I keep reading about SpaceX advancements toward the long-term goal, Mars colonization. Primarily, I read the excellent Wait But Why articles about the topic, which gave a not-so-technical version of Musk's plan.

However, it seems to me that there a lot of financial and technological leaps (mainly in the colonization part, not the travel itself) in their plan. Will they get enough money to build the gigantic rockets they're talking about now? Will they have enough technology to safely colonize Mars?

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    $\begingroup$ Well, at least they have a plan and an architecture that you can poke holes in. Unlike a large national space agency that will remain nameless. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Sep 30 '16 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ Don't blame NASA. Musk gets to decide for himself. NASA has to change directions with each new president and congress. $\endgroup$ – Ashlar Sep 30 '16 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ By the way, Musk never said it would be safe. Pretty much the opposite. Except that he is dismissive of the radiation risk, and rightly so in comparison. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Sep 30 '16 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ @MarkAdler Actually, it's quite understandable that colonizing (relativly) far-away planet is the government's top priority, I think most tax-payers would agree with that decision. $\endgroup$ – Gal A. Sep 30 '16 at 22:00
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    $\begingroup$ @GalA. I assume you meant to say "is not". $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Sep 30 '16 at 22:42

SpaceX is focused on the transportation angle, because frankly that's the easy part (funding aside). Elon has effectively said that other people will have to figure out the harder parts (power, air, water, food, waste recycling, psychological effects of living in a tin can for the rest of your life, etc.).

Thinking about it, though, I see a method in the madness.

As long as getting to Mars (or any other body) is too expensive or impractical for more than a couple of token manned missions, nobody's going to put much effort into researching long-term survival on the Martian surface. There's no point because we'd never go, not in any kind of numbers.

By presenting what looks like a workable, practical, and above all affordable (for suitably loose definitions of affordable) architecture for getting large numbers of people to Mars, SpaceX is providing an impetus for scaling up that kind of research. If you have someone who's serious about putting people on Mars in the next few decades and has the means to do it, then suddenly that research isn't quite such a career backwater.

The ITS is the kick in the pants necessary to shake loose some money for more research into the hard problems of living on another planet.

It may or may not work. The ITS may never get built. But it's an interesting approach.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why put the funding aside? That's exactly what I'm asking about. Also, saying "other people will figure a lot of the hard part of my plan" might work, but in this tight deadline? They plan to have people there in a few years, and there's very little research about it (unless I'm wrong) and plan about what they'll do there to colonize the dead planet. $\endgroup$ – Gal A. Sep 30 '16 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ @GalA.: I'm just saying that the technical issues appear to be tractable (IANARS, so "appears to be tractable" may mean different things to somebody with actual expertise in the field) . Of course funding is the long pole in the tent, but again, by presenting what appears to be an affordable architecture, Elon may have an easier time securing funding. Not from the US Government (which is too invested in SLS), but maybe other governments or NGOs. $\endgroup$ – John Bode Oct 1 '16 at 0:15
  • $\begingroup$ There might be little research on the topic, but right now there is a sealed container on the Antarctica testing the viability of food production off world. He may have figured out the easy stuff, but is alsoo the main bulk of the stuff. if everything work out with the same money spend on the ISS for crewrotation and maintence it would be possible to keep a space station with several hundred people on orbit full time. He made the first step, the rest are 'details', importante and absolutelly cant be ignored, but still details $\endgroup$ – OuNelson Mangela Oct 3 '17 at 8:34

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