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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mars on the cheap

Musk in 2015  (Photo by Steve Jurvetson)
With God, all things are possible.  With money, they might occur even faster.

Elon Musk specializes in transforming today’s impossibilities into tomorrow’s possibilities. He’s busy planning a self- sustaining [human] city on Mars,” but funding this venture seems “virtually impossible.”  Musk estimates that projected expenses would need to decrease “by five million percent.”

He boils this astronomical challenge down to “reusability,” and cites Southwest Airlines as an example.  If jet planes were not reusable, then one Southwest flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas could cost a passenger $500,000. Because that same expensive jet can be reused many times over, the ticket price is more like $43.

Refueling the aircraft is another key factor.  Southwest does this while planes are nestled on Mother Earth.  But when taking off far beyond “eight miles high,” fueling in orbit can cut costs by 500 percent. 

For return trips, Mars-produced propellants could work well.  Musk explains that this is because Mars “has a CO2 atmosphere, it has water-ice in the soil, and with H2O and CO2, you can produce methane (CH4) and oxygen (O2).”  


Copyright June 17, 2017 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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