Will Humans Get to Mars Anytime Soon?

by | Feb 16, 2022 |

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In preparation for this weeks progress report on Starship development, SpaceXs fully-reusable spaceship, company CEO Elon Musk tweeted out Starship Animation,” a video depicting a Starship flight to Mars. He then responded to his own tweet, This will be real in our lifetime.” Indeed, SpaceX has plans to send the first humans to Mars sometime in the 2020s, establishing a city on Mars by 2050.

That would be wonderful, of course. But how realistic is it?

While strongly supporting an eventual manned mission to Mars, former International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield doesnt think it happens anytime soon. He explained to New Scientist magazine:

Its as if you and I were in Paris, paddling around in the Seine in little canoes saying, Weve got boats, weve got paddles, lets go to Australia!Australia? We can barely cross the English Channel. Were sort of in that boat in space exploration right now. A journey to Mars is conceivable, but its still a lot further away than most people think…I think ultimately well be living on the moon for a generation before we get to Mars.”

Hadfield believes that, with current technology, the trip is simply too long—about 300 million miles, over 1,200 times further than the Apollo spacecraft traveled to get to the moon—for astronauts to get there safely. Apollo 17 (1972) currently holds the record for the longest manned mission away from Earth orbit: 12 days, 14 hours. A round trip to Mars requires 1,016 days (~34 months), making its duration over 83-times longer than that of Apollo 17. Food supplies and electrical power requirements for such a Mars voyage would be huge. 

Our guest on The Other Side of the Story this coming weekend, mathematician and space exploration expert Donald E. Pauly, agrees. He breaks down some of the challenges we must overcome first before a manned Mars mission is even remotely feasible.

Pauly gives credit where it is due. As seen in the illustration below, Musk has successfully reduced the cost of spaceflight by 5 to 1 by reusing the first stage of his Falcon 9 rockets. His latest design for a methane-powered Super Heavy booster with a Starship mounted on top can also reuse the second stage. The Starship/heavy booster combination is significantly heavier than the Saturn V rocket, which put 12 men on the moon and maybe the largest practical rocket design. This combination shows the promise of another 10 to 1 reduction in cost. 

Starship is designed to enter the atmosphere of either Earth or Mars by using steerable flaps and thermal tiles to keep the rocket’s skin from burning up. Its control flaps allow it to orient itself sideways for maximum drag during atmospheric entry. The atmosphere of Mars is thick enough to burn up unprotected spacecraft but too thin for everything else, including parachutes. Provisions for operation in an atmosphere and the required streamlining both add a good deal of weight and cost. These are unnecessary for freighters cruising long distances in a vacuum.

Pauly has spent some time mathematically and chemically trying to figure out just how we can get to Mars with humans staying on the red planet for a period of time. We cant prove everything you are about to read is precisely correct, but we think it is a reasonably well-thought-out scenario. We conclude from this study, just as Col. Hadfield maintains…

Humans will get to Mars and survive, but not anytime soon. Please read on.

While Starship can be used to travel to Mars, current programs have little chance of success. For example, if Starship is refueled in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), it could perform a successful landing on Mars. But it would not have enough fuel to leave the planet and could barely escape to Low Mars Orbit. It also cannot carry much freight. Musk has proposed using solar power to manufacture rocket fuel on Mars. Solar cells are nearly worthless on Earth, and the Sun is 2.5 times dimmer on Mars. Therefore, it will take 500 tonnes of solar cells to manufacture enough rocket fuel to fill up a starship. It will also take nearly six months to do the job. About 50 tons of lithium batteries would also be needed to provide power at night. These batteries would be difficult to keep warm during cold Martian nights and winters. The average temperature at the equator on Mars is -63 ° C. A nuclear reactor making the same amount of power will weigh 20 times less, and so is a far more sensible option than solar. Indeed, nuclear power must be available to power spacecraft and for the propellant plants. 

Further, after an eight-month trip to Mars, a Starship will have to wait on the planet for another 540 days for a favorable alignment of the orbits of Earth and Mars to return home even with refueling. The crew will do exploration and construction work on Mars during that wait.

Phobos, a football-shaped moon of Mars, is only 27 x 22 x 18 km in size with no atmosphere. It is more hospitable to humans than the planet itself since it has such a low gravity. On Phobos, a single astronaut can easily lift equipment weighing hundreds of pounds on Earth. Phobos will be turned into a supply dump and plantation, a basecamp for operations before descending to Mars. It is possible that the organic material from the meteorites and the oxygen in the rocks on Phobos can be turned into rocket fuel. However, samples of that material must be first sent to Earth in order to design the chemical plant.

Mars is also a prime location for manufacturing rocket propellants. There is undoubtedly water ice on Mars, and its atmosphere is almost totally carbon dioxide (CO2). A chemical plant can be designed and tested on Earth that will require only electric power to make propellant from the materials on Mars. Pre-fabricated and later assembled on Mars, it must be close to a supply of water ice on the Martian surface. One Megawatt of power will make enough propellant to fill the rocket tanks in five months, with the propellant plant being installed on Mars on the first trip there by Starship. This must be followed by the installation of a differently designed propellant plant on Phobos if feasible. Its power needs would also be about 1 megawatt, all powered with nuclear reactors. 

A crew of four people will need 400 grams of food each per day throughout the almost 3-year mission. This is a total of 1.6 metric tonnes of food for the mission. The crew will generate waste of 5 metric tonnes of CO2 and 2 tonnes of water. The water is easy to recycle, but the CO2 is not. A small recycling plant must be on board to recycle the CO2 and recover the 3.6 tonnes of oxygen from the CO2. There will be perhaps an additional tonne of nitrogen-containing waste. Crop growing in artificially-lighted greenhouses on Phobos can recycle all this waste and turn it back into food. 

International Space Station flights have repeatedly shown that a few months in zero gravity makes astronauts too weak to walk when returning to Earth. Yet, it is essential that crew members arrive both on Mars and Earth and be fit to walk and work. Therefore, a centrifuge must be provided for the crew to exercise in the presence of artificial gravity. Spinning at one revolution every four seconds, an 8-meter-long centrifuge can fit inside the 9-meter diameter Starship, providing artificial gravity to a pair of astronauts at a time.

In part 2 of this article, we will explain the realistic plan proposed by Donald Pauly, our guest in this weekends radio show, The Other Side of the Story, to get to Mars.

References relevant to this topic:

– https://www.spacex.com/vehicles/starship
– https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-how-to-refuel-starships-in-space
– https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=48757.60
– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phobos_(moon)

Reuse cost


Starship belly flop


Dr. Jay Lehr is a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author, and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government and many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he received the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.

Use the code ‘OUTLOUD’ and save 15%
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is for educational, general information, and entertainment purposes only and is never intended to constitute medical or legal advice or to replace the personalized care of a primary care practitioner or legal expert.

While we endeavor to keep this information up to date and correct, the information provided by America Out Loud, its website(s), and any properties (including its radio shows and podcasts) makes no representations, or warranties of any kind, expressed, or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to its website(s) or the information, products, services or related graphics and images contained on the website(s) for any purpose.

The opinions expressed on the website(s), and the opinions expressed on the radio shows and podcasts, are the opinions of the show hosts and do not necessarily represent the opinions, beliefs, or policies of anyone or any entity we may endorse. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

At no time, nor in any event, will we be liable for any loss, or damage, including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss of data or profits arising out of, in an association of, or connection with the use of this website.

Through this website, users can link to other websites that may be listed. Those websites are not under the control of America Out Loud or its brands. We have no control over the nature, content, or availability of those sites. America Out Loud has no control over what the sites do with the information they collect. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation, nor does it endorse the views expressed with or by them.

Every effort is made to keep the website up and running smoothly. However, America Out Loud takes no responsibility for, nor are we, and will not be liable for being temporarily unavailable due to technical difficulties beyond our control. America Out Loud does not sell, trade, nor market email addresses or other personal data.

A Crime’s a Crime! What Makes a Hate Crime so Special? 

A Crime’s a Crime! What Makes a Hate Crime so Special? 

Buffalo and NY State police authorities knew of the teen’s derangement and made some early efforts to corral him, but he still got loose. It’s they who should be held responsible, not Tucker Carlson. Mass shootings have become a common recurrence, it seems. This time last year, we experienced a similar number of mass shootings, on average ten per week. 2021 ended with 693 mass shootings, and there were 417 in 2019. What’s happened? 

As Bad as You Think the Economy Is Right Now, It’s Actually Worse Than That

As Bad as You Think the Economy Is Right Now, It’s Actually Worse Than That

Mortgage applications to purchase a home dropped 12% on a weekly basis and are down 15% compared with the same week one year ago. The housing bubble will not survive without low interest rates. Neither will the stock market bubble. Fed Chair Jerome Powell told a Wall Street Journal conference that the U.S. central bank will “have to consider moving more aggressively”…

Race-Baiting Is the Name, and Gun-Grabbing Is the Game

Race-Baiting Is the Name, and Gun-Grabbing Is the Game

Listening to Governor Hochul will leave an outsider to believe that Buffalo, NY, is filled with hatred and a place where there is the extremism of white people against black people, which is far from the truth. There should be crimes against criminal politicians who use isolated tragedies to advance their political platforms that feed into their nefarious agendas…

The Power to Shape the Narrative is the Power to Control the Outcome

The Power to Shape the Narrative is the Power to Control the Outcome

Setting up the “Disinformation Board” and rolling it out under the DHS moved the “Overton Window” of conceivable action closer to the Marxist ideal of information control. While they’d have liked to “legitimize” their influence on media companies with edicts from a DHS Board, the ideological alignment of the major media companies is already working steadily to undermine…

The Mastery of Projective Identification

The Mastery of Projective Identification

Just listen to Biden gloating that his administration is very successful. Is Biden not the perfect example? All that is going wrong under his watch – although Democrats are the majority in the House and Senate and the Presidency – Joe Biden blames citizen Trump, Putin, or any ‘other’ entity but NOT himself…

Pennsylvania Politics Takes a Surprising Turn 

Pennsylvania Politics Takes a Surprising Turn 

Even more shocking is that McCormick and Oz came in paying about $200 per vote received, with Barnette averaging $16 per vote, and she is almost within five percent of the vote with the other two. t was certainly the race of the decade with some unexpected turns. Other upsets include Senator Doug Mastriano winning the gubernatorial race upsetting…

Exposing Russia as a Military Fraud, Is China Next?

Exposing Russia as a Military Fraud, Is China Next?

If we had looked closely in those intervening years, we could have seen the clues of their demise. Many in my field (CE/CI) did, but the world had changed. Politicians facing the prospective loss of political control through fear-mongering of something ⏤ Russia then and China now ⏤ limited any real responses that could have achieved a safe world with Russia in it…

Take a Look at the Positive Side of Anarchy

Take a Look at the Positive Side of Anarchy

The only way to achieve liberty and peace is to restore law and order. And the only way to restore law and order is to literally crush the forces of evil. When that begins to happen, we do actually see the positive side of tyranny and anarchy. Conflict is a bedfellow of oppression. Therefore we must end the conflict and, in doing so, end the tyranny. Here’s the positive side of this war…

It’s a LONG-HAUL with COVID-19

It’s a LONG-HAUL with COVID-19

The context is that about 50% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 develop post-COVID symptoms. Severe outpatients also are affected. Characteristic symptoms include headache, hearing loss, tinnitus, loss of olfactory function, sleep disturbance, muscle aches, weakness, fatigue, and chest or abdominal pain…

America Out Loud 6 years

Celebrating 6 incredible years fighting to restore liberty and justice to our beloved America.

Your Source for Free Speech, Talk Radio, Podcasts, and News.


Here we take on the challenges of our generation so that we can preserve future generations. Please consider making a contribution in the fight for liberty!


The APPS are free; the mission is priceless!

Free APP

Podcast Networks

Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts

Subscribe and Listen on Your Favorite APP

Our Columnists and Show Hosts

Truth For Health

Apple Podcasts

COVID Solution Summit

Apple Podcasts

Evacuating Americans & fully-vetted Afghan's at Risk - Help Us!

Apple Podcasts

Empowering and mentoring conservative trailblazers from Generation Z to win!

Apple Podcasts

Turning Point Action is Recruiting Precinct Chairs - Become a Grassroots Warrior Today!

Apple Podcasts

Please join us to protect the Supreme Court:
Sign the Petition!

Apple Podcasts

The LATINO USA EXIT from the Democrat Party, click for details...

Apple Podcasts

Fighting corporate censorship and ensuring voter integrity...

Apple Podcasts

Support wounded and fallen police officers. The Wounded Blue.

Wounded Blue
Share via
Copy link