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konerko14
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Im not for or against missions to Mars because I dont quite have enough knowledge on the subject to make a judgment call.

An excellent resource for this special knowledge is Robert Zubrin's The Case for Mars. Zubrin is one of the world's leading experts on Mars ... um, the subject of Mars, rather ... and the book is a fascinating read. Even for a non-scientist like myself, I found the content plainly and logically presented, but not dumbed-down or pandering. I only had to skip a few pages of charts, tables, and graphs covered in chemical hieroglyphics.

I don't have a copy handy, but a fairly good condensation of the book's subject matter can be found over at Wiki.

The most striking thing I can remember from the book is Zubrin's claim that we could terraform Mars into a self-sustaining planet in less than 200 years using existing technology. The engineering is pretty advanced - giant orbital mirrors focus spots of sunlight on the surface, thawing frozen regolith & releasing trapped gases and chemicals - but possible. He even makes a nice economic argument, demonstrating that even though billions would go into the first missions, the financial rewards are numerous. He does suggest a government co-op to spawn development in Mars technology - matching private funds with public grants, etc. - which I'm not in favor of so much.

While I understand the sentiment of "if the govt's going to spend the money anyway", I need to add that the government never knows when to get the heck out of the way. Or maybe they do and just don't like giving up power. Either way, public funding is a dangerous gambit if we ever hope to look at Mars - or any other space venture - as a future capitalist frontier.

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The most striking thing I can remember from the book is Zubrin's claim that we could terraform Mars into a self-sustaining planet in less than 200 years using existing technology.

It might be possible with existing technology - but it wouldn't be worth anyone's while to do it. What sort of person or entity is going to make a sizeable investment which will not show any return for 200 years no matter how huge the payoff is? Who's going to be around to benefit from it? Some corporate entities might be around (and even that is a pretty big maybe - consider the number of corporate GIANTS from as recently as 30 years ago which no longer exist other than as trademarks owned by companies who picked at their corporate corpses - RCA and AT&T come to mind), but even if they are, it would not be at all an appropriate use of the capital of shareholders who will not be around then.

The fact that it is possible with existing technology does, however, suggest that, with technological progress, that time frame might be reduced to the point that such an investment would be worthwhile.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Woah woah woah...there's a Whole Foods in Texas? I thought there was only one and it was just in Baltimore. Is it a chain? That would be hilarious.

Central Market is one of THE most outstanding grocery stories I've ever shopped in...in fact, it has almost anything one could possibbly imagine from all over the world. It is globalisation at its utter finest...items from every corner of the globe litter the store. I no longer live in Texas, so here in Seattle Whole Foods, or stores of similar type are where most people shop. (Seattle loves this kind of thing, for obviuous reasons).

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As for water on Mars, the topic of this thread. As others have, I won't focus on whether or not public funds should pay for the endeavor. I would tend to think private funds would be more successful in the long run, due to competition. Anyhow water on Mars is an important, very important finding. It is only a step, but a critical step to understanding life on other worlds. But most critically, we could use the water in a colonization for many different technologies...with the ultimate goal of gaining or finding some resource on the planet.

There are many theories on Mars. Some prominent scientists (that is, not dreamers) actually think if we could find water, that teraforming the planet isn't out of reach. Maybe that is a stretch, but the evidence is there for the potential of doing so. Furthermore, the technology that stems from exploration is unquestionable, and will only advance our understanding as we explore Saturn's Moon's, or Jupitar's Moons. It isn't just about finding a new species of ameoba, its about long term pursuits.

And by the way, finding life (of any kind) on another world, would constitute one of (if no the biggest) scientific discoveries in history of man!

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It might be possible with existing technology - but it wouldn't be worth anyone's while to do it. What sort of person or entity is going to make a sizeable investment which will not show any return for 200 years no matter how huge the payoff is?

A guaranteed HUGE tax write-off for 200 years? Who'd resist it?

Seriously, the payoff would come much sooner, say in fifty years or so. Because you'd terraform Mars while inhabitting it. And the inhabitants would't just sit around waiting for a breathable atmosphere. They'd develop domed cities, or underground cities. They'd plant fields, or develop huge hydroponic farms. They'd bring water down from the poles, or dig out of the permafrost. They'd bake air out of the soil (a lot of it is iron oxide). All the while, they'd build a civilization, much the same way one was built on the Eastern coast of America.

Of course, trade with other planets would be costly, even if you had a reasonably cheap means of lifting cargo into orbit (like a space elevator, atomic rockets, etc). So the payoff would mostly stay on Mars.

The fact that it is possible with existing technology does, however, suggest that, with technological progress, that time frame might be reduced to the point that such an investment would be worthwhile.

There's that, too. A really, really cheap propulsion system, say antigravity or something exotic, would allow you to scoop out gases from Saturn's atmosphere, or from comets, and ices and water from Saturn's rings, or from comets (comets are smaller and travel at higher orbital speeds than Saturn, but they are acompanied by a much smaller gravity well).

Of course, with such a cheap propulsion, the stars aren't out of reach. So why terraform Mars when you could find ready to inhabit worlds elsewhere?

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A guaranteed HUGE tax write-off for 200 years? Who'd resist it?

Well, 200 years ago was 1807 - they didn't even have tax write offs then. Indeed, less than a decade later, the USA was invaded in the 1812 war and it was an open question whether the country would survive. Less than 60 years later the country fell into civil war. Who knows what the situation will be like 200 years from now. Maybe we will live in a wonderful laissez faire world where the sort of taxation we have today will be regarded as barbaric? Or maybe one of the decedents of Hillary Clinton/Ted Kennedy etc. will nationalize everything causing economic catastrophe and plunge us into another Dark Ages. It is simply impossible in the context of our current life span for human beings and human institutions to plan for 200 years.

Seriously, the payoff would come much sooner, say in fifty years or so. Because you'd terraform Mars while inhabitting it. And the inhabitants would't just sit around waiting for a breathable atmosphere. They'd develop domed cities, or underground cities. They'd plant fields, or develop huge hydroponic farms. They'd bring water down from the poles, or dig out of the permafrost. They'd bake air out of the soil (a lot of it is iron oxide). All the while, they'd build a civilization, much the same way one was built on the Eastern coast of America.

But all of what you say here is still in the realm of science fiction. There is no way one can say, assuming such technology can be developed and implemented, that it will take 50 years or any other period of time. How can one when such technology does not even exist yet? No significant number of serious investors are going to put one cent - let alone billions of dollars - into something that is nothing more than science fiction.

And even if it could be demonstrated that it could be done in 50 years - that is still a very long time for one to see a return on one's investment. Let's see - if you are 20 years old when the project starts, that would mean that you would be 70 when it is finished. How many 20 year olds have serious amounts of money to invest? For something like that to work, it would have to be done in such a way that it somehow generates profits in the meanwhile.

My point is this: the human lifespan imposes a very hard limit on the range of the planning and the projects that human beings can engage in. If the lifespan were to significantly increase, then that range would increase accordingly. For example, let's say that a medical breakthrough came along which enabled us to live up to 10,000 years. Human life as we know it would be changed forever. Currently, people go to school from anywhere between 12 and 18 years. But if we lived to 10,000 years, why would we stop at a mere 18 years? We could instead spend a thousand years devoted to learning and it would still be a smaller percentage of a person's lifespan than education typically is today. Imagine how knowledgeable - and productive - people could be after a thousand years of schooling. And great minds would stick around and continue to be productive. Imagine Ayn Rand, Thomas Edison, Thomas Jefferson, Aristotle, etc., etc. all still being alive and in the prime of their life. A penny invested in the year 1 AD generating only a 1% annual return would be worth millions of dollars today - a span of time which would be equal to a person with a lifespan of 10,000 years what 16 years is to someone with a lifespan of 80 years. So if the human lifespan could be increased by that much - well, then a project that would take two thousand years to see a profit would suddenly be quite doable.

For that reason, by the way, I regard people like Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy who seek to destroy the pharmaceutical industry and socialize medicine to be potentially lethal enemies. By doing so, they are jacking with the possibility of my being able to be around for the medical breakthrough that will enable me to have a much longer lifespan. I rather doubt that Clinton or Kennedy have very happy lives so it may not be a big deal for them - but that is a rather huge deal for me and I am sure for most people here as well.

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Well, 200 years ago was 1807 - they didn't even have tax write offs then.

I think that's known as taking a joke too far.

But all of what you say here is still in the realm of science fiction.
Not at all. Everything I brought up already exists or has been done: domed structures (not a city-sized dome, but a conglomeration of large domes connected to each other), underground structures, water pipelines, hydroponic farms, chemical industries and even planting on alien soil (plants were shown to grow well on fertilized Lunar soil; to date there are no Martian soil samples).

What we don't have is an economical means of lifting machinery and some raw materials off Earth. We're getting there, and I'm convinced the XXI century will see a space elevator, but we're a ways off yet.

No significant number of serious investors are going to put one cent - let alone billions of dollars - into something that is nothing more than science fiction.

I don't know. There are a bunch of internet millionaires whoa re either SF fans or long time space enthusiasts (and some old-fashioned millionaires, too, like Robert Bigelow)

And even if it could be demonstrated that it could be done in 50 years -

Oh, building Martian cities wouldn't take 50 years. The figure is my quick guess on when you'd see a profit (I reapet, nearly all of it would stay on Mars). The cities would grow much more quickly.

that is still a very long time for one to see a return on one's investment.
It depends. It's not a long time at all if you want to develop Mars as a habitable world. Who'd want it? I assure you there are some of us. Perhaps not many, and perhaps not even enough. Not now. But a Universe-sized frontier begins one hundred kilometers up. We'll get to it someday.

For something like that to work, it would have to be done in such a way that it somehow generates profits in the meanwhile.

Right. So what do you think would motivate a large number of people to move to Mars? Us sapce enthusiasts and SF fans are not enough. But any colonists would be glad enough to invest in their future.

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Right. So what do you think would motivate a large number of people to move to Mars? Us sapce enthusiasts and SF fans are not enough. But any colonists would be glad enough to invest in their future.

I don't think you could get large numbers of people to do so - not at least for a very long time.

Of course, lots of people were willing to move into and brave the hardships and dangers of the wilderness of the American West in order to have their own land. But that won't be quite the same on Mars for a very long time to come. One will not be able to simply go out, stake a claim and start a town or a homestead. Any initial settlement there will likely be a milti-billion dollar venture and the colonists will be mere employees of that venture.

A more appropriate comparison than the American colonists or pioneers in the Old West would be taking a job as an employee in some research laboratory in Antarctica or in some god-foresaken backward country that is so awful or primative that one must spend one's entire time in a secured base or compound. Of course, there are plenty of people who are willing to do that either because of their love for their work (as might be the case with research scientists) or because they are paid very high sums of money (as is the case with contractors in the Middle East and Iraq). Mars would have the disadvantage of being - what is it, nine months or so away? How many people are likely to be willing to spend a year and a half travel time plus whatever duration their tour of duty up there is away from their friends and family? Even if you enjoy your job - would you like to be surrounded by nobody else other than your colleagues at work for that extended period fo time? The reality is that, for a period of time, life on Mars would very much be like living on an isolated military base for several years with no vacations or trips back home.

I am not even sure that this would appeal to very many sci-fi or space fans. The novelty of "gee, I am in outer space!!" and "gee, I am on Mars!! would quickly wear off. Most people would quickly grow homesick to be back in civilization. Keep in mind that in the early stages of even the first permanant settlement, living there would be like being stuck in a small town - a small town with no roads out.

My guess is that, in its early stages, the main industry on Mars would be obtaining stuff that is scarce on earth such as minerals or the production of stuff that would be impossible or dangerous to do on earth. My guess is that much of that work would be done by robots - or perhaps even by prison labor.

I don't mean to be a nay-sayer - but I think the reality of what day-to-day life will be like for pioneer settlers on a distant planet will be much more dull and tedious than the sort of romanticized vision that a lot of people might have.

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Of course, lots of people were willing to move into and brave the hardships and dangers of the wilderness of the American West in order to have their own land. But that won't be quite the same on Mars for a very long time to come. One will not be able to simply go out, stake a claim and start a town or a homestead. Any initial settlement there will likely be a milti-billion dollar venture and the colonists will be mere employees of that venture.

And, to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, the American colonists could keep on breathing even if they lost everything.

Tell me how this sounds:

A big industrialist sets up an Ares Development Corporation. She offers shares for the sum of $1, which entitles the shareholder to a one-way trip to Mars at the time of his choosing (and if there is a berth available), as well as to a plot of land on Mars (big, but the exact size remains to be determined). Anyone can buy as many shares as they want, but dividends, if and when there are any, will only be paid to those who live in Mars. If you want to take your spouse, you buy two shares. In order to take your family, you buy as many shares as needed.

Once on Mars, you're on your own. You need not do anything with your plot. But you can sell it, hold it in reserve, inhabit it, paint it blue, plant something on it, fence it, whatever you want. It's yours. If you want to return to Earth, that's your problem. You'd have to find the money for it somehow.

The Corporation would set up an infrastructure to exploit Martian resources for use on Mars. The underground cities, the hydroponic farms, the water and oxygen works, etc etc. Employment opportunities will abound.

So now you have the beginings of a colony, plus a lot of colonists stuck there (by choice) who will work to develop Mars because it is in their best interest to do so.

Naturally the goal of the Industrialist isn't to make money, but to develop mars into a habitable world. She may not see a profit in her life, but she will have gained a world.

And that is fiction, too. But does it seem reasonable?

Mars would have the disadvantage of being - what is it, nine months or so away?
It depends on the technology available. A nuclear rocket, fission or fussion, could amannage the trip in a week or so, assuming it could carry enough propellant to maintain a continuous one-gee thrust, accelerating and decelerating, all the way. It also depends on the relative positions of Earth and Mars. Best case is five to ten days. Worst case is about six to eighteen months.

How many people are likely to be willing to spend a year and a half travel time plus whatever duration their tour of duty up there is away from their friends and family? Even if you enjoy your job - would you like to be surrounded by nobody else other than your colleagues at work for that extended period fo time? The reality is that, for a period of time, life on Mars would very much be like living on an isolated military base for several years with no vacations or trips back home.

Most of the colonists who came to the americas never went back. The trip was too long, costly and risky. And they had plenty of work on their new homes to keep them busy. Taking a month vacation to Europe would have ruined them. But there were also hired hands who came over here: sailors, soldiers, government employees and such, also some traders, and I have to assume an odd tourist or two. Had the English kings hired people on the basis you pose, they'd still be trying to develop our continent, or would have lost it to France, Spain and Holland.

That's not to say you're wrong. If we leave space exploration to governments (any government or the UN), we'll never have more than a research station or two, some dust and rock samples, and many tax payers complaining about the expense. Oh, and a declaration that Mars belongs to all humanity and peace and love and let's appease the thugs du jour.

As for private companies, other than the whole world, there's nothing on Mars that can't be found, mined, refined or made cheaper elsewhere. There are large amounts of iron, but iron is common enough right here, and it's easy and economical to recycle. Besides, lifting cargo out of Mars isn't cheap, unlike lifting from, say, the Moon. No one's going to set up shop in Mars for the purpose of exporting to Earth.

I am not even sure that this would appeal to very many sci-fi or space fans.
SF fans come in many varieties. For many, though, the literature is escapism of some form or another. For a few, it's a source of very concrete inspiration about the future. The ultimate in things as they should be.

Keep in mind that in the early stages of even the first permanant settlement, living there would be like being stuck in a small town - a small town with no roads out.

Oh, no. It won't be that good.

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She offers shares for the sum of $1, which entitles the shareholder to a one-way trip to Mars at the time of his choosing (and if there is a berth available), as well as to a plot of land on Mars (big, but the exact size remains to be determined).
I know the primary issue is the econo-technological issue, but let's not forget the stodgey old lego-philosophical one. 'Cuz this raises an interesting question about unowned property in the space age (especially assuming a massive movement in the direction of free enterprise, as is necessary for this discussion to get off the ground). See "The Property Status of Airwaves" for background. For your information, I have already declared ownership to the entire planet of Mars, in anticipation of this moment. I'm willing to sell pieces of my planet to Ares or anyone else, for a reasonable price. It may well happen that the Ares rep (Ripley, I assume) gets to the planet before I do, but still, my chronologically prior recognition of the objective value of the planet takes precedence over their Johnny-come-lately arrival there, doesn't it? Well, maybe not, because under the Homestead Act, ownership of unclaimed land within the US was governed by certain non-trivial rules, such as "actually getting there" and "living there for 5 years". But those rules couldn't be applicable to Mars, since the Homestead Act only held for land within the US. And anyhow, the act was repealed. So: until a Martian government is established somehow, I don't know how I will protect my property on Mars from the encroachment of UAC (they took over AresCorp). Except, of course, by using superior force, which would not be in accordance with man's nature.
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I know the primary issue is the econo-technological issue, but let's not forget the stodgey old lego-philosophical one.

I suppose I could say it is fiction, and the consequences and implications are left for the fans to argue about (fans love to argue about such things), but that would be an evasion. So:

'Cuz this raises an interesting question about unowned property in the space age (especially assuming a massive movement in the direction of free enterprise, as is necessary for this discussion to get off the ground).
As I understand, there are no specific laws on Earth to address the matter. There are treaties saying no nation can claim property in space, the Moon, etc, but I'm not aware if private individuals and/or companies are mentioned or not (I need to do some research).

If Ares has a monopoly on getting to Mars (and in the story it will, because the big industrialist got big building, and operating, the Space Elevator), then they can do as they please once they get there. If the UN objects to people taking land on Mars, let the UN go to Mars (it can't) and do somethign about it (it won't).

The colonists would set up a government, naturally. Ares wouldn't interfere with that. If they set up a rational government, then all reasonable claims to private property will be respected. This would include the Corporation's infrastructure, and the land granted to colonists (after all, everyone got the same amount of land; later, though things will get more complicated). It could set up a law similar to the Homestead Act, too, for future land acquisitions.

If they set up an irrational government, then God help them, because once they ruin the air production machinery and the hydroponics, it will be a race between starvation and suffocation. Here I favor Larry Niven's dictum that stupidity is lethal in space.

Ares could set up the government, too. I don't mean a privately owned government, but rather Ares writes the Constitution (which would be known to prospective colonists), sets up an interim government, and hands the government over to the colonists. Then they can begin to hold elections to replace the interim appointees. The Constitution would stand.

So: until a Martian government is established somehow, I don't know how I will protect my property on Mars from the encroachment of UAC (they took over AresCorp). Except, of course, by using superior force, which would not be in accordance with man's nature.

A government would be established early on, I should think.

However, the $1 shares are a mistake, come to think of it. They should be worth a great deal more, in order to fight takeover attempts. At $10,000 per share, you'll get serious colonists only, especially those with families.

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If Ares has a monopoly on getting to Mars (and in the story it will, because the big industrialist got big building, and operating, the Space Elevator), then they can do as they please once they get there.
Why? It's my damn property, so what gives them the right to trespass?? By "monopoly", I assume you mean they are the only people who have managed to get to Mars, i.e. "nobody else if actually offering competitive service"). I'm not questioning whether they could effectively get away with lawless rights-violations in invading my planet, I'm just talking about what's right.
If the UN
The what? Oh, my, I have to leave the room, I'm feeling queasy.
objects to people taking land on Mars, let the UN go to Mars (it can't) and do somethign about it (it won't).
That is to say, because no government or officious bureaucratic agency exists that will protect my right to my property, I'm scrod, right? Might makes right and all.
The colonists would set up a government, naturally.
Who cares! They are all criminals and rights violators! They have no right to trespass on my land. Dialing it back a notch, you're also assuming that "the colonists" have the right to establish a government. But this is basically anarchism and secession. The Ares Corp. has invaded my property and seized my land by force; okay, I will have to deal with that. But then, this has (by force) become the possession of the company, and they can establish whatever terms they want. Those terms need not include anything like "have the right to secede and establish a breakaway nation, if you want". Unless there is a clause to that effect, Ares would do whatever it damn well pleases, e.g. prohibit forming a government or criticizing The Corporation (insert reference to tedious sci-fi genre).
Here I favor Larry Niven's dictum that stupidity is lethal in space.
Agreed: rule 1 is, it's stupid to piss off your oxygen supplier and hope that silliness like "contracts" actually mean anything in a vacuum.

Anyhow, it's my planet. Sometimes, people hold that some companies in the US really own the oil fields of Iraq and Saudi Arabia, because those companies developed the fields in the first place and it was only the fact of collectivist tribalism and the lack of a rights-respecting and -protecting government that those companies has not been able to lay full claim to this resource. Forcible deprivation of rights is a wrong, both here and on Mars. Ultimately, the US government will develop the capacity to travel to Mars and protect my right to the planet. So it's true that in the short run I'll probably be deprived of my property, but the government will eventually be able to protect my rights, and then is when UAC needs to watch out.

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Let's start over. What claim have you on Mars?
I used my faculty of reason to integrate my knowledge of real estate and mining potential, to see that the planet was a means for me to survive, specifically with the intent to sell people the right to the product of my mind, the right to use particular smaller parcels of the planet for ore extraction and agriculture, or maybe vacationing. For that reason I claimed it as my property. I know that other people might have also had a similar idea, eventually, but the fact is that they are too late.

I would of course file my claim with the existing Martian government, but as we know, there isn't one.

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I can do the same thing for, say, a patch of property belonging to Boeing or Coca Cola. Does that means I've a legitimate claim to their land?
No, because they established ownership to that land first. Before I claimed the planet, Mars was unowned. So I'm the equivalent of global Coke. Remember, I own the planet, not Ares.
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No, because they established ownership to that land first. Before I claimed the planet, Mars was unowned. So I'm the equivalent of global Coke. Remember, I own the planet, not Ares.

Let's start with some facts:

Mars isn't owned by anyone who can back up that claim. That is to say, no one has built anything on Mars, or planted crops, or added any value at all to the land there.

Various governments have carried out exploration of the planet. The knoeldge so gained indicates all sorts of potential value to be created on mars. As such, that knowledge is very valuable. Who owns it? I've no idea. Most of it, if not all of it, has been published and is easily obtainable.

Ok. Anyone can claim to own Mars, or the Sun for that matter, but no one can enforce such a claim. Simply put, if you can't even visit your claimed property, nor send anyone or even enything else to do so, but others can, then those others can do as they please and you can't stop them.

Now let's see about ordinary Earthly properties. Take your house. It's yours because you paid for it, and the land it sits on. What protects your right to it? The law, of course, which recognizes your proerty and does not allow others to make any use of it without your permission. Most people wouldn't break the law by, say, defacing your house, entering it without permission, robbbing it, etc etc. But some would. To protect your rights against this tiny minority, you need whatever deterrent power the government has through the threat of reataliatory force.

So let us say tomorrow the US governmetn recognizes your claim. Mars is entirely yours. What happens then?

For starters, if you still can't reach Mars and others can't, you still can't do anything about it. The government might arrest those people for breaking (or is it aerobraking) and entering a planet without the owners consent. But the government cannot reach Mars, either. They could seize any Earhtly properties of these people, sure. I don't know if there is any legal jsutification for it, but they could do it anyway.

Other countries might not like your ownership of Mars. They could act against you. The American government would have to protect you from them.

So, where do we stand?

In actual fact, if America decided to award property of Mars to someone, they could make it stick because no one can really do anything about it. Harry Binswagner has suggested the US government award title to Mars to anyone who can travel there, stay there for a specific lenght of time, and return to Earth. I like that idea.

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Mars isn't owned by anyone who can back up that claim. That is to say, no one has built anything on Mars, or planted crops, or added any value at all to the land there.
Your argument seems to be, then, that a person cannot own anything unless they have built something on that property, or "added any value at all to the land there". I'm not clear exactly what that last part means. There are numerous ways in which this contravenes the concept of ownership in the US (and most civilized countries). For example, there are large parts of the American west that are owned and used by ranchers, who grow beef on the range. Would you consider an exception based on the fact that these guys use the land, but don't build on it? Second, and I fall into this category, some people own land but do nothing with it, because their intent is to sell it at an appropriate time. I own a few acres in prime wilderness recreational area, although it is totally undeveloped (wanna buy some recreational land? E me.) Does that mean that I don't really own the land, despite holding title? I know that can't fall under the "add value" clause, since by the same token I would "add value" to Mars by recognizing its worth qua real estate.
Anyone can claim to own Mars, or the Sun for that matter, but no one can enforce such a claim.
I'm not sure that I get your argument here. If you're saying that -- by myself, I cannot prevent aggressors from seizing my property -- then I grant that that's true (this was the earlier "does might make right" question). That's even true of the land that I own in the US, including the land where my house is. If some bigger entity invades, I can't enforce my property right without the aid of the government. Is your argument "If you cannot marshal sufficient force to protect the right, you don't have the right?" I mean, this inability to protect my Martian colony would be true even if I had visited the planet.
It's yours because you paid for it, and the land it sits on. What protects your right to it? The law, of course, which recognizes your proerty and does not allow others to make any use of it without your permission.
True indeed: the main question on the table is, what about the case where there is no rational government that protects my rights. Such is the case with Mars: we don't have a government with the capacity and will to protect my rights. The question is whether this changes my property rights. By way of analogy, numerous American companies had their property historically taken forcibly by foreign thugs, because the US either could not or (more usually) would not protect those rights. Does that change the fact of ownership (I'm still granting that there is the fact of physical control). In other words, is it really the case, as my 4th grade teacher told me, that physical possession is 90%, or more, of what matters for the concept of "ownership" and "property right"?

The reason why I oppose the idea that the US government should be the arbitrer of who is allowed to own property off the planet Earth is that I predict it would simply declare that any other potential property is rightfully owned by "mankind", not by any person, and that an international cooperative agency under the supervision of the UN would be established to assure that any use of off-planet resources best benefits all of mankind, and never any individual over another.

Are you arguing that a man only has a right to property when a sufficiently powerful government defines and enforces that right?

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Your argument seems to be, then, that a person cannot own anything unless they have built something on that property, or "added any value at all to the land there".

Not quite.

There's property that's already owned. Your house, for example. This kind belongs to its rightful owner and he can do with it as he pleases. He can make it productive, or he can leave it idle and unproductive.

Then there's property that has no owner. Such as Mars, for example. I think any reasonable claims for such property must meet certain criteria, including doing something productive with it.

As for "adding value," I mean doing somwthing with the land that makes it valuable. Without ranchers to herd cattle, a plain is just a fertile field inhabitted by wild animals and plants. With ranchers, the plain serves as a valuable piece in the process of meat production.

If you're saying that -- by myself, I cannot prevent aggressors from seizing my property -- then I grant that that's true (this was the earlier "does might make right" question). That's even true of the land that I own in the US, including the land where my house is. If some bigger entity invades, I can't enforce my property right without the aid of the government. Is your argument "If you cannot marshal sufficient force to protect the right, you don't have the right?"
My position is that if you cannot, or will not, protect your rights, then those rights are meaningless for all practical purposes. Suppose I take your car, and neither you nor anyone else does anything about it but call my action immoral? They're right, but what do thay gain by it?

I'm saying if you want to be a pionner in a new frontier, you'd best be prepared to defend your rights.

True indeed: the main question on the table is, what about the case where there is no rational government that protects my rights. Such is the case with Mars: we don't have a government with the capacity and will to protect my rights. The question is whether this changes my property rights.

It doens't change your irghts, no. But it may mean you won't get to keep your property, etiher.

By way of analogy, numerous American companies had their property historically taken forcibly by foreign thugs, because the US either could not or (more usually) would not protect those rights. Does that change the fact of ownership (I'm still granting that there is the fact of physical control). In other words, is it really the case, as my 4th grade teacher told me, that physical possession is 90%, or more, of what matters for the concept of "ownership" and "property right"?
Again, no. Property rights don't change. But the people who lost their property, well, lost their property. Would you accept a seized oil well as collateral for a loan to its rightful owner? Let the property remain seized, or endlessly "redistributed," for long enough, and it won't matter who rightfully owns it. Not in any practical sense.

The reason why I oppose the idea that the US government should be the arbitrer of who is allowed to own property off the planet Earth is that I predict it would simply declare that any other potential property is rightfully owned by "mankind", not by any person, and that an international cooperative agency under the supervision of the UN would be established to assure that any use of off-planet resources best benefits all of mankind, and never any individual over another.

Oh, sure. Then they'll even start subsidizing trips to Mars for nations that can't afford them, or find some other way to waste what is, after all, stolen money.

And that just brings us back to an earlier point: if no government can or will protect property rights on Mars, what can you do about it?

I admit it's not a pressing problem. We'll be lucky if, by the end of the decade, we have a good-sized space hotel for wealthy tourists who can afford to pay a few million dollars for a week's vacation. There are people and corporations who could afford to send people to Mars within, say, fiteen years. But why should they?

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I own the planet

Are you:

A. Being facetious to set yourself up to prove a point about property?

B. Being facetious to set yourself up to bring up a problem you have with our current conceptions of property?

C. Being facetious for a good time?

D. Being facetious for some reason I can't fathom?

or

E. Being completely serious?

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Then there's property that has no owner. Such as Mars, for example. I think any reasonable claims for such property must meet certain criteria, including doing something productive with it.
You are certainly entitled to your view, and I don't think it's totally unreasonable, but I think it's mistaken because it leaves out the "recognizes value" aspect. Which view prevails would depend on how the law is written within the nation where a claim is laid on unowned land. But in this case, there is no nation containing that land and no government which articulates objective procedures for laying claim to the land (as were specified in the Homestead Act, for example).
My position is that if you cannot, or will not, protect your rights, then those rights are meaningless for all practical purposes. Suppose I take your car, and neither you nor anyone else does anything about it but call my action immoral? They're right, but what do thay gain by it?
I think this is the crux of the matter. It was immoral of UAC to expropriate my land, but whatcha gonna do? When a man choses to exist outside of civilized society, he cannot expect ordinary concepts of "living qua man" to apply. He must expect that others will not respect his self-invented property rights, because in fact he doesn't have them, especially when it comes to land. I'm now coming to see that the right to own land is fundamentally based on the prior existence of a rights-respecting and rights-protecting government, which will articulate the objective requirements for land ownership. Until such a government is established, it's futile to talk of a right to land. The initial steps therefore must be Wild West-like: men who recognize the value of the planet and are capable of acting on that knowledge will do whatever is necessary to gain and keep that value, and because there is no government, than includes using force as needed to defend your claim. An early step should, therefore be, to create a civilized society and surrender your right to use force in defense of your life to that government. Ares may manage to get there first in your scheme, but if UAC gets there a bit later with bigger plans (mining for example, not the Ares real estate bus scheme) and takes land occupied by Ares -- and defends their right to the land by force -- the land is owned, rightfully, by UAC. It's only when a government is established, for the purpose of objectively and peacibly stating the rules for claiming land and for settling disputes, that there is any real meaning to the concept of rightful land ownership.

In this respect, I now realize that the right to own land has a significant similarity to copyright. The basic principle behind copyright, that you have the right to the product of your mind, is not in question, but it is a very general right which does not lead to a rationalistic deduction of how the right is concretized in all cases. Copyright requires a government to state and enforce that right, and the details (such as duration) must be encoded by the government. In an anarchic situation, there can be no copyright. The same is true of property: with no government, the concept of "rightful ownership" is indistinguishable from the concept "physical possession, defended with whatever level of force is necessary".

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Are you:
I take it you're not getting the point. The purpose is to explore the concept of "rights" and "property", to see the extent to which they depend on the concept "government". As a practical and less sci-fi application, all land that presently exists is part of some country, or claimed by some country (there are a number of tiny south-polar islands that are not "part of" France or NZ, but are sort of nominally "claimed" by those countries). What of some newly created land in the middle of the Pacific, not within any country? I could claim that land and (once it solidifies, 'cuz it's gonna be loaded with molten magma) move there, so it would be "my property" in a rhetorical sense. But in fact, it would be the property of whatever country manages to assert and maintain physical control of the land.

The bottom line for the Ares project is that the supposed "ownership" that you would have of this land is contingent. You might hope that it would translate into actual legal ownership, when a government is established on Mars. Until then, what you are getting is, well, actually, just the ride. You can claim as much or as little land as you can take and defend against attackers. And as we know, UAC has some really powerful weapons that they are developing. I would completely disregard Ares' claim that I get to "own" some land. But a $1 ride would be a bargain, though possibly suicidal. If Ares is incorporated under US law, I might get additional future benefits, but only under US law.

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Not only are there Whole Food Markets in Texas, the chain actually got its start in Austin, Texas. In fact, last year they built a brand new headquarters and flagship store in Austin. See: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/company/pr_02-22-05.html I have been in it - it is pretty nice. However, I much prefer another Texas chain called Central Market which overlaps slightly with Whole Foods except that Central Market focuses more on gourmet and specialty foods wheras Whole Foods focuses on "natural" foods and goes after the hippie market more. Central Market also started out in Austin but now has locations in the other major Texas metro areas. Their stores are actually tourist attractions with their Austin stores being the city's number 2 tourist draw after the state capital.

Whole food has organic products that are grown without the use of chemicals and pesticides. Why do you need to be a "Hippie" to care about how your food is grown and what you eat?

Oh and I don't want one penny of my tax dollars going to the space program even if they found Elvis on Mars. Let private funding foot the bill.

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  • 8 months later...
I'm interested in the nature of life, in general. For example, is life possible based on silicon compounds rather than carbon; what are the means of encoding the properties of a life-form (we have DNA, but maybe other molecular structures serve the same function)? The root questions are "what is life?" and "what causes life?"; I don't know whether a particular answer would have a profound impact on my philosophy of man. I have an idea about what makes life possible for humans and various other forms of life on Earth (though at the Monica level I'm clueless, and always fascinated to learn about the bizarre 1 cell stuff that's out there). So I want to know if the concept "life", as we know it here on Earth, is the same as or different from that on other planets.

IMHO, I feel that it would be reasonable to conclude that "life" on other planets would, indeed, differ from that which we've accustomed ourselves to here.... The logic behind this presumption is based on our observations of both what constitutes life here, as well as the various environments in which we have discovered it.

What I mean is, here on our little planet alone we've learned that life is not limited/preempted by the environmental extremes in which we've found it, instead, it's development and longevity is regulated by said environmental extremes, be they thousands of feet beneath the surface of our oceans clustered around a hydrothermal vent, or at the farthest reaches of our Arctic Circle in sub-sub-zero temperatures, sequestered away in some ice chip.

But it's there, in some form or another, it's development dictated by it's environmental surroundings much the same as a youth brought up in the slums of, say, the Bronx, would be socially inclined to petty crime as compared to a youth brought up in the suburbs would be inclined to scholastic achievement, both due to their individual social environments (though I add the disclaimer that an individual's outcome in life is ultimately dependent on the individual themselves and the choices in this life that they make...but that's fodder for a different discussion).

Inasmuch as this is the demonstrative case, I'm inclined to the persuasion that life on another planet would be defined, tempered, and regulated by the environmental/social schema in which it found itself, though it would exist if for no other reason than individual persistence, drive, and determination...but then, such is the pre-dispostion of "life"...all life.

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