As is the way of news cycles, in recent days we're back to hearing about plans for setting humans up on Mars. A few years ago this idea was in the spotlight because of now-defunct efforts like Mars One, which somehow got 200,000 people to express interest in what would have been a lifelong trip to the red planet. We've also seen Elon Musk's vision of how SpaceX would eventually provide a human "backup plan" by permanently settling Mars.

This past week Musk brought the idea up again, in typically provocative fashion, by talking about sending 1 million people to Mars by 2050, using no less than three Starship launches per day (with a stash of 1,000 of these massive spacecraft on call). He also raised the possibility of giving wannabe martian settlers loans to enable them to pay for the opportunity. Naturally, for many observers this also provoked discussion of indentured servitude for those "seeking a new life in the off-world colonies", to paraphrase a famous line from the 1982 movie Blade Runner.

But whatever you think about Musk's pronouncements, or his businesses, there are some very serious scientific hurdles to setting humans up on Mars (and in full disclosure, I own a few Tesla shares and I greatly admire his vision and drive for terrestrial change as well as the space-launch business, but I'm also somewhat wary of people being taken seriously just because they have amassed a lot of cash).

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