The valley feeding Palos crater. – ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)


Imagining Mars Colonization

by trent waddington

Recently, Ken Anthony invited me to critique his work over at Planet Plots. Although I’ve only scratched the surface of his blog, there’s not much I disagree with, and recommend the visit. The only problem, as I see it, is a lack of depth.. and a lot of hand waving. Just about anything can be explained away with “free people will figure it out”. I very much agree with that sentiment, as Ken knows, but aren’t we free people? Can’t we figure it out?

For example, take what the Mars Starter Kit page has on it. There’s many links to the Open Source Ecology wiki, which is a fantastic resource, but ultimately it’s still just geeks in front of the computer screen.. where’s the meat? Elon Musk made a comment the other day that has stuck with me:

“Making standard efficiency solar panels is about as hard as making dry wall. It’s really easy. In fact, I’d say dry wall’s probably harder.”

The context indicates that he’s talking about making solar cells (not panels from cells). I’d love to see someone back this up in a graphic way. Make a few hundred solar panels in a carpark somewhere.

Why solar cells? Why not just demonstrate that you can make glass or bioplastic? You’re probably going to want one of them for your solar panel, anyway. Well, because solar panels still represent, to many people, a level of technology that is mystical and impressive. Proof: if I say a kid in Africa has a solar panel to charge his cell phone, you might still imagine that African kid living in a grass hut, but you’ll appreciate his access to “high technology”.

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