Author Topic: Jeff Bezos believes in space as an industrial park, but not as a backup  (Read 33482 times)

Online Coastal Ron

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AFAIK the only time people have set up charities to settle places is for religious reasons. The rest went because someone was going to make profit in the process, either within the settlement (that I can see happening quite easily) or to make money from their home country.

Maybe you don't donate to non-profits, but non-profits already do here on Earth a lot of what Musk wants to happen on Mars.

For instance, I have a family member that supports a non-profit that pays people to go to Central America to teach locals how to grow food in a sustainable way.  In fact there are a lot of organizations that have similar missions for places here on Earth, so paying people to go to Mars to show Mars colonists how to grow food in a sustainable way won't be unusual.

And we shouldn't conflate "colonist" necessarily with "subject matter experts", meaning those willing to live out their lives on Mars may not be experts on food production or mineral extraction and processing.  But they could learn from experts that don't mind being "stationed" on Mars for a Earth-Mars synodic cycle or two.

Which means colonists would pay their own way there, and have to pay for some level of support while there, but non-profits would fund sending subject matter experts to Mars for getting the colonists up to speed on how to become somewhat self-sufficient.  And when I say "self-sufficient", my definition means that little by little the expertise and material needed for a colonists survival transitions to being on Mars.  Which might be decades or centuries.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Online LM13

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AFAIK the only time people have set up charities to settle places is for religious reasons.

The Polish Maritime and Colonial League (Liga Morska i Kolonialna) would dispute that.  They were an, essentially, private non-profit that funded Polish immigration to Brazil and Liberia for the purpose of establishing Polish ethnic enclaves that could become a colony in the future.  Their rationale was nationalism, not religion (they were upset at missing out on colonialism due to the whole "occupied and tormented" business through the nineteenth century).  They raised enough money through private donations to buy a new submarine for the Polish navy. 

Arguably, the German colonial empire also fits that definition--it was never profitable, but they kept on sinking funds into it for prestige, for the ideology of Germany's place in the sun. 

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That latter one is the problem I have and that's important because until Mars goes fully self sufficient it will always need supplies from Earth.

Define "fully self sufficient."  Strictly speaking, all the technology needed to actually run a Mars colony once you get there could be built with nineteenth-century or early twentieth-century industry--nitrogen-fixing for fertilizer, the Fischer-Tropsch process, steelworking, turbines, electric motors, none of these require computers.  Supplies from Earth (particularly computer chips) can certainly simplify things and make them more effective, but I'm honestly drawing a blank as to which bare necessities for continued metabolism on Mars can't be made with the tools available to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  You would need a source of initial capital to get things going (build the first power plant, so you can power the factories that make the second, for example), but it won't be needed all that long. 

Online LouScheffer

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[...] Strictly speaking, all the technology needed to actually run a Mars colony once you get there could be built with nineteenth-century or early twentieth-century industry--nitrogen-fixing for fertilizer, the Fischer-Tropsch process, steelworking, turbines, electric motors, none of these require computers.  [...] I'm honestly drawing a blank as to which bare necessities for continued metabolism on Mars can't be made with the tools available to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.   
The big missing piece is the energy supply.   The Austro-Hungarian empire had fuels (wood, coal, oil) they could burn for power and heat.  Nothing on Mars, as far as I know, can burn in the Martian atmosphere.   You might be able to build big solar collecting mirrors that concentrate heat, to heat stuff for chemistry or metallurgy, or to boil water to turn engines.  However, sunlight is not a very dense form of energy, and not available at night.  Everything else could be managed, *if* you have enough energy, but getting the energy seems the limiting problem. 

Offline QuantumG

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I see the difference between the two a bit more philosophical.

Elons basically said "Mars or bust!". Should Jeff answer "Me too!"?
It does not work that way, so he needs something else. (Ignoring for a moment who came first.)

Let's not ignore it. Bezos has been a die hard O'Neillian since his youth. Musk only got interested in spaceflight this century.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline john smith 19

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If you're willing to compromise on 5-nm-scale feature sizes and live with 5-microns, then you can definitely do it.
If you can do 5nm you're ahead of Intel. They've been struggling with 14.

5 micron feature size. Not 5 nm...   5 microns is 5000 nm.   YCLIU.

As robotbeat said, that's quite a few generations back now and probably wouldn't still require billion dollar[1] fab lines
5 Microns is about the level of the 6502 and Z80. However the problem with semiconductors is not the linewidth or the clock frequency it's the speed of manufacture unless you bring a full custom semiconductor fab line with you or you standardize around a small number of "array" type devices that can be made fairly easily and customized for different uses as and when needed, while making the bulk of the devices from standard masks (that will still need to periodically replaced).  This however needs deep insight into all pieces of equipment shipped to Mars.

Again it's not just the size of the hardware, it's the specialized consumables the conventional processes use. "Direct write" AKA "Maskless" systems to make individual transistors using lasers have been under development since the early 80's but they are painfully slow
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline john smith 19

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Which means colonists would pay their own way there, and have to pay for some level of support while there, but non-profits would fund sending subject matter experts to Mars for getting the colonists up to speed on how to become somewhat self-sufficient. 
It's the how settlers will pay for that "level of support" that still seems quite hazy to me.
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And when I say "self-sufficient", my definition means that little by little the expertise and material needed for a colonists survival transitions to being on Mars.  Which might be decades or centuries.
I think that's more in line with Musk's views, although that is quite a long window of vulnerability.
The Polish Maritime and Colonial League (Liga Morska i Kolonialna) would dispute that.  They were an, essentially, private non-profit that funded Polish immigration to Brazil and Liberia for the purpose of establishing Polish ethnic enclaves that could become a colony in the future. 
Then I stand corrected. We know more together than we know alone.

The obvious question is how successful they were in their goal of establishing those settlements and if they still recognizably exist today? If they are not that is not a very encouraging sign of long term survival for such an approach on Mars.
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Arguably, the German colonial empire also fits that definition--it was never profitable, but they kept on sinking funds into it for prestige, for the ideology of Germany's place in the sun. 
That's a whole nation state deciding to do something. It would be an interesting idea if another country hired SX to do the transport for their settlement on Mars.
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Define "fully self sufficient."
Being able to maintain all current systems and replicate the settlement at another site on Mars without any additional supplies from Earth. That includes stocking with consumables like medicinal drugs.
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Strictly speaking, all the technology needed to actually run a Mars colony once you get there could be built with nineteenth-century or early twentieth-century industry--nitrogen-fixing for fertilizer, the Fischer-Tropsch process, steelworking, turbines, electric motors, none of these require computers.  Supplies from Earth (particularly computer chips) can certainly simplify things and make them more effective, but I'm honestly drawing a blank as to which bare necessities for continued metabolism on Mars can't be made with the tools available to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  You would need a source of initial capital to get things going (build the first power plant, so you can power the factories that make the second, for example), but it won't be needed all that long.
The 19th century had plentiful supplies of coal, hydroelectric power and later oil. Duplicating that on Mars either needs a huge PV array, Methane on an industrial scale above that for propellant use or nuclear. It's possible Mars has Uranium or Thorium that can be mined

BTW Without semiconductors (not necessarily processors, just power electronics) 3d printing becomes much  tougher. An exciting challenge for anyone with a lot of free time on their hands perhaps.

This is not academic. If we take Musk at his word the worst case is an Earth that has to be "restarted" from Mars.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Online LouScheffer

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[...] Strictly speaking, all the technology needed to actually run a Mars colony once you get there could be built with nineteenth-century or early twentieth-century industry--nitrogen-fixing for fertilizer, the Fischer-Tropsch process, steelworking, turbines, electric motors, none of these require computers.  [...] I'm honestly drawing a blank as to which bare necessities for continued metabolism on Mars can't be made with the tools available to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.   
The big missing piece is the energy supply.   The Austro-Hungarian empire had fuels (wood, coal, oil) they could burn for power and heat.  Nothing on Mars, as far as I know, can burn in the Martian atmosphere.   You might be able to build big solar collecting mirrors that concentrate heat, to heat stuff for chemistry or metallurgy, or to boil water to turn engines.  However, sunlight is not a very dense form of energy, and not available at night.  Everything else could be managed, *if* you have enough energy, but getting the energy seems the limiting problem. 
On second thought, the Austro-Hungarian empire could have built a nuclear reactor, if they knew what to do.  The wartime reactors in the Manhatten project (Hanford and the X-10) were actually quite simple.  Natural uranium for the fuel, graphite for the moderator, water or air cooled.  They were re-fueled by hand, pushing slugs through long horizontal tubes with a long pole (used slugs simply fell out the other end into a pool of water).   Control was also by hand.   To make and maintain one of these, you need the ability to mine and purify carbon and uranium, and the rest is pretty simple mechanical engineering.   Probably some simple instrumentation is needed, but it can clearly be done with vacuum tubes since Geiger counters were built in 1928, and the reactors in WW-II.   So this might be the technology of choice if you must get and maintain independence quickly.

Offline john smith 19

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On second thought, the Austro-Hungarian empire could have built a nuclear reactor, if they knew what to do.   To make and maintain one of these, you need the ability to mine and purify carbon and uranium, and the rest is pretty simple mechanical engineering.   
The Germans tried and failed to build a reactor with Graphite in WWII. Their Graphite was contaminated with Boron and the either did not not have, or did not know they needed a process to remove enough of it to let the reaction go critical.

And then you're going to need a coal mine on Mars for the source of the Graphite.

Seriously you're absolutely right about growing a Mars settlement being constricted by resources, especially power. Once you're looking at processing from raw ore you realize just how handy coal and oil are as large scale, compact energy sources.

I'll note nuclear is not much direct use for this unless you're looking at a metal or gas cooled reacted running at 800c, not the 300c PWR's run at. Otherwise you're better at electric arc furnaces and using the "waste" heat from the cooling system for the settlement.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Online LouScheffer

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On second thought, the Austro-Hungarian empire could have built a nuclear reactor, if they knew what to do.   To make and maintain one of these, you need the ability to mine and purify carbon and uranium, and the rest is pretty simple mechanical engineering.   
The Germans tried and failed to build a reactor with Graphite in WWII. Their Graphite was contaminated with Boron and the either did not not have, or did not know they needed a process to remove enough of it to let the reaction go critical.

And then you're going to need a coal mine on Mars for the source of the Graphite.
There is likely no coal on Mars (it's from old biology), so I was assuming that they would get the graphite from CO2 in the atmosphere.  This should also have no appreciable boron or other contamination.  I'm more worried about the uranium supply.

Online LM13

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There is likely no coal on Mars (it's from old biology), so I was assuming that they would get the graphite from CO2 in the atmosphere.  This should also have no appreciable boron or other contamination.  I'm more worried about the uranium supply.

That's how I would imagine it as well.  Breaking the CO2 into black carbon directly would be the harder way, I think (carbon monoxide apparently doesn't like to dissociate into C and O), but you could take some of the methane you're making for rocket fuel or plastics feedstock and break it back up into carbon and hydrogen and then recycle the hydrogen back into a Sabatier reactor. 

Online Lar

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And then you're going to need a coal mine on Mars for the source of the Graphite. 

I think when you say stuff like this, people[1] have a hard time taking you seriously. As LouScheffer points out, coal is not the only source for carbon.

1 - at least this person.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline john smith 19

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There is likely no coal on Mars (it's from old biology), so I was assuming that they would get the graphite from CO2 in the atmosphere. 
Yes, that was my point.

But let's run some numbers.

http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/marsfact.html says the Mars surface atmospheric density is 0.02Kg/m^3, of which 95.32% is CO2 IE 19.06g/m^3 is CO2. Let's say CO2 is 44g/mol so 27% of that is actual carbon.
That's 5.2grams of Carbon/ m^3

Or about 193 cubic metres of atmosphere for 1Kg of carbon.

I'd estimate a reactor runs about 100 tonnes IE 19.3 million cubic metres of atmosphere.

But maybe you can do it with 1/10 that, so it's only 1.9 million cubic metres of atmosphere.

Most people would consider that a very large air movement problem, given the amount of atmosphere that had to be moved when people looked at the idea of extracting water from it for ISRU.

I can say it with a little humor or a lot of maths but the point is basically the same.   :(

I think when you say stuff like this, people[1] have a hard time taking you seriously. As LouScheffer points out, coal is not the only source for carbon.

1 - at least this person.
I wasn't being serious because (AFAIK) no one since at least the days of Viking have suggested that coal or oil could ever have formed to begin with, but that's is the scale of carbon extraction you're looking at to do this.

If there is coal (or oil) on Mars life gets a lot easier but Mars is tough because it has no concentrated oxidizer (IE a decent percentage of O2 in a reasonably thick atmosphere) or large supplies of well concentrated carbon (or AFAIK any other readily combustible element such as say Sulfur).

Perhaps you should try not taking things quite so literally?
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline john smith 19

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Thinking about it a more plausible route would be to smelt Iron using limestone, giving a much more concentrated flow of CO2.

Now where to get the heat energy to do this on a enough scale.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline Kryten

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Thinking about it a more plausible route would be to smelt Iron using limestone, giving a much more concentrated flow of CO2.

Now where to get the heat energy to do this on a enough scale.
Most limestone is 'old biology' too, it's not likely to be present on Mars in quantity.

Offline john smith 19

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Thinking about it a more plausible route would be to smelt Iron using limestone, giving a much more concentrated flow of CO2.

Now where to get the heat energy to do this on a enough scale.
Most limestone is 'old biology' too, it's not likely to be present on Mars in quantity.
I totally forgot about limestone being the remains of sea creatures skeletons.

Not to say something similar can't be done with rock to be found on Mars, but again that's another area where what seems to be simple is in fact not simple.  :(
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline QuantumG

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Zubrin's suggestion for massive scale power generation on Mars is geothermal. The '92 summer space studies identified all the processes needed to make solar power generation from lunar materials, and a similar study could do the same on Mars. I think the argument relevant to this thread is that economic interaction between Earth and Earth-orbit colonies has always been an integral argument for why they some day will exist, whereas Mars colonization always seems to actively preclude economic interaction - most of which I've not really accepted. The shared ground between the O'Neillians and the von Braunians is the argument that launch costs have to come down before anything will happen.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Online Coastal Ron

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And when I say "self-sufficient", my definition means that little by little the expertise and material needed for a colonists survival transitions to being on Mars.  Which might be decades or centuries.
I think that's more in line with Musk's views, although that is quite a long window of vulnerability.

Not really.  The modern form of humans have been around for about 200,000 years, and the Earth has been around for 4.5 billions years.

So from that standpoint a century or two is not very long at all.

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The 19th century had plentiful supplies of coal, hydroelectric power and later oil. Duplicating that on Mars either needs a huge PV array, Methane on an industrial scale above that for propellant use or nuclear. It's possible Mars has Uranium or Thorium that can be mined

BTW Without semiconductors (not necessarily processors, just power electronics) 3d printing becomes much  tougher. An exciting challenge for anyone with a lot of free time on their hands perhaps.

You are taking a very narrow view of what Musk's goal is.  In order to be successfully multi-planetary we don't have to rely on just Mars, or just Earth's Moon.  We just can't rely on Earth being around.  So a Mars population might have to rely on supplies from outside of Mars in order to survive on it's own, and that's OK.

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This is not academic. If we take Musk at his word the worst case is an Earth that has to be "restarted" from Mars.

No, that is not what he has said.  You are putting up strawman arguments.

The test would be whether at some point in the future if the population of humans off of Earth can survive without Earth.  And luckily, as far as we know, today it's a goal, not a mandate, since we don't know of a threat to Earth.  But Musk would prefer not to wait, which is why he is pushing this effort forward.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline high road

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Thinking about it a more plausible route would be to smelt Iron using limestone, giving a much more concentrated flow of CO2.

Now where to get the heat energy to do this on a enough scale.
Most limestone is 'old biology' too, it's not likely to be present on Mars in quantity.
I totally forgot about limestone being the remains of sea creatures skeletons.

Not to say something similar can't be done with rock to be found on Mars, but again that's another area where what seems to be simple is in fact not simple.  :(

That's the problem with this whole 'self sustaining' idea. It requires Mars to grow incrementally, slowly scaling up industry by industry required to grow, with the limits of every other local industry that also need energy, labour and replacement parts. The scale at which this becomes more efficient (let alone effective) than importing the stuff you need from an existing industrial base is gigantic.

Offline john smith 19

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Not really.  The modern form of humans have been around for about 200,000 years, and the Earth has been around for 4.5 billions years.

So from that standpoint a century or two is not very long at all.
There are various scenarios for trouble with Earth. Some can arise with very little warning and very few options to do anything about them. Some require such concerted action by so many that they are virtually impossible to stop. In that case a few centuries is too long.

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You are taking a very narrow view of what Musk's goal is.  In order to be successfully multi-planetary we don't have to rely on just Mars, or just Earth's Moon.  We just can't rely on Earth being around.  So a Mars population might have to rely on supplies from outside of Mars in order to survive on it's own, and that's OK.
Well AFAIK only Musk has been talking about settlement IE people, eventually whole families living on another body in the solar system and not returning. By definition everyone else is talking "bases" or "factories." From our experience of Arctic and Antarctic bases none of those would survive without constant replenishment from more temperate areas.

Yes it would be wonderful if enough settlements were established throughout the solar system that their resources were diverse enough to set up inter-settlement trade but there is no evidence for anyone planning that on anything like the scale needed.

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This is not academic. If we take Musk at his word the worst case is an Earth that has to be "restarted" from Mars. That's what having a backup in IT terms normally means.
The test would be whether at some point in the future if the population of humans off of Earth can survive without Earth.  And luckily, as far as we know, today it's a goal, not a mandate, since we don't know of a threat to Earth.  But Musk would prefer not to wait, which is why he is pushing this effort forward.
The problem remains how do they buy those things they cannot do for themselves while they are becoming able to do this.  :(
That's the problem with this whole 'self sustaining' idea. It requires Mars to grow incrementally, slowly scaling up industry by industry required to grow, with the limits of every other local industry that also need energy, labour and replacement parts. The scale at which this becomes more efficient (let alone effective) than importing the stuff you need from an existing industrial base is gigantic.
That's true to a point.

However AFAIK historically no settlement society set out with a plan to become self sufficient. They just grew till eventually they got to a point where they could source anything they needed internally. A settlement for which this was a goal could be more structured and hopefully faster.

While this could accelerate the process quite a lot it still leaves the limited labour, energy and materials resources to deal with. This suggests controlled immigration with priority for either people with necessary skills or a willingness to re-train. But that doesn't get you away from being energy limited.

With 42.5Kw per person just for an artificially lit greenhouse a solar array the size of the ISS one would only support 5 people with nothing left to do anything else.  :( Obviously artificial lighting is off the cards for plant growth but 42.5Kw won't melt very much metal. With no fuels from "old biology" that means either biogas or nuclear, both on a very large scale. Biogas is likely to scale with settler numbers. BTW A typical gas turbine fueled by gas from an old land fill site can run 5MW for about 30 years. An unusual definition of "decay heat."  :)

Or as you say just buy the stuff in from Earth, which I think will be the norm for a long time to come.  Which leave the other problem of how to pay for that stuff. 

It's interesting that the Bezos "factory" plan and the Musk settlement plan suffer from opposite problems. Bezos offers a cash flow (it's the reason it's there in the first place) but no option to expand to permanence. Has anyone moved to live on an abandoned oil rig (serious questions. sounds possible if you wanted to. but..) ? How self sufficient are they? How much money does it take to live there per month? while Musk's plan has a vision, but otherwise no real reason to stay other than the vision.  :(
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Online Lar

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We have went into the weeds talking so much about Mars, which is not the Bezos vision. Let's try to get back on track.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

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