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Blog Series: Countering misconceptions in space journalism

As a lover of all things space I enjoy reading a wide variety of perspectives. The more different the origin, the more likely I am to learn something new! Even in articles which contain errors or elements of confusion, there’s still a good chance that I’ll encounter a new way of thinking about an issue. This is important. Space is hard, and it’s also hard to reason about. Humans often prefer reasoning by analogy, but with very few exceptions, reasoning by analogy in space is always wrong. So we need to find other ways to reason about space systems, architectures, … Continue reading Blog Series: Countering misconceptions in space journalism

Building the Mars Industrial Coalition

Part of my series on countering common misconceptions in space journalism. In popular representations of space exploration, space ship models often get a decal logo slapped on as a finishing touch. It could be the NASA worm or meatball, or product placement, or a fictional megacorporation. What these depictions miss is the harsh reality of developing new systems and actually putting them into production. Manufacturing is really really hard. JPL is quite good at Mars rovers now, and it still takes thousands of people years to build a single one! In this series I’ve talked at some length about Moon … Continue reading Building the Mars Industrial Coalition

Starting the Mars Base

Part of my series on countering common misconceptions in space journalism. This blog grew out of several fascinating discussions with Dr Margarita Marinova, a former SpaceX Senior Mars and Vehicle Systems Development Engineer who has also published several fascinating papers on terraforming. As all good conversations do, it began with a question: How to start out the city on Mars? I’ve written at length about working on Mars, Mars architecture, and Mars exploration systems. I’ve even written a book about industrializing Mars, which focuses on sustaining exponential growth of the city. But it’s still necessary to transition from Mars’ current … Continue reading Starting the Mars Base

A quick note on airships

It’s not called a Zeppelin unless it comes from the Zeppelin region of Germany, otherwise it’s just a sparkling airship. I have spent a lot of time writing about building cities on Mars , and I would like to reassure my readers that I have been thinking about other ways to more or less rapidly consume a fortune. Let’s talk about airships. Yes, they’re hulking behemoths with no real uses and a horrifying safety record. But aside from that, how would you like to get from place to place in a stately fashion? Why cram yourself into a COVID-infested tube … Continue reading A quick note on airships

The Program 2020

As in, Get With The Program, or Where the World Economy is Going. An update on my earlier post on the topic. Muscle power was the only source of mechanical work until the industrial revolution. Steam engines created copious mechanical power to operate pumps, mills, and vehicles that wasn’t derived from mammalian metabolism. From 1948 until 1973, world per capita energy consumption grew at 7% per year. 7% annual energy growth means billions of humans being lifted from the poverty of pre-industrial subsistence agriculture. Between 1973 and 2013, global investment in energy-intensive industry and commensurate growth of wealth was hampered … Continue reading The Program 2020

The big question: Why go to space at all?

Part of my series on countering common misconceptions in space journalism. To put it bluntly: Why? I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words about space exploration and humans living on Mars. I believe deeply in the value of this mission and have done so ever since a crafty Dr Zubrin himself thrust a paperback copy of “The Case for Mars” into my 9 year old mitts on an Australian book tour. Clearly a questionable influence! Personal conviction amongst a tiny minority, however, will only get us so far. Throughout history, space exploration has failed to attract even a weak majority … Continue reading The big question: Why go to space at all?

Mars exploration architecture comparison

Part of my series on misconceptions in space journalism. About a year ago I wrote a blog on lunar exploration architectures. Like the articles written since, I was motivated to convert my confusion and frustration on the subject into a more positive opportunity to explore and explain. The Mars exploration counterpart has been overdue. Like Lunar exploration concepts, there are many different approaches and I think it’s a fair starting point to assume that they are all locally optimal given their own set of (rarely explicitly articulated) assumptions and goals. This blog is a good faith exercise in reverse engineering … Continue reading Mars exploration architecture comparison

Even the dirt is poisonous!

Part of my series on countering misconceptions in space journalism. NASA’s incredible campaign of rovers and landers have taught us amazing things about the Martian environment. Just in my lifetime, the technocratic dream of building cities has become orders of magnitude more concrete, due in large part to our rapidly expanding knowledge. The human story is so central even to robotic exploration that scarcely a discovery goes by without a series of articles explaining how and why it might make building a city more or less difficult. Many of the blogs in this series riff on this theme. One of … Continue reading Even the dirt is poisonous!