Elon Musk is hell bent to get to Mars and I support that. Humanity needs to get off this planet and have it turned into a garden/reserve.
That said, we keep talking about these one way shots to Mars. It seems like we’re wasting a lot of time on things that could be done more cheaply and efficiently with a good planned infrastructure.
My position: I believe that we will be much better off going ahead and building all of the things to get us to Mars and back on a regular basis.
SpaceX and friends have taken the first step towards this, with reusable rocketry. This reduces the cost of travel to low earth orbit by a large amount. This has lead to discussion of flying a rocket from Earth’s surface to Mars.
The problems here are impressive. We can’t afford to carry humans, their provisions, the necessities for the months long trip, the fuel, etc. In a one shot trip escaping Earth orbit and landing safely on Mars. The initial launch would be ridiculouslying expensive to put it mildly.
On top of that, travel outside of Earth’s magnetosphere carries with it threats we have to prepare for. There needs to be shielding to deal with cosmic radiation that is less plentiful near Earth. They need some kind of protection from the much smaller asteroids and such that would act as the iceberg to our Titanic.
So. We are talking about a ship that has to be built using materials and industrial capability we have on Earth in quantities that would strain our planetary supplies.
For this, we need a shipyard. In space. A drydock, pressurized or not, that is for the construction of ships that are not intended to enter an atmosphere. With this we need an infrastructure to support it. We need a commercial/residential space station where the construction workers and their families can live, and other workers can provide them with opportunities for socialization, entertainment, health services.
For all of this, we need resources that aren’t handy in quantity without disruption on Earth. That means the moon and nearby asteroids would need to be harvested and mined, and industry would need to move to the medium of space to save on the costs of the flight from Earth to Space.
They would probably find, once they got moved, that things are cheaper to manufacture in space, and the costs of delivery to Earth would be a tiny percentage of the trip from Earth.
To me, that’s the step we should be working on. It kills two birds with one stone. Environmental pollution shrinks tremendously, manufacturing costs go down, poverty reduces, it just has an investment cost.
And there ends my thought for now. Might continue this later.