Whether to build Elon Musk is a city on Mars?

The biggest problem of the exploration of the red planet radiation.

SpaceX expects by 2050 to create Mars colony of a million people. Sounds absurd: there are only 30 years old, and before the first flight to Mars is still many years. Some scientists, including Russia, believe the plans Ilona Mask “fantasy” and “propaganda.” However, by itself, the construction of a million-strong colony on the red planet is quite real. We will look at why, and why it’s so hard to believe the rest of the world, writes Naked science.

The space is very difficult, and good results there are only the best designers. The German designers headed by SS sturmbannführer Werner von Braun launched a rocket into space in 1944, and only 25 years later, the rocket of the same designer has put men on the moon. The Soviet Union was able to make its first orbital launch in 1957, but never landed people on the moon.

The United States after the resignation of von Braun in the space sector was on the beans: project space Shuttle, has been developed by the American designers, has brought the 14 victims of space flight is 3.5 times more than all other countries combined. But still cost a lot more expensive lunar program, although only fly at near-earth orbit. As a result, the Shuttle had to be abandoned, and while American astronauts go into space on Russian ships, whose ancestors flew back in the days of Queen, the rival of von Braun.

Million-strong colony on Mars is not the moon landing. The Musk believes it will have space to display 100 million tons of cargo per year. Mankind has made less than five thousand orbital launches in history, delivered in a space much less than 50 thousand tons over the last half century.

Musk wants a year to run thousands of times more than people ran for the entire space age. There are questions. Is it possible technically? Who will pay for Banquet? Is it possible to bring a million people to Mars healthy and make it a self-sufficient colony? Finally, the more important question: will you do it?

Can private company in the year to launch into space more than all of the space powers for half a century?

Today, all the players except SpaceX, fly into space on a fully disposable rockets with a payload of ordinary trucks. He made a hundred “Proton” — put into space a few thousand tons. Falcon 9 reuses of the first stage (70% of the cost of the rocket) three or four times. With him this equation works differently: he built the first 50 steps — introduced in the same space a couple of thousand tons.

But Falcon will soon turn ten years old, and for SpaceX, it’s quite old technology. Last year the company first got off the ground demonstrator Starship, the rockets and spacecraft (the second stage of the rocket, he is the ship), stainless steel. It uses never flown before methane rocket engine (Soviet prototypes-methane engines passed ground testing). CH4 is quite possible to get to Mars that solves the question of where to get fuel for the return flight to Earth.

More importantly, both stages are designed as reusable Starship. And not as the first stage of Falcon 9, but with persistence over 100 flights before preventive maintenance. Their General life cycle is conceived as below: with 20 years of service — with three flights a day.

It is theoretically attainable. Kerosene rocket engine Falcon 9 restricts reusability: the burning of kerosene leaves a lot of soot. Methane gas does not leave soot, so the engine Starship will really be more reusable.

Another problem of the Falcon was that reuse was only the first step. Rocket Mask tail, wasting fuel to land. If you save a second tier (~25% of the cost of the rocket), then both stages will spend so much fuel that output to the load space will be too small.

Starship solves the problem of the second stage due to the unprecedented in the history of cosmonautics braking circuit. His second step when entering the atmosphere will unfold belly and slow down the air on its wide side and not to fall to the Ground vertically like a crowbar. It really is a new move that allows you to use less fuel for braking.

A new device made from ordinary steel, which are welded (which is simpler riveting). Per unit mass new much cheaper than missiles of aluminum alloys. And do not on the dust-free Assembly lines for billions of dollars, as competitors, and conventional hangars. So Starship is going to be about like a regular rocket, although in the display space at the first stage will be able to 100 tons, and on the second, final — 150 tons.

Due to cheap materials and full of mnogorazovogo one flight Starship needs is two million dollars (coarseness: a couple of hundred million dollars of the cost of the system is divided into a hundred flying before the repair). Two million dollars for 100 tons, or two trillion for 100 million tons. That is as much as 100 million tons a year, according to calculations Mask, need for rapid deployment of large colonies on Mars.

Again: technically nothing unreal about it. Yes, Starship contains a lot of really new solutions — from full flow Raptor methane rocket engines to brake in the atmosphere belly. It has never been done before — and not even planned to do: both concepts emerged only in SpaceX. But the Raptor was already tested and showed its efficiency in flight, and in the inhibition of belly physically there is nothing unreal: thrusters allow such action in the Earth’s atmosphere.

To make a thousand Starship for 10 years, SpaceX plans can. Judging by the speed of the prototype phase, the use of welding instead of riveting is greatly speeds up work. Not even a very big company will be able to build hundreds of ships per year. Questions arise only to the economy of the process.

Two trillion a year? A native of Africa, has gone mad?

Neil Degrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist, has already spoken on this subject: he is skeptical. Only governments, he believes, can invest a lot of money to achieve commercially viable goals (as Mars doesn’t look commercially viable). Columbus, says Tyson, sailed on state money and not private investment.

We are not astronomers, and therefore know that Columbus lived in an era of the gold standard where the money supply was limited. United States in the twenty-first century has introduced the world into a new era where dollars can print a trillion a year (official data of the U.S. Federal reserve) and to have inflation lower than in Russia, where money is generally not published. This leads to the extremely low cost of capital in the West: in the current monetary conditions and Columbus would have found investors benefit because of the abundance of money they don’t know what to invest. We are two trillion dollars on missions to Mars to get real.

Remains the more important question: why? Yes, Mars one hundred and fifty million square kilometers of land, as on Earth, but it’s cold, there’s no air fit to breathe. Take a look at our planet: Russia is 17 million square kilometers, but 11 million of them — permafrost, so live there, three million people, and those only due to rare and valuable resources. On the red planet has no resources, which would have cost to bring here. What economic sense to invest in the development of a couple of trillion a year?

Oddly enough, there is meaning. In 1993 it was shown that Mars is quite possible to terraform an already existing technological level. The fact that the sensitivity of the climate to heat is very high: it is enough to raise the average temperature of this planet by four degrees to melt the CO2 from the polar caps and soil, after which the pressure there will rise sharply, and the average planetary temperature will rise to ground level (15 °C).

To raise the temperature four degrees is quite real “little blood”: on Mars, many compounds of sulfur and fluorine in the soil, and relatively inert sulfur hexafluoride (SF6 gas) as greenhouse 34 900 times more powerful than CO2. There are a number of other compounds with similar capabilities, which can be obtained on the red planet.

As concludes a scientific paper in 1993, the authors of which worked for NASA: “Over several decades of use of this approach, Mars can be terraformation from the current frozen state into a warm and slightly damp, are suitable to sustain life”. It should be clearly understood: this does not mean that people will be able to breathe in a few decades from the beginning of the terraforming process — oxygen is not accumulated in the local environment.

However, according to laboratory experiments, terrestrial organisms can photosynthesize under conditions of Equatorial Mars today, it would be a little bit of water (the streams of liquid salt water on the surface of this planet is). In warmer and humid conditions they will soon start to turn CO2 into oxygen, eventually leading the planet to the suitability of its atmosphere for breathing. It will take a century, during which people will be able to move around on Mars with just an oxygen machine (however, without a spacesuit — because of the increased atmospheric pressure).

People can walk on the planet without breathing apparatus — but in a confined space. Valles Marineris area of ten thousand square kilometers and a depth of more than ten kilometers can be covered with domes of aerogel protecting from ultraviolet radiation and transparent to visible light and excellent heat-trapping.

According to 2019, under the dome (thickness 20 mm) on Mars the temperature is quite earthly. Even a moderate amount of plants able to provide the population taken domes valleys with oxygen. By the way, terrestrial plants in the laboratory has already shown the ability to grow in the Martian soil composition.

Economically the property at 144 million square kilometers is expensive and can justify spending even two trillion per year (do not forget that in the US, the money from quantitative easing is not too scarce). However, the problem remains. Few people in human history is willing to invest in the project, all the cream which will manage to collect only through the centuries. Not the fact that the Mask actually succeed.

Then he expects? Earth’s history teaches us that governments for centuries, to invest huge funds without much of a net return, if you put them in competition with other governments, trying to hog the same long-term resource. This is especially true in the case of the US, which because of the specificity of the political structure is not able to effectively plan in space for more than eight years.

In the earth’s history there was a period when Spain, Portugal, France, England and all the other centuries put a monstrous tool in the war for the colonies and attempt to keep them. In sum, the economy of the first two collapsed. London and Paris have captured huge chunks of the earth’s land. But during the entire time of tenure, the ratio of GDP of England and of France GDP of Germany, which came late to the colonies, was markedly decreased.

The period of the most rapid growth of the English colonies (the 90s of the XIX century) coincided with the moment of overtaking its economy, a country without colonies (States), the same happened with France and Germany. In the end, the colony did not bring long-term reasonable return to any of those who had them.

It can be assumed that the Red planet could cause the same “prestige race” between the earthly powers. In the coming years, the Starship will be in space, and then Washington will face a choice: or to invest in the Martian race by yourself, or to give to invest to the Chinese.

If the Mask will be able to create a system that delivers space 100 tons for two million dollars — 20 dollars per kilogram — the race for the exploration of the red planet almost predetermined. China is able to think in terms of huge investment in the future, with dedication for hundreds of years, and have repeatedly shown this. The size of its GDP allow you to keep afloat such a project, even if the U.S. government doesn’t want that.

It is possible that in Beijing, this has already been thought of. Could this be the reason that Tesla, the brainchild of another Mask, the only non-Chinese company granted the right to full ownership of its plant in China?

But do the people on Mars will not die from radiation?

Doctor of physical and mathematical Sciences Igor Mitrofanov, not so long ago said that the biggest problem Mars exploration — radiation. And it’s not the radiation on the surface of the planet — from him to hide in subsurface shelters, or just sprinkle the residential units the ground. More dangerous dose that the crew will get a few months the way to Mars.

“It is impossible to go, it would be contrary to, relatively speaking, norms of labor protection, because it is not the military situation, to send people to such risks simply will not allow anyone. If the Musk will send the people and their relatives will be able to sue him in court”, — says the scientist.

From the words refer to the figures. NASA specifically for the astronauts on the ISS is considered the norm, everything that is not above 0.5 SV per year is equal to the numbers of “Roscosmos”. During the mission’s Curiosity Rover to Mars (180 days) instruments on Board the spacecraft measured the cosmic radiation. According to the data obtained, the astronauts on the space Rover over half way would get of 0.33 SV. On the surface of the red planet the same, the Rover recorded of 0.23 SV per year.

That is, the average annual radiation while travelling to Mars and staying there is of the order of 0.45 SV per year, 10% below the standards as “Roskosmos” and NASA. Recall: to die with a probability of 50%, you have a few hours to 4-5 SV. If not a single exposure, and chronic, the person is experiencing even very high doses: albert Stevens, on which steeply such an experiment in the United States, had lived for 21 years, receiving 3 of a sievert annually (a total of 63 sievert). Doctors failed to find a sign of health problems, he died at 79 years old.

The total amount of radiation that NASA considers acceptable for men — 1.5 SV (under 25 years), 2.5 — to 35-year-old, a 3.25 — to 45-year-old and 4.0 SV for 55 years. That is, even unrealistic young astronaut can spend on Mars a couple of years already under existing regulations, a 35-year-old without any problems from the radiation can work there for four years. All this without mentioning the fact that the real colonists on the fourth planet will be the third time where the radiation will not reach.

It is easy to see why Igor Mitrofanov limited to generalities and did not result in specific numbers: so, it is possible to go and none of it will not be judged.

What is the reason why the thesis of the radiation so often POPs up in the speeches of sceptics Martian colonization? Here we should recall the General situation in the global space industry. What will happen after the beginning of flights of the Starship? One hundred and fifty thousand employees of “Roscosmos” will be under serious psychological pressure. Turns out that the company, which is 20 years, with 20 times fewer employees and even less than the “Roscosmos” the funds were able to create something that delivers cargo into orbit much cheaper than the Russian rocket.

In 1957, the Soviet space success has caused in the U.S. “Sputnik shock” (in the headlines of Western Newspapers Sputnik “threatened the free world”). It wasn’t just in that space a success difficult to separate from the military, but also in the fact that the fact that scientific and technological superiority

In this situation, what remains to do for those who are concerned with the “Rosatom”? Right: trying to show that SpaceX plans still do not need and incorrect. Something all around saw a few years ago, at a time when Russian experts unanimously doubted the possibilities of the Mask to return to Earth as the first stage of Falcon.

And we’ll see it again and again: the first flight of a Starship, they first circled the moon, the first flight to Mars — all this will take place in the absence of Russia has anything comparable to the new host. Expect a stream of negative PR from the domestic scientists and engineers in the direction of SpaceX.

However, the same we will see on the other side of the ocean: NASA morally, too, will be at the bottom in case of success of the program Starship. Disposable SLS, which the Agency is developing for many years, plan to run a half billion dollars per flight — in the tens or even hundreds of times more expensive Starship. NASA now says that the plans Mask too bold. And that the radiation on the way to Mars high, why it is dangerous to go there — but, tellingly, the Agency’s experts never called a specific level of radiation.

NASA are sitting pretty, but dorky people, so they do not know that in the era of SAI hub of scientific work based on data from nasovskogo of the Rover, available to anyone interested. So childish propaganda “on Mars is still impossible to send people” not working and will not work. As we can see in relation to SpaceX Western and Russian Roskosmos one. Therefore, the position Mitrofanova quite logical and understandable.

A colony on Mars will be — although we don’t believe in a million people by 2050

Definitely, bring Starship, which only this year is planning the first flight into space will be expensive and difficult. But the experience of working on the Falcon where SpaceX has shown itself most rapidly developing in terms of technology, player in space market — to make sure that it is real. In the first half of the 2020s Starship is ready to fly, and by 2030, people really can for the first time to go to Mars.

We strongly doubt that by 2050 the fourth planet will be a colony of a million people. To start the process of terraforming needs a lot less people but the cost of a crowded settlement will be considerably higher. However there will be many thousand people. Now it seems unrealistic only because our existing means of space flight is technically reminiscent of the caravels of Columbus. But you should always remember that they from the appearance of a huge ocean-going Galleons were a matter of decades.