers. And what inspired them was America’s bold and visible investment on the space frontier.

Exploration of the unknown might not strike everyone as a priority. Yet audacious visions have the power to alter mind-states—to change assumptions of what is possible. When a nation permits itself to dream big, those dreams pervade its citizens’ ambitions. They energize the electorate. During the Apollo era, you didn’t need government programs to convince people that doing science and engineering was good for the country. It was self-evident. And even those not formally trained in technical fields embraced what those fields meant for the collective national future.

For a while there, the United States led the world in nearly every metric of economic strength that mattered. Scientific and technological innovation is the engine of economic growth—a pattern that has been especially true since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.  That’s the climate out of which the New York World’s Fair emerged, with its iconic Unisphere—displaying three rings—evoking the three orbits of John Glenn in his Friendship 7 capsule.

During this age of space exploration, any jobs that went overseas were the kind nobody wanted anyway.  Those that stayed in this country were the consequence of persistent streams of innovation that could not be outsourced, because other nations could not compete at our level. In fact, most of the world’s nations stood awestruck by our accomplishments.

Let’s be honest with one anther.  We went to the Moon because we were at war with the Soviet Union. To think otherwise is delusion, leading some to suppose the only reason we’re not on Mars already is the absence of visionary leaders, or of political will, or of money. No. When you perceive your security to be at risk, money flows like rivers to protect us.

But there exists another driver of great ambitions, almost as potent as war. That’s the promise of wealth. Fully funded missions to Mars and beyond, commanded by astronauts who, today, are in middle school, would reboot America’s capacity to innovate as no other force in society can. What matters here are not spin-offs (although I could list a few: Accurate affordable Lasik surgery, Scratch resistant lenses, Cordless power tools, Tempurfoam, Cochlear implants, the drive to miniaturize of electronics…) but cultural shifts in how the electorate views the role of science and technology in our daily lives.

As the 1970s drew to a close, we stopped advancing a space frontier. The “tomorrow” articles faded. And we spent the next several decades coasting on the innovations conceived by earlier dreamers. They knew that seemingly impossible things were possible—the older among them had enabled, and the younger among them had witnessed the Apollo voyages to the Moon—the greatest adventure there ever was. If all you do is coast, eventually you slow down, while others catch up and pass you by.

All these piecemeal symptoms that we see and feel—the nation is going broke, it’s mired in debt, we don’t have as many scientists, jobs are going overseas—are not isolated problems. They’re part of the absence of ambition that consumes you when you stop having dreams. Space is a multidimensional enterprise that taps the frontiers of many disciplines: biology, chemistry, physics, astrophysics, geology, atmospherics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering. These classic subjects are the foundation of the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math—and they are all represented in the NASA portfolio.

Epic space adventures plant seeds of economic growth, because doing what’s never been done before is intellectually seductive (whether deemed practical or not), and innovation follows, just as day follows night. When you innovate, you lead the world, you keep your jobs, and concerns over tariffs and trade imbalances evaporate. The call for this adventure would echo loudly across society and down the educational pipeline.

At what cost? The spending portfolio of the United States currently allocates fifty times as much money to social programs and education than it does to NASA. The 2008 bank bailout of $750 billion was greater than all the money NASA had received in its half-century history; two years’ U.S. military spending exceeds it as well. Right now, NASA’s annual budget is half a penny on your tax dollar. For twice that—a penny on a dollar—we can transform the country from a sullen, dispirited nation, weary of economic struggle, to one where it has reclaimed its 20th century birthright to dream of tomorrow.

How much would you pay to “launch” our economy?

How much would you pay for the universe?