Outward Bound, To Mars | HuffPost

 In Science

“Ecology and technology find a unity in space. … As long as there is a safety valve of unexplored frontiers, then the creative, the aggressive, the exploitive urges of human beings can be channeled into long term possibilities and benefits. But if those frontiers close down and people begin to turn in upon themselves, that jeopardizes the democratic fabric.”

Space Day — California Museum of Science and Industry, Los Angeles

Another weekend, another set of Trump outrages.

Dissing his secretary of state for beginning back channel contacts with North Korea. As if Trump’s own sophomoric provocations have been anything but dramatically counter-productive.

Attacking Puerto Ricans upset about being left without power and comms, reduced to drinking creek water when they can get it, following the third historically powerful hurricane to strike American territory in the past several weeks.

Hey, what else would one expect of a climate change denier who began his political career on an overtly racist platform?

And then last night … some white gun nut/retired accountant shoots hundreds of people at a country music show in Vegas. Madness. In a semi-deranged culture.

There is still a pretty good chance that America will survive the Joker presidency of the mad hatter DJ Trump. But let’s not kid ourselves that he is simply an anomaly. If anything, he is a symptom.

Only a profoundly unhealthy society would allow such an obviously erratic megalomaniac within hailing distance of winning the White House, much less actually elect him

And, despite his shrewd showmanship, the opposition party had to be pretty dysfunctional to allow Trump to pick up the votes of some who had earlier voted for Barack Obama.

Sure enough, Hillary and Bill Clinton and their strategists ran a presidential campaign, quite amazingly, which dropped state polling in favor of trendy across-the-board “analytics” which confirmed their fallacious bias that a demographic coalition which on a national level is still unique to Obama — hence the appellation “Obama coalition” — would turn out for a much older white establishmentarian.

I wrote the week before the election that Clinton was in big trouble in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Which is where she ended up losing.

For presidential elections are, contrary to the apparent belief of those who insisted that their statistical models proved Trump could never win, determined by garnering winner-take-all state electoral votes. Which is why you poll by state. Doh.

Small wonder that Elon Musk, one of the models for Robert J. Downey, Jr.’s great fictional icon Tony Stark/Iron Man, concluded even before the election that this society is in danger of not making it. And thus needs to commence getting itself off-world if humanity is to make it through the perilous passage of profound technological advance in a time of social division and cultural reaction.

The impresario of Tesla, the electric car leader which doubles as the leader in electric power storage (Musk is about to finish installation in South Australia of the world’s largest battery, 100 megawatts) and a major solar firm, is also of course the boss of SpaceX. The upstart space firm, which like its corporate sibling is also based in California, has long since elbowed its way into the ranks of the long-established aerospace giants contracting for NASA, now servicing the International Space Station with the first private space craft and taking the lead in the satellite business.

Impressive as all that is, Musk has long — almost certainly from his days as a youth reading Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke — been after even bigger game. In a word, Mars.

So when Musk, addressing the International Astronautical Congress Friday in Adelaide, Australia, rolled out his updated vision of a mission to Mars, it was no surprise.

For Musk, who unveiled a sophisticated new rocket ship design, dubbed the, er, BFR, now says SpaceX will begin building “the first Mars ships” in “the next six to nine months.”

That is pretty darn specific. And it is no joke, as assessments in the New York Times, the Economist, and other sober-sided news outlets make clear.

And his plan beyond construction of the ships, is also pretty darn specific.

SpaceX intends to send to unmanned cargo ships to Mars in 2022 to deposit the makings of a colony and scout needed resources, to be followed in 2024 by two ships crewed by 100 explorers apiece and another two cargo ships to actually establish the first off-world settlement. (Because we are in a solar system in which astronomical bodies are in constant motion, rotating both on their own and around our sun, Earth is sometimes “just” 54 million kilometers from Mars and at other times 401 million kilometers distant. It is a two-year cycle.)

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