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Richard Branson  (Source: thejanedough.com)
His spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic, is set to start making commercial flights in a year

Richard Branson is hoping to be one of the first humans to populate Mars as space travel enters an era of commercial flight.

Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines, discussed his future space plans for both his spaceflight company -- Virgin Galactic -- and his potential settlement on Mars.

Possibly in the next year, Virgin Galactic will lead the shift into commercial spaceflight, taking anyone who can pay $200,000 on a two-hour trip beyond Earth.

"It's going to be absolutely incredible because finally people...ordinary people will be able to have a chance to become astronauts, go into space," said Branson. "There are only 500 people who have ever been into space. They are the privileged astronauts...we just want to enable people to become astronauts and experience it."

He went on to say that "hundreds of thousands" of people will take part in the commercial space program. In fact, Branson and his children will be the first people on a Virgin Galactic flight next year.

Commercial spaceflight comes at a time when U.S. government space agency NASA has retired its space shuttle fleet and temporarily suspended a way for American astronauts to get to the International Space Station (except via Russian Soyuz rockets). This is where the private sector has stepped in, where companies like California-based SpaceX has since shipped its Dragon capsule to the ISS for the delivery of supplies. Virgin Galactic is another member of the private space sector, but it is focusing more on commercial flights that anyone can take.

Branson went on to describe the future of American spaceflight, saying that people will eventually settle on Mars -- and he hopes to be one of the first.

"In my lifetime, I'm determined to being apart of starting a population on Mars," said Branson. "I think it is absolutely realistic. It will happen."

Branson isn't alone in dreams of life on Mars. SpaceX is also developing a reusable orbital launch system that would make spaceflight affordable and permanent Mars settlement a reality.

Source: CBS News



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Reality Check
By Reclaimer77 on 9/21/2012 1:01:47 AM , Rating: -1
quote:
"In my lifetime, I'm determined to being apart of starting a population on Mars," said Branson. "I think it is absolutely realistic. It will happen."


Okay if we were talking about the Moon, that would at least be possible.

But right now, he just sounds plain NUTS. Colonizing Mars in his lifetime!? Just getting human beings even close to Mars would be a monumental achievement at this point.




RE: Reality Check
By gwem557 on 9/21/2012 2:53:29 AM , Rating: 5
Only monumental in terms of finding the public and political will to make it happen. We easily have the technology already. At it's closest, mars is what, 7 months away for current spacecraft?

Seed the route with unmanned cargo drones (even the old russian ones would work for this) that could be rendezvoused with for supplies, and the rest is just a matter of training and equipment. Getting them back would be more problematic, but why couldn't some of those drones carry fuel and what not?

No...I the only insurmountable problem I see right now is political will -- we're led by a government that has no problem throwing trillions away on a bunch of people that don't even want us around, while limiting NASA spending to mere tens of billions.


RE: Reality Check
By Fritzr on 9/21/2012 6:22:18 AM , Rating: 2
Branson is late to the party

Google "Mars Colony Project"

NASA (info not an actual project)
http://quest.nasa.gov/qna/research/marscolony.html

The Mars Homestead Project
http://marshome.org/

Mars One Project
http://mars-one.com/en/

Popular media articles about Mars One
http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-06/mars...

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2405162,00.as...


RE: Reality Check
By Strunf on 9/21/2012 7:43:58 AM , Rating: 3
Why would ANY government spend money to send people to Mars? what is there in Mars that could be sent back to earth to pay up all the costs of sending people there? If the whole point is to colonize some piece of land and claim for yourself, then there are dozens of places in our own planet that could be colonized for much cheaper, our Oceans represent almost 3/4 of the earth surface and there's almost no one living in them and what about the moon?

To me Mars should only be a possibility when we achieve a fully independent "green house" that could supply the people living there with all the Oxygen, Food and Water they need, even this we have not yet achived in our planet, then we should start colonizing the Moon (for it's natural resources) and then Mars.


RE: Reality Check
By ritualm on 9/21/2012 10:09:14 AM , Rating: 2
Because we're putting all our eggs in one basket - Earth. We have about 15-50 years before we'll know whether Apophis will present an ELE over everyone on this planet.

Why colonize Mars and beyond? If you want humanity to survive and prosper into the next century, you will do it regardless.


RE: Reality Check
By Jaybus on 9/24/2012 3:37:31 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that the only logical reason to colonize Mars is to prevent an ELE on Earth from extincting humans. However, there is no real reason to believe that it is possible for a Mars colony to survive indefinitely without resupply from Earth. The colonists would have to be able to manufacture, from Mars raw materials, every single part and piece of the colony. This is because the population (of humans AND the many other species of Earth life required for humans to exist) would have to expand from the small confines of a colony, else there would not be enough biodiversity for humans to survive long term. The only real hope, it seems, would be for humans to survive long enough to send a ship back to repopulate Earth after the ELE. We evolved on, and are extremely adapted to, Earth. It is not a given that we can survive long term anywhere else.


RE: Reality Check
By lightfoot on 9/21/2012 11:23:24 AM , Rating: 3
There is no reason in the world that colonizing Mars should be completely neglected just because we haven't colonized the Moon, or inhabited every last place on Earth.

We have more than enough resources to develop everything you stated as well as a plan for colonizing Mars at the same time. We might even develop technologies that may assist in the other endeavours.

Does the government need to be involved? No, but there is no reason that the private sector (like Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic) should be held back.


RE: Reality Check
By Strunf on 9/22/2012 9:50:49 AM , Rating: 1
"Does the government need to be involved? No, but there is no reason that the private sector (like Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic) should be held back."
What you don't see is that it's the government that pays most of the bill even for private companies.


RE: Reality Check
By przemo_li on 9/23/2012 6:24:58 AM , Rating: 2
Not for mars. But for ISS supply trips.

And if everything play correctly private sector will be able to provide cheaper solutions there.

Gov. on the other hand is not paying for mars trips. Moon maybe is on the road map (but for NASA trips, not turists trips). Mars is not. And if it will be, than it will be for NASA trips (or some interop between japan, eu, usa)


RE: Reality Check
By aliasfox on 9/21/2012 1:24:36 PM , Rating: 2
A pessimist looks at a goal and asks... why?

An optimist, an engineer, a scientist, an adventurer, a visionary... they all ask 'why not?'

Sometimes, without someone trying to advance us 3 steps at a time, the rest of us wouldn't be able to advance even one step at a time.

Take flight, for example. The Wright brothers had to take nascent ideas in aerodynamics, power to weight ratios, and a barely developed (let alone proven) engine, and turned them into something new. If we had all taken then one step at a time approach, waiting for internal combustion engines to become powerful enough or waiting for aerodynamics to become more developed, we may have had to wait a lot longer.

Maybe Virgin and SpaceX should team up - SpaceX sends fuel, food, and water along the route, and Virgin develops craft that jump along each one until they get to the Moon, Mars, or beyond...

As for a reason why... tourism, for one. No, the price won't be for everyone, but neither were first class suites on ocean liners.


RE: Reality Check
By Strunf on 9/22/2012 12:27:21 PM , Rating: 3
Your quite wrong if you think the Wright brothers just packed everything up and hoped for the best, they first developed their glider and later the propellers and engine to power it, true they didn't wait for others but they still went one step at a time. Bransom is like a Hollywood star that wants to be in the news all the time, why the heck you compare him to Wright brothers when I doubt he even invented anything, the engineers, scientists and others behind all of "his" achievements are non existent for the media.

Who's saying to wait? the fact is that to live on Mars you need to develop a self sustainable environment, this could be done down on earth or even on the moon for a fraction of the costs and with a lot less risks, going to Mars while still being dependent on earth it's for me not much of an achievement, any fool with enough money could probably make it alive to Mars today.

Tourism? it costs 200000$ to send someone 2h into space, how much do you think it would cost sending someone to Mars, chances are not even the richest people on the planet would do it, the moon however would attract just as much tourism at a more reasonable cost, and even a city entirely built under water would be something to visit at least the oceans have more things to see.


RE: Reality Check
By aliasfox on 9/24/2012 9:52:27 AM , Rating: 2
Of course they didn't pack everything and hope for the best, but their end goal wasn't to create the best kite or the best glider - they wanted powered flight. Yes, they needed a plan and engineering to take it one step at a time, but they had an end goal that was fantastic.

It costs $200,000 to send someone into space for two hours... today. You make the assumption that the price will never go down, that increases in scale and recovery of initial costs will never happen. Yes, it's expensive to hop into space, but it will come down within our lifetime - at which point I hope there's something else to take its place at the top of the ladder.


RE: Reality Check
By Jaybus on 9/24/2012 4:01:24 PM , Rating: 2
Leave out the scientist and engineer and I would agree. The scientist is not asking the question why or why not, but rather attempting to answer them. The engineer never asks why or why not, but rather asks how.


RE: Reality Check
By FaaR on 9/22/2012 6:30:29 AM , Rating: 1
You're too fixated on money, and cost. Money is merely an intellectual concept, which we humans invented, not an actual resource. There will always be money for anything, if we say there is.

Going to Mars is a worthwile project, if we want to ensure the future survival of mankind.


RE: Reality Check
By JKflipflop98 on 9/22/2012 6:55:41 AM , Rating: 3
It's amazing how many people can't understand the concept of an artificial social construct.


RE: Reality Check
By FaaR on 9/22/2012 7:41:29 AM , Rating: 1
And it's amazing how so many people on the internet take a smug, superior attitude without actually contributing anything at any time.


RE: Reality Check
By Strunf on 9/22/2012 9:36:05 AM , Rating: 2
You must be quite the pessimist if you truly believe mankind survival depends on Mars colonization.

As far as I know there is no immediate threat to life on earth, not at least for the next few thousands of years.


RE: Reality Check
By Sivar on 9/23/2012 11:07:19 AM , Rating: 2
Money is also a representation of real resources.
Printing money doesn't create resources. Literally printing money will cause inflation. Resources must be taken from one project to be given to another.
I am all for real human colonization of Mars and other planets, but pretending economics exits is not a good strategy.


RE: Reality Check
By Gondor on 9/21/2012 8:03:04 AM , Rating: 3
If I was given an opportunity to be the first human to walk on Mars I wouldn't care much about the return trip. Some things are simply worth the one-way ticket :)

I can't quite think of any other realistically achievable ones - my other huge wish is time travel for a significant duration of time, such as visiting medieval time era or ancient Romans or dinosaurs or perhaps even going 500 years into the future; all of these are much more unrealistic than landing a human on Mars, at least given our current technology.


RE: Reality Check
By NellyFromMA on 9/21/2012 9:01:53 AM , Rating: 1
It's a little more complicateed than just getting to Mars, dont' you think?

There's really no indication that Mars is even habitable by human beings without expensive equipment beings set up there.

It's a great goal, but the way you describe it makes it sounds like its a hop skip and jump away. It's a huge, expensive, and risky task.


RE: Reality Check
By ritualm on 9/21/2012 10:17:09 AM , Rating: 2
It's not that complicated. We have the technology and know-how to get there. We just don't have the political will to make it happen.

As it stands, nuclear-powered rocket propulsion remains off the table because of OMFG Not-In-My-BackYard sentiment and unwillingness to start Space Race 2.0. But the fact is, if you want to colonize anything past the Moon, you either go nuclear or go home. Your very own Voyager 1 probe is proof why nuclear is necessary. Damn thing is still running after 30 years, there is no reason why we can't do the same.

"It's a huge, expensive, and risky task."
That's right, great rewards are offered for people who take great risks, quitter.


RE: Reality Check
By NellyFromMA on 9/21/2012 10:33:50 AM , Rating: 2
Wow, first off didn't I say its a great goal? So where do you get off calling me a quitter. I'm just saying, your view is OVERLY ambitious and ignores the realities of the situation. There are many rweasons we aren't there yet, and its not JUST because of the poltical willpower.

Frankly, there are more important things. Next time maybe don't name call and we can actual have a discussion..

"That's right, great rewards are offered for people who take great risks, quitter. "
You know who else thinks that way? Crappy gamblers.

Food for thought.


RE: Reality Check
By ritualm on 9/21/2012 10:46:18 AM , Rating: 1
"There are many reasons we aren't there yet, and its not JUST because of the political willpower."

OVERLY ambitious? Google Apophis and then tell me if we shouldn't be OVERLY ambitious, quitter.

The fact that we don't want to colonize Mars and beyond by throwing around these BS arguments is proof we're getting too complacent and so risk-averse, we actually want to see our first human explorers and settlers return from those planets instead of going there without a return ticket.

USA wouldn't exist today if British settlers refuse to set sail for the New World without a return ticket.


RE: Reality Check
By NellyFromMA on 9/21/2012 12:50:59 PM , Rating: 2
wow, I've met some opinionated people and dealt with a few on here, but never someone viciouslly opinionated about colonozing another planet.

Once again, for you, I will re-state that going to Mars and perhaps colonizing it is a great goal.

Do I prioritize it above, oh I don't know, solving some problems on OUR planet? No.

Sorry if you disagree, I won't call you names for it. I can't quit something I haven't started.


RE: Reality Check
By aliasfox on 9/21/2012 2:29:48 PM , Rating: 2
We chose to go to the moon and do those other things not because they were easy, but because they were hard.

One year after we make it into space, the US set that goal for. Sixteen months between Alan Shepard going up and Kennedy telling us that we would make it to a destination 240,000 miles away. Not at some unknown point in the future, but by the end of the decade.

If you set large goals, you may end up with large achievements. If you set small goals, you will always end up with small achievements.

The human race hasn't achieved its greatest feats of advancement by setting small goals.


RE: Reality Check
By Ringold on 9/21/2012 8:22:35 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Do I prioritize it above, oh I don't know, solving some problems on OUR planet? No.


There will always be some poor people; no legislation can fix human nature, nor can the US dictate policy to the rest of the world.

There will always be human conflict; again, this goes back to human nature.

There's always going to be something wrong happening on Earth; that's no excuse not to multi-task, particularly when the R&D and infrastructure that gets built in the process has historically been beneficial, not to mention the scientific knowledge gained in the process. Considering we could double NASA's budget and it'd still be a rounding error on the federal budget's books, I don't see a problem.

Make me dictator for a day, and I'd quadruple it. Then I'd piss a lot of people off by forcing consolidation and thus closing probably 2/3 of NASA's far-flung facilities, but still, I'd quadruple it. At least.


RE: Reality Check
By Reclaimer77 on 9/22/2012 8:06:48 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Google Apophis and then tell me if we shouldn't be OVERLY ambitious, quitter.


I just saw this lol. First off Apophis isn't a global killer. Not nearly. If you believe we can colonize Mars today, then you should be equally confident we can destroy or prevent Apophis from hitting Earth entirely.

So you're optimistic about colonizing a planet completely inhospitable to humans, but are scared of a little rock two football fields long??

Colonizing the Moon and building a future staging area for deep space flights would be optimistic. What you propose is fantasy.

p.s Given that ships have to be designed around breaking Earth's orbit, and 90% of a ships fuel goes into doing just that, a Moon base first makes a LOT of sense. We cannot seriously tackle the task of setting up a colony on Mars if every launch takes place on Earth.


RE: Reality Check
By Ammohunt on 9/21/2012 10:13:52 AM , Rating: 2
Baby steps lets colonize the moon before we go to other planets. Franlky i think a manned mission to mars is a waste of time and resources a moon base first make the most sense then perhaps the asteroid belt.


RE: Reality Check
By Reclaimer77 on 9/21/2012 11:55:33 AM , Rating: 2
Okay you completely misunderstand me. I think it's a novel goal, eventually. Stating it's a reality NOW, today, in a middle aged persons lifetime is just impossible. Sorry but it just is.

He's not talking about making the trip, landing some humans, and coming back. He's talking the permanent colonization of Mars. Do you have any idea what that entails?

The Moon is the logical place for this to happen first. For many logical reasons. It's more stable and less harsh. There we could learn valuable lessons in food cultivation in alien environments, water and waste reclamation. Oxygen generation (a BIG one), etc etc. And you aren't 7 months away if something goes to hell and you need a rescue!

I'm not saying don't plan for it or whatever. I'm just saying lets be a little realistic. You make this task, colonizing Mars, seem like a trip down to the Quickie Mart and back. We couldn't even land that probe on Mars with 100% confidence!


RE: Reality Check
By lightfoot on 9/21/2012 12:52:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
He's not talking about making the trip, landing some humans, and coming back. He's talking the permanent colonization of Mars. Do you have any idea what that entails?

Actually permanent colonization is easier than returning from Mars.

Getting humans to Mars would almost definitely be a one-way trip. The only real question is do you want to make a serious effort at allowing those humans to survive or not. If you do, you are already talking about a permanent colony.


RE: Reality Check
By jRaskell on 9/21/2012 4:31:46 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Seed the route with unmanned cargo drones


And what route exactly are you going to seed? You do understand that both Earth and Mars are in constant orbit around our sun, and they are by no means synchronized orbits. The earth is traveling around our sun at over 100,000km/h. Mars is moving a bit slower at around 88,000km/h, but it has a much larger orbit. Any sort of crafts or caches that are launched with any significant periods of time between them would result in significantly different trajectories. Even a delay of 1 day between launches would mean the Earth alone would be 2.4 million km farther along it's orbit from one launch to the other.

You can't just seed caches at various stages of the trip. In order for any given cache to be at the right location on any give stage of the trip, it would have to be following a very specific trajectory, one that is in no way aligned with a manned craft trajectory towards Mars. Consequently, even if you could perfectly synchronize the trajectory of that cache to be at the exact location of the manned craft, the two would be going in different directions at very high speeds, and it would be completely impractical (if not impossible) for the manned craft to 'capture' the cache. The amount of fuel that would be required to synchronize the trajectory of the craft and the cache would negate (or, at the very least, significantly mitigate) the value of any supplies that cache would contain.

It would be far more practical just to launch a manned craft and however many supply craft would be necessary at virtually the same time, thus all on the same path, in the same vicinity of each other, with little to no maneuvering required to dock up with any supply craft.


RE: Reality Check
By Ringold on 9/21/2012 8:29:47 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
At it's closest, mars is what, 7 months away for current spacecraft?


7 months for current spacecraft?

Try 2-3 weeks with 1960's nuclear thermal rockets. Mars is right next door; like with so many other things, we let fear and environmentalist, anti-development, anti-human activists hold us back.


RE: Reality Check
By FaaR on 9/22/2012 7:39:07 AM , Rating: 2
Nothing wrong with being an environmentalist. The environment is what enables and sustains our entire existance. Never forget that.

Also never forget that not everything progress-related is good.


RE: Reality Check
By itzmec on 9/23/2012 4:25:11 PM , Rating: 2
those rockets never even left the ground did they?


RE: Reality Check
By delphinus100 on 9/21/2012 9:04:29 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
At it's closest, mars is what, 7 months away for current spacecraft? Seed the route with unmanned cargo drones...


Wait, wait. 'Seed the route?' Do you understand how stuff moves in space? This is not like water and coaling stations on the transcontinental railroad...


RE: Reality Check
By EricMartello on 9/23/2012 5:42:56 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
No...I the only insurmountable problem I see right now is political will -- we're led by a government that has no problem throwing trillions away on a bunch of people that don't even want us around, while limiting NASA spending to mere tens of billions.


I wouldn't rely on or expect the government to spearhead a mission to mars. The only reason we did the whole moon thing was to 1up the russians and show how great our technology is (even though a lot of it was repurposed nazi technology). If you want to see interplanetary exploration happen within the next decade or two it's going to be a private venture.


RE: Reality Check
By BifurcatedBoat on 9/21/2012 11:20:28 PM , Rating: 2
For this to be feasible, we need to deal with more than simply the spaceflight to move someone there. We basically need to terraform it.

It would probably have to start with some sort of bacteria, that would produce gases to warm the atmosphere, and also break down the rock into soil.

Once sufficiently warm, plants could be transplanted there that would effectively be able to convert the carbon dioxide that the atmosphere is currently made of into oxygen that humans and other animals can breathe.

I believe all of that is doable, but while Richard Branson can hope, I think that it happening in his lifetime is a bit unrealistic. Maybe in 200 years.


RE: Reality Check
By MZperX on 9/24/2012 12:47:23 PM , Rating: 2
You are talking about terraforming Mars which is a much more complex and diffcult task than colonizing it. We basically have zero technology, even in development phase, to Terraform another planet.

At least we have many proven working technologies, and some in early development, that are needed for long term colonization (various rocket propulsion methods, closed loop life support, hydroponics, ISRU, etc.). The kicker is that there are a few problems to which we don't even have good conceptual solutions that look feasible. For instance, technology to mitigate the effects of cosmic radiation during the trip and while on the surface. Another one is the long-term effect of micro-gravity and low gravity (bone density loss, muscle atrophy, etc.) I'm not saying there are no theoretical solutions, just nothing that looks feasible at this time based on cost, mass, or logistics issues.


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