The societal/historical impact of a manned Mars landing

Would be high in the cool factor and provide bragging rights for the successful country but minor societal/historical value. It is unlikely to be the stepping stone to anything else and will remain something akin to climbing a mountain just to say you did it.
The moon landings were cool but as others up thread pointed out the novelty wore off quickly. I believe the claims of scientific progress directly attributed have mostly been debunked (maybe by the great one himself). I do believe that Tang was the the best moonshine mixer but I think it is extinct now.
As for being man kinds greatest achievement, I guess it would be what you personally would consider a great achievement. I would go with something like antibiotics or the transistor or such myself.


The Earth at its worst is a bazillion times better a place to live than anywhere else we could ever get to.


All of these were invented well before the Apollo program:

  • microchip (integrated circuit): 1958
  • microwave oven: 1946
  • velcro: 1955

Yes, some development impetus (at least for microchips) can be attributed to Apollo. But in view of what’s happened since, this does not look historically significant.

The idea of setting up a self-sustaining colony on Mars any time in the near future is daft. If we are talking about a colony that could survive and grow if Earth suffered a catastrophe, you would need millions of people for true self-sufficiency. And unless there is profit to be had on Mars (and I don’t know of any potential profit sources), trying to put that many people on Mars and build a logistical system that could sustain them would be horrifically expensive. There will be no political will for that at all, and not enough money in private industry to do it.

We might be able to build a base with a dozen people there and keep them supplied for a while, but unless they discover something Earth really wants or needs, it won’t go further than that.

I tend to follow this line of argument. An event doesn’t have societal or historical impact by itself; its impact is how it influences the course of history.

It now seems that the Apollo moon landings were a historical dead end. If China or some other country lands on the moon and then develops settlements there, it will be their first landing that will matter to history. We’ll just be the Leif Erikson of lunar history.

The same will be true of Mars. A landing on Mars will only matter to history if something follows from it.

In historical terms, no, the Apollo 11 landing will be the seminal event. Centuries down the line the difference between 1969 and 2034 (or whatever) won’t seem like a big deal, and of course the Apollo 11 landings are well documented historical fact.

Ericson landed centuries before Columbus. His existence wasn’t super clear for a long time and very few details about him or his expedition are really known. Everything we think we know about him is from sagas written two centuries after the fact, which is like reconstructing the life of Mozart from the movie “Amadeus.” There is no contemporaneous documentation of it at all, and his landing in North America, if it happened, is as historically disconnected from Columbus as Christopher Marlowe is from Chris Pine.

To the observer of the year 2500, Armstrong and the first Chinese guy to walk on the Moon might as well be contemporaries.

I don’t see it as an issue of priority. In historical terms, I don’t think it matters all that much who was first.

The importance of Columbus’ voyage to America wasn’t over whether he was the first or second or tenth European to cross the Atlantic. The importance of his trip was due to the fact that Spain sent thousands of people to follow in his path. His trip changed the course of history in a way that other trips had not.

We spent a lot of time in school learning about the firsts. We learned about James Cook’s voyages, how he re-discovered Hawaii, how the Polynesians originally discovered it, etc. We learned about both Columbis AND Leif Erickson. We learned about all kinds of other ‘firsts’ as well.

Perhaps the best analogy would be to Charles Lindberg. We all still remember him as an important first, even though the Atlantic had already been crossed non-stop 8 years earlier by Alcock and Brown. He just did it solo. But it was an international sensation, and therefore he is remembered while the ones,that came before and after were not.

The Apollo landing captured global attention and has been treated as one of the great milestones of mankind. Even if space travel becomes routine, the first landing on the moon will be seen as a seminal event in mankind’s history.

Not so much.

I figure it’d be more like 1.5x more than Apollo because landing on another planet/moon/object for the first time is revolutionary. In conventional wisdom, common sense, and the best scientific thinking up to about 1920, it was impossible. Unthinkable.

On the other hand, to land and then safely return from Mars would be evolutionary–an unsurprising, linear progression of space exploration, differing from Apollo only in scale, for the most part.

Of course it would be tremendously exciting and would increase knowledge and technology is many areas. Super-cool, you know? I mean, do the math-- 1.5x the impact of Apollo is HUGE!! : :rocket: :ringer_planet: :parachute: :earth_americas:

It’s not so much the successful landing and return of the first humans from Mars that will have a big societal impact.

It’ll be the ones that die on the missions before that one. Challenger and Columbia and Soyuz-11 weren’t livestreamed from inside the cockpit, but egomanics like Musk will definitely have their crews do that. It’ll be the new reality TV hit.

Good thing we got Elon who is smarter that all Chineses and ruskies combined. Russia is broke compared to the US. But China is definitely a problem. We have to wait and see if the way they run their economy with major injected government support will backfire because at this point we have the most expertise but like you said they have a lot of will and money behind it. The question is whether it will last. China only has public support of its proper because they are growing at rapid speed but if that train stops there will most likely be backlash and people will want to live in a more free society which will put space exploration on the back burner

No he isn’t.
The guy is a burner. If he wasn’t high all the fucking time he’d be a James Bond villain.

I doubt it. The last moon landing was in 1972. All of the people who worked on the Apollo program have retired. China has a lot more current knowledge about space operations than the United States has.

Not a chance.

China has landed a small rover on the Moon and put some orbiters in Lunar Orbit. A nice achievement, but the U.S. did that in the 1960’s. The U.S. has two large rovers wandering around on Mars and a stationary lander, and several large orbiters, The U,S. is currently building a large probe to Europa, and has recently sent missions to Jupiter and the Sun, and is soon going to be launching it’s latest of many large observatories in space… The US has mature ion thruster technology and is working on nuclear propulsion. The ISS has no Chinese input, and the U.S. sends astronauts there on a rocket whose booster lands on freaking drone ships and flies again. A U.S. company is currently testing the largest rocket ever buit which, if successful, promises to lower the cost of space access dramatically.

In the meantime, the Tianwen-1 orbiter mission to Mars is China’s first deep space mission. China’s Chang’e orbiters have done good science in lunar orbit, but the US Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter and GRAIL missions were more sophisticated. Until recently, China’s space program relied heavily on copied hardware from the Russians and the Americans.

NASA may not be great at building large manned rockets anymore, but they are still at the cutting edge for unmanned space technology. And SpaceX is flying reusable rockets with full flow staged combustion engines and densified propellants. SpaceX can fly five people at a time into orbit, for a fraction of what it cost to have the Russians do it. China is ten years behind SpaceX alone.

China’s space program is expanding quickly, and now that they have ‘private’ rocket companies competing with each other they may actually get some real innovation. But they are nowhere close to the U.S. in space technology or capability, and since the U.S. space industry has about five times the budget of China’s, I don’t see the gap closing.

Elon Musk is smart enough to have convinced people that he founded Payal and Tesla, conceived of the notion of the “Hyperloop” concept from whole cloth, and is a propulsion and thermofluids polymath who designed the Falcon 9 and Starship on his own with just a little bit of help from the engineering staff, all of whom doubted his brilliant ideas at every step. He is also ingenious in pulling one over on the SEC, ignoring FAA licensing agreements, and keeping his Tesla plant open in Fremont in defiance of Alameda County health orders resulting in over 400 employees getting infected. He is the brain behind “Neurolink” which will allow gamers everywhere to directly interface with the next generation game consoles and SolarCity which is currently dominating the solar market at 9% market share as of 2019Q4. He also could have rescued that soccer team trapped in Tham Luang cave with his submarine if anyone would have let him, but unfortunately he was stopped by some “pedo guy” who mocked him on Twitter and hurt his feelings.

Every time Elon opens his mouth and speaks, it is like the love child of Albert Einstein and Florence Nightingale is singing an aria that makes the angels weep with joy at his nonpareil grace and erudite wisdom. He has to dole out his innovations with caution should he overwhelm humanity with his genius. He’ll takes us all to Mars (well, the billionaires, anyway) so we can escape the destructive effects of global climate change by moving to a planet with hardly any atmosphere at all. If we’re really lucky, he’ll transfer his mind into a digital consciousness and continue to aid humanity into a brave new world as the digital messiah leading us in conquest of the stars. He is Paul Atretdes, Hari Seldon, and Luke Skywalker all mashed into a single character.

I don’t know how anyone could doubt his self-professed genius. Are you some kind of America-hating socialist, @QuickSilver? Is that your problem?


While I find the guy immensely dislikable (I met him in university, and he was a dick then too) he’s close enough to have founded Tesla that he may as well have. He was not technically on the company’s articles of incorporation, but its initial money was overwhelmingly his and he was basically running it less than a year after it was incorporated and well before it actually did anything.

Providing capital investment in even an early funding round is not “founding” a company; it it were, Warren Buffett would be the greatest innovator in American history instead of just a guy who makes good financial decisions. Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard founded Tesla motors in mid-2003 with the goal of producing an high performance electric vehicle. Elon Musk was one of several Series A venture capital committers, after which he went on an aggressive campaign to remove Tarpenning and Eberhard, and driving out Ian Wright (VP of Vehicle Development, and arguably the person most responsible for the technical architecture of the Tesla Roadster). The only reason that Elon Musk can call himself a ‘founder’ is because of the settlement of a 2009 lawsuit which declares that Tarpenning, Eberhard, Wright, Musk and J.B. Straubel are “co-founders”.

However, to listen to Musk speak, he is the singular founder and he has previously declared that he was literally involved with the design of every single subsystem on the Tesla Model 3 despite of the practical impossibility of that feat, and is also responsible for numerous missteps (an excessive focus on making the assembly of the Model 3 fully automated, threatening suppliers to try to get a discount) and totally wrong projections (production forecasts well beyond what was realized, claims about when “Full Self Driving” will be available that have still yet to be realized). Even aside of what a raging asshole he is as a person, he dissembles, exaggerates, blusters, and most offensively claims credit for the work of others nearly every time he speaks.

But he’s really good at convincing people that he’s smart, and that buying his instruments and uniforms will let them join the marching band.


He’s the richest or second-richest man in the world, he’s more responsible than anyone for accelerating acceptance of electric cars, and his rockets are eating the launch industry’s lunch.

I don’t care if he’s a nice guy or if he brags. He says a lot of stupid shit. Hyperloop is ridiculous, and kicking that craze off has benefited scammers around the globe. But that’s a side issue.

What makes Elon special is not that he’s the best engineer in history, but that he is successful. It takes people like Musk to break through norms and roadblocks and old-guard thinking.

Here’s another newsflash. Steve Jobs didn’t know shit about programming or hardware design. What made Jobs unique is that he had a good eye for product design and was uniquely positioned to power through bureaucracy and bean counting at Apple and force them to change directions,

Steve Jobs forced Apple to spend millions just to remove some wait states from the ARM processor, because he didn’t like the little stutter he sometimes got while scrolling. Any UI person could tell you why he was right to do that, but he was the only one who could ever have convinced the company to spend the money to do it.

Likewise, lots of rocket engineers have thought of the things Elon has done, but none of them were in a position to get their management to take such risks. You sometimes need people like Musk and Jobs to step over the bureaucracy and make thjngs happen.

Elon has enough engineering talent to understand what he wants and what is possible. He apparently has a talent in selectjng good people around him like Gwynne Shotwell, then stay out of their way and let them do their jobs. And, he gets his hands dirty. He doesn’t just walk around giving orders from on high, he walks the walk. He works his people hard, but they do it because he shows ip and works hard right beside them.

Like him or not, SpaceX has turned the launch industry on its head and broken the backs of the old aerospace giants that got fat and sloppy on cost-plus government contracts. He is saving launch customers, including the government, hjndreds of millions of dollars per year. Not just with his rockets, hut by forcing the other companies to get leaner and more efficient.

You don’t say!

I’m not calling him a founder because he says he is, I’m calling him that because he was a hell of a lot more than just “one of several Series A venture capital committers,” he put in over eighty percent of it. Tesla well might not exist without his backing.

Sam: I hadn’t heard this story, and I’ve heard most Apple stories*. I went googling and came up dry. If you might, do you have a link or something to this episode? Thanks.
*I’ve been in a meeting with Jobs and he, um lived up to his reputation :slight_smile: