So I got into a debate with some dude yesterday about whether a space station would somehow eat into colonization efforts. He seemed convinced that somebody would blow all of Mars One’s resources on a stupid space station or otherwise find a way to block actual colonization efforts. He kind of came off as somebody who doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a private organization like Mars One that isn’t relying on one single country, and a government agency that is just doing something related only by implication. India’s new Mars Orbiter mission isn’t even going to be a manned space station on its way to Martian orbit like he seemed to imply and, anyway, their theoretical findings about radiation and/or other hazards might scare off the chicken-livered, but not anyone who is really serious about colonizing Mars.
The exploration of space and eventual exploitation of its resources is going to be very much a niche thing. One company handles the building of space stations that can be used as way-stations along with providing docking and maintenance services for incoming spacecraft. This company may also build the interplanetary spacecraft that might well operate like Aldrin Cyclers, never actually landing on a planet’s surface, or leave that to a second private company. Another two or three companies build infrastructure on the surface of worlds like the Moon and Mars so that people can live and work on those worlds long-term. More companies get involved in mining operations, whether on planetary surfaces or among the asteroids. So, obviously, Mars One can just stick to figuring out how to get people to the Martian surface along with keeping them alive and does not have to get involved in building a space station at all. We can just leave that to other people.
And, anyway, I can see how space stations in orbit around Earth and Mars could help with further colonization efforts as we begin to develop the infrastructure. Transportation companies can get maximum benefit out of these stations by using an adaptation of the Aldrin Cyclers that I’ve read so much so much about and having them dock to these stations for personnel transfers and maintenance. At this point, just getting to Mars is a difficult and dangerous business. The Americans have lost Mars probes and the Russians have lost a whole slew of probes (though they do get credit for continuing to try). The first baby steps with colonizing Mars will be reserved for the intrepid few who don’t so much laugh at the risks, as analyze them carefully and decide what they’re going to do about it.
At its best, the process of getting several companies involved, each within their own niche, will be a good thing for everybody. The cost is high and it’s very likely that it will take several centuries just to build the kind of infrastructure I imagine will make interplanetary travel and settlement seem routine. However, by spreading that cost around, it won’t affect Mars One in a negative fashion at all. It’ll just take maybe some negotiations between companies and consortia that can establish technological standards where necessary.
A Note on Consortia and Standard-Making Bodies
In terms of the technological world, consortia and standard-making bodies are basically organizations that set down technological standards, often involving several companies who have decided to work together to create a logical progression path for their products. This is part of what makes it possible for your iPad to connect to a Cisco wireless router even though they are made by different companies. The aerospace industry may someday decide to take a cue from organizations like ANSI and IEEE to form one or more standards-making organizations of their own.
It sure beats being a many-tentacled octopus who can’t seem to decide which way he wants his tentacles to go. As somebody who’s been a professional content writer for several years, maybe I would have explained to the other dude about niche work if he had given me time. As far as I’m concerned, having private companies divide up the work of exploring and settling space is really the same basic concept as having two technological manufacturing companies, one of which focuses on making USB devices while the other makes Android devices. Wall Street might put them under the “Tech Stocks” ticker, but you might have plugged a SanDisk micro-USB device into a Samsung tablet at some point in your life. And maybe your grandchildren will be riding a SpaceX Aldrin Class vehicle to Mars orbit so that they can land near a colony created by the Mars One colonists.
Space is big, really too big to be tackled by any one organization. However, several organizations and mostly private companies, all willing to work together for mutual benefit, should be able to get the job done.
Space Station Models Within Your Budget