So how do we get to Mars? (Let alone other planets or galaxies…)
Baby steps that pay for themselves.
Folks crossing the Atlantic in the late 15th century weren’t doing it completely on a throw-away budget. It was largely under the prospect of trade and opportunities for colonization.
In other words, it needs to pay for itself.
So, with Mars being so far away — that’s a little tricky. And the fact that you can’t breath there. Or expect there to be any atmosphere for a stinking long time.
Again, baby steps — that pay for themselves.
I’d suggest this:
1) Build “Earth Dock”
— a bigger, badder satellite than the ISS that is a stop-off point between Earth and Mars.
Monetize it with a hotel. Tourism. “Take a vacation to the edge of space.” And this allows us to have one type of transport from Earth to Earth-Dock, and a different type from Earth Dock to Mars Dock. (more about Mars Dock below)
2) Moon Base
— this one’s somewhat optional, but a pretty good idea to expand tourism — it’s one thing to vacation just off-planet, it’s another to hit the next closest heavenly body. It’s a no-brainer that this would be a money-maker. And that helps contribute toward the next goals.
3) Mars Dock
— very similar to Earth Dock, except — duh — this one orbits Mars. This will help make travel up and down from Mars more efficient — also gives us another point of tourism, though admittedly — once you’ve gotten this far, you’re going to want to get down to the surface. Also gives the explorers/colonists “eye-in-the-sky” support that would have been more difficult without it.
4) Mars Base
— Got to start with something; can’t expect to create a huge colony overnight. Need to start with the science and tourism aspects — the science, to help us figure everything out, and again — the tourism to fund it all.
5) Mars Colony
— It’s got to happen. We’ve got to “get our feet wet” and try it. Just don’t bring any mosquitoes.
6) And Beyond
— so much advancement will be developed as “collateral damage” and “low-hanging fruit” as we work on figuring out the details in getting to Mars and Back. And just like computers and video game consoles, and iPhones, the folks working on these things will keep finding better and less expensive ways to do things and “get there.” But you’ve got to build the first “iPhone”, before you can have an “iPhone 2.” — Very much the same with space travel. We’re not very good at it yet, simply because we haven’t done a whole heck of a lot of it yet. It’s going to take the big bucks from companies like Google and Virgin. And simple outline ideas like the ones I’ve presented above. Are these original to me? Probably not — but I’ve tried to present large concepts in simple steps to help show how relatively easy this could be in the long run. Sure, there’s rocket science involved — but it’s not rocket science to suggest baby steps. Are these the best baby steps? I don’t know — but I think they are pretty straightforward and could represent a very viable path toward getting to Mars. Would love to hear your thoughts. I’ll also work on elaborating on these points a bit more in the days ahead — flesh them out a bit more, and start discussing caveats.