What's missing to get humans to Mars? - Orbit 11.28


:slight_smile: I was unable to watch this one live, so I checked the recorded/posted version. By accident I left my VPN running, so YouTube apparently thought I was coming in from another country, and blocked me from watching, displaying a copyright-infringement complaint by Red Bull. After some thought (eg: did Jared wear his Red Bull t-shirt this episode?), I disabled VPN and everything went well.


Love this thread.

On the subject of risk I will share some historical facts for our consideration

Ferdinand Magellan left Spain with 5 ships and approx 260 sailors. 3 years later, 1 ship returned and 232 of the people died. Tangent factoid is that another of the ships did return to Spain after a mutiny along the Atlantic coast of South America. Few if any remember the death or lost ships, but the name Magellan is famous even though he never completed the journey! Elcano did.

Vasco DeGama left the EU with 4 ships and 170 men. 2 years later, 2 of the ships returned with a total of 55 sailors.

Exploration is dangerous

Lets hope the space death rates are lower than our historic European explorers were


We all have heard about transforming Mars with a magnetic field at the L1 stable orbit. The aim being to protect from radiation and atmosphere loss…

Why don’t we try something simple like this… ? VLF shield

Shouldn’t be hard to make some VLF generators and stick them somewhere and zap them into space…they could try various frequencies and directions … and see how it goes…we don’t even need full protection like earth (anything better would be good !)… and once the loss of atmosphere is stopped we can be sure any other efforts(melting ice, co2 .etc… ) wont be in vain… we may even be able to reverse it and start gaining atmosphere !! then Terraforming would be on the way ! … Time stamp this! You heard this here first !! :slight_smile:


Ok lets all lobby for more VLF space and power for Radio HAMS around the world … cos we rock at filling whatever space we have … want me to take a VLF set to MARs L1 and sit there I’m game best DX i will ever work :stuck_out_tongue:


:smile: I am not saying we need to stick it at Mars L1, I am saying all we need is a “Radio M.A,R.S” station at the colony landing site, transmitting with as much power as possible during the daylight hours (facing the sun :sunny: ).

Someone can work as a DJ on Mars ! :slight_smile:

I have been reading up on this… It may not work on Mars but I think its worth trying. Who knows, our satellites zapping radar at the surface and transmitting data back to earth may have already started the process :slight_smile:


humm most of that would be UHF and up likely microwave for radar. Not sure what deep space network runs at sure a google will illumanate me.


there we go This PDF shows 2GHz and up so way past VLF :frowning: I would think VLF sats while i suppose possible wouldn’t be as easy as you would think due to the large antenna sizes required for resonance. Ground base units with wire antennas might be the way to go. Also with ground stations it would be easier to build arrays to get E.R.P. up and reduce the amount of amplification needed therefore saving loads on components and making it easier to suppress unwanted harmonics before hitting the antenna system. The draw back of ground stations is you have to deal with any ionisation of the atmoshere. Not sure if Mars atmoshere would charge up like ours but if it does it could be possible most of the RF is bounced around instead of hitting space. I suppose that could be part of the mechanics of this anyhow. But thats just the humble opinion of an amateur radio geek :smiley:. I will hunt for the paper tomorrow and have a read. This has peaked my interest. however at 03:05 BST (yes @Bencredible I pay attention) my brain is starting to malfuction and melt with all this damn heat over here!


Ground based VLF station is what I meant… It doesn’t really need to send anything… white noise would be just as effective I am sure… but since we are already transmitting VLF why not sends some music…

Something like this ?

Seems we have dozens of these … all over the world.

PS: I guess at 300 bits per second we wont be getting much music LOL! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Yeah the bit rate sucks. Most Hams send CW (Morse) Only on anything below 1.8Mhz. This is also due to the bands allowed down that low being small CW is the most space saving. CCW (Computer Genrated) hit 100 words per min. Most hand sent is 5-60 … i struggle with 5 and dont have room for an HF antenna at home let alone LF or VLF :frowning: But as CW is basiclly just listening slightly off the TX frequency so the Carrier Wave causes a ‘whistle’ in your reciver then just leaving the carrier ON would indeed work. However such TX power as the VLF station mention i expect they are tubes and seriously cooled … Cooling not such an issue on mars I know but i expect the final and mid RF amp stages produce serious heat. Hell my solid state 100W station the finals will over heat and crack (good 400 or more centigrade) In seconds without the fans. a 1KW tube amp requires huge fans. We would be looking at serious weight to get a system like that into space. That said if/when BFR comes online and whatever comes after mass might well matter less. A VLF dish would be most likely out of the question but some sort of wire array to get effective radiated power up (basically make the signal directional) would make little diffence to total emission as you still only have a set amount of power going in and that pesky conservation of energy stuff comes into play (dang it) It would be intresting to find out just how much total energy is emitted world wide in the VLF Bands but i can’t think of a way of doing that cos i expect most goverments wont fess up to what parts of the bands and what powers they are running (Something about not being jammed … Pesky Govenment). So i suppose if directivity helps (i.e in line or perpendicular to the equator) to add to the effect arrays of wire weigh very little supports for said wire bit more but i know there has been work going into Near vertical incidence skywave (NVIS) by both the miltary and Hams on and around 5MHz. My friends antenna being a rectangle loop antena handily using his garden fence to hold it off the ground (Do Martians need 6ft Fence panels???) and has been quite effective. SO basically lots of ‘small’ stations (nothing at VLF is truely small) or sevral Big stations i think the problem is still Mass :frowning: (Do you think Picard would lend us the Enterprise and a transporter?). While this idea may well be a feasable step towards a future Terraforming of Mars with a breathable atmoshpere i don’t see it as a near time goal. There have been ideas floated about creating a false Megnetic Field for ships on the way to Mars to help with radiation … to copy Earths … Short of some sort of Massive (and read heavy) Permenant magnet it is going to have to be electromagnetic in nature … read AC/Radio/SERIOUS DC all of which have risks for starters lots of heat … maybe help keep the craft warm? AC/Radio powerful enough is going to get into other electronics no matter how well you think you shield them tahat close it’ll find a way. Not to metention the problems of pepole near high power RF … Microwaved astronaughts anyone? and at DC you would be looking at very high voltages therefore the potential for high currents and all that nasty death stuff (less than 1Amp at 12V DC could be enough to kill if taken across the heart say from hand to hand) While i guess space craft use DC (what would be the point of converting all your DC from the panels to AC and loosing power in the process). Sorry for the long post can i please now have my WTF PHD from TMRO.


I am sure we can make it on Mars without taking too much there… there are lots of Metals in the soil… may take a few years to start but it will be much cheaper and easier and infinitely more doable than a huge and powerful magnetic field generator at the Mars L1 !!

There is actually a list out there of all the VLF transmitters and i think they may include the power, I think it was 1-2 megawatts each. So a total of maybe 200-400 Megawatts total?


I think it isn’t strictly necessary.

Go there.
Build factories.
Be the asteroid processing and manufacturing center of the solar system pumping out useful gases to thicken the atmosphere.
Enjoy Mars now with atmosphere thick enough to be outside without a pressure suit and even grow some things.
Continue enjoying for a few Hundred Thousand years… before the striping away of the atmosphere by the sun becomes a concern that has to be dealt with.

By then we probably will have the infrastructure and technology to truly solve the issue…

I’m not saying don’t attempt to solve the issue before that point… just that the issue isn’t a high priority that has to be solved before we go the first time… or before we have thousands living there… or even before we terraform it.

The most pressing issues are as I see them: Lowering the cost of getting large amounts of Mass to Mars and Utilizing resources found on Mars to become self sufficient. Everything else has long histories of functional solutions with best practices well established… radiation shielding, life support, psychology of isolated explorers… we know how to do these things. They aren’t barriers.


Of coarse it is not top priority :slight_smile: we don’t even know if we can sustain a colony for 20 years :slight_smile:
Wait till we have 3 or 4 “villages” spread across the globe and can spare a few dozen Megawatts of energy before we do it :slight_smile:


Agreed. :grin: didn’t know there were similes.


:tada: :tokyo_tower: :rocket: :flying_saucer: :flying_saucer:


Whats Missing to get humans to Mars?

The desperation that we may only have 150 years left to live on earth before it turns into an unlivable hell like Venus.
The tipping point for Global warming may have happened already… we are just frogs sitting in a pot of water with the stove lit beneath us. The hottest days are getting hotter… but we forget about them as soon as the cool days arrive not realizing that the cool days are warmer…

The ice in the Arctic and Antarctic are melting at an EXPONENTIAL rate. We will be all too busy evacuating our coastal cities to do any thing about the environment when the seas start to rise… The sea will stop providing food and health but instead start producing poisonous gases.

We may indeed be at the start of the great filter. We may only have 10-20 years with the means to survive this. Soon we will be “fighting fires” from all fronts (temp, food, relocation, wars, financial crashes, social unrest, etc etc…) and we wont have time to mount a concerted effort to Fix poor earth.

The End.

Is this the Musk Nightmares that is driving him?


I dearly hope we aren’t beyond the point of no return. What I truely can’t belive is that pepole and govenments are still willing to belive it’s not happening. We definatly need to be looking at all options. The amount of damage we have done to our one and only livable planet since the industrial revoloution is staggering … now we need to put the same effort into fixing it. Lets hope Mars and Lunar colonies are and stay as the final backup plan and don’t have to become plan A. At plan A point there are going to be bussiness men a polititians demanding rides with thier money earnt whilst denining the problem was coming … I hope that they get turned away … but expect as useual money will do the talking and decsion making. Whilst visiting mars even if for 3 year missions is definatly in our nearish future how long before we can truely think of it as an ark? if we all left now how long for the earth to recover? theres lots of big questions i’m sure brighter people than me are working on the answers to.


Global warming is an important-ish factor in setting up a colony off-earth.

But… there’s very few things humans can do to turn earth less habitable than Mars or Venus.

Even in the feedback loops are increasing in power (polar ice caps melting, permafrost releasing a humongous amount of methane, ocean acidification, …) the earth would still be a more hospitable place to live than Mars in the next few millenia at least.

Even if we had a global thermonuclear war, earth would still be a more hospitable place to live, for the few that survive.

Water would still be present in practically unlimited amounts and easily accessible (unlike Mars), we’d still have a magnetosphere shielding us from solar storms and cosmic radiation (unlike Mars), and an atmosphere, albeit somewhat changed in composition, to give us breathable, or nearly-so, air, and protection from speedy space rocks coming our way (unlike Mars).

Earth will bounce back in a jiffy (speaking in geological time scales). It has seen worse.
We won’t.

What would be lost (apart from billions of lives), and possibly for good, is our technological civilization. The basis of which were easily reachable high energy fuels like coal and especially oil. Peak oil is not significant in the sense that there’s no more oil to extract. There’s lots of it. But it’s immensely harder to get to than 150, 100, or even 50 years ago. Rebuilding without having access to these energy stepping stones could well be impossible. Or at the very least take much much much longer.

A self-sustaining Mars colony as soon as possible would be a good idea just because in this particular point in time, we’re actually not too far off technologically to be able to do it. But there’s no guarantee this state of affairs will improve, or continue indefinitely (see - wars, climate change, wars over climate change, big speedy DARK rock from outer space, etc…).

Just my 2 euro ¢ :wink:


Thinking through these bad scenarios and how to resolve them I realized that (probably by design)
Musk’s activities seem to resolve or mitigates most of the Biggest threats or to blunt the worst of them. For example.

  1. If earth is no longer livable due to Global warming : Base on mars and moon, Space infrastructure building to evacuate as many as possible.

  2. Since we will have some time (a dozen years) from the time its globally recognized as an issue, : Space infrastructure could be in place to make huge space mirrors to shade the earth to slow down or reverse the effect.

  3. Since the governments are not going to do anything about global warming. he has set up the Electric vehicle industry to remove one of the biggest contributor to Green house gases. which should at least slow down the accelerating Global warming.

  4. at worst case to survive the extreme surface temperatures (Consider the earth temps reaching boiling point and boiling off the seas, Note we are planing to increase Mars temperatures by the SAME AMOUNT to make it a new earth by injecting global warming gases there ! )… he is making Boring machines which could possibly build underground cities on earth if absolutely needed.

  5. Underground cities will save humans from many astrological threats eg Meteor strikes, Gamma ray bursts, even a close buy super nova that would scorch the surface of all life and evaporate the oceans. maybe we should be building underground cities now as fervently and planning mars missions…!!

Not sure if its by design but the coincidences of issues and their solutions to what Elon Musk has instigated seems clear.


I like the fact that you aren’t talking about using a tether. Tethers only work when nothing inside is moving about. I’m not sure that even end to end (using the refueling docking mechanisms) would position the habitable portions far enough away from center for a full 1G without creating problems from spinning too fast, but any gravity is better than no gravity.


Yeah, tethering doesn’t work. It provides the necessary tension forces, but not the compression and torsion forces. When you spin buckets of water, the water quickly settles down and doesn’t randomly attempt to move about the cabin. Humans do. Unfortunately, artificial gravity requires rigid attachments.