- Online bettors can wager on which organization will be the first to send humans to Mars.
- It’s certainly not going to be Mars One Ventures, a Dutch company which just declared bankruptcy.
- Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are the favorites.
Mars, the Red Planet, Matt Damon’s adopted home: whatever you call it, it’s the next stop on humanity’s never-ending quest for discovery. A scant 33.9 million miles away, Mars’ gravitational pull is so great that it has tugged billions of dollars from the pockets of ambitious entrepreneurs.
Elon Musk (founder and CEO of SpaceX), Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon and space-launch company Blue Origin), and Dennis Muilenburg (CEO of Boeing) have all started projects to get humans to Mars, as has Dutch company Mars One Ventures.
The new version of the “space race” crafted the following prop wager.
Who Will Charter Humans to Mars First?
|First organization to charter humans to Mars||Odds|
Why Isn’t Mars One on That List?
Mars One Ventures — which originally planned to send the first of 24 human colonizers to Mars in 2024 — is noticeably absent from that list.
It’s a justifiable omission given what transpired earlier this week.
— Corey S. Powell (@coreyspowell) February 10, 2019
Now all that remains is the Mars One Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Mars One organization.
For people who pay close attention to the Mars missions, the bankruptcy news didn’t come as a huge shock. Journalists and researchers who investigated the viability of Mars One’s project came to the following conclusion: the company’s plan to colonize Mars had fatal flaws and the executives had drastically underestimated the cost (at $6 billion).
Those who gave the Mars One braintrust the benefit of the doubt deemed them incompetent. Those who didn’t deemed the entire thing a scam designed to wrest millions of dollars from daydreaming would-be astronauts.
“With little infrastructure and no plans for spacecraft, it’s easy to assume Mars One was never actually supposed to take off; that the entire project is a scheme so its wealthy co-founders can take money from dreamers who want to leave Earth.” — Rae Paoletta, Inverse.com
But while the bankruptcy news likely broke the hearts of Mars One’s 100-person shortlist, the rest of humanity can rest easy knowing that the odds of reaching Mars by 2025 remain unchanged.
Will Humans Reach Mars by 2025?
|Will a human set foot on Mars by 2025?||Odds|
Those odds are the same as they were in August 2018.
Even when it was operational, Mars One Ventures was a huge darkhorse to reach Mars first, and an even bigger longshot to do it by its stated goal of 2024.
The oddsmakers still see Mars as an attainable goal within the next six years, though. The +275 odds on human’s reaching Mars by 2025 carry an implied probability of 26.7%. If there was no juice on that prop, the odds would be about +305 (24.7% implied probability).
Basically, the odds say there’s a 25% chance a human will set foot on Mars by Dec. 31, 2024.
Is that optimism justified?
How is SpaceX’s Mars Project Going?
SpaceX has long been seen as the best hope for reaching Mars in the near future. Elon Musk is the most focused on getting to Mars and his company is ahead of the competition in terms of development.
SpaceX’s Starship is currently in the “testing phase” …
Here's the latest picture of SpaceX’s Starship hopper, which Elon Musk said he wants to start testing next month. https://t.co/wXzX6O3pDc
— Bloomberg (@business) January 5, 2019
… and Musk recently announced that his company’s Raptor engine had reached the force required in the latest tests.
Design requires at least 170 metric tons of force. Engine reached 172 mT & 257 bar chamber pressure with warm propellant, which means 10% to 20% more with deep cryo.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 7, 2019
As the primary power source for SpaceX’s Mars missions, the Raptor engine has to succeed during this testing phase if SpaceX is going to reach Mars in 2024 (which Musk hopes to do).
SpaceX still has millions of miles to go (both literally and metaphorically) but the recent developments can all be logged on the positive side of the ledger.
What about Blue Origin’s Mars Plans?
Jeff Bezos is not nearly as focused on getting to Mars as Musk. Not only is the Amazon founder fighting some other battles at the moment …
Jeff Bezos is alleging that The National Enquirer tried to blackmail him by threatening to publish his nudes if he didn’t drop an investigation over leaked text messages that ultimately ended his marriage https://t.co/MnQQJti5tk pic.twitter.com/W9E06WHDXk
— Variety (@Variety) February 7, 2019
… but his Blue Origin project does not have “land on Mars” at the top of its list of goals. Bezos is also working on returning humans to the moon, developing a lunar lander dubbed “Blue Moon.”
Bezos' Blue Origin Aerospace Co
Blue Origin said in a press release that both the Blue Moon mission and Moon Race are in line with its goal to "land large payloads on the Moon that can access and utilize the resources found there." https://t.co/W43PIf8miT
— John Gale (@Carverlon) October 5, 2018
So while Blue Origin’s successes on the launchpad are encouraging for general space travel, their indefinite plans for a trip to Mars don’t bode well for a 2024 arrival date.
Telesat announced today that it selected Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket to launch its LEO broadband constellation in a “multi-launch” agreement. https://t.co/CKx6pMm7ei
— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) January 31, 2019
How Does Boeing Fit into the Mars Race?
Boeing is a bit of a red herring in this Mars mystery. When Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said that the first people on Mars would be propelled on their journey via Boeing-built rocket, a lot of ears pricked up, including Musk’s.
— Jim Cramer (@jimcramer) June 1, 2018
But Boeing, itself, isn’t actually working on a Mars mission. The company has been contracted by NASA to develop rockets for the latter’s Orion spacecraft, which could one day (2030s at the earliest) power NASA missions to Mars.
Unfortunately for Boeing and NASA, the development isn’t going super well.
“Boeing’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket has three to six month risk of delay on a planned June 2020 launch, Bill Hill, deputy administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development, told reporters.” — Gillian Rich, Investors.com (Nov. 2018)
So if Boeing wins the first prop wager (which company will reach Mars first) then the first humans will not be on Mars by 2025.
SBD’s Mars Props
As the Mars race heats up, the limited wagers available are not satisfying the public’s need for Martian props. Like Commander Lewis coming back to rescue Mark Watney, SBD is swooping in to save the day.
With the ebullient personalities of Musk and Bezos at the forefront of the Mars race, will either outgoing billionaire travel to space, himself? How much will the first mission to Mars actually cost? Will any of the disappointed souls on Mars One’s shortlist get to live out their dream of going to space?
Here are our highly scientific calculations on one of the most complicated and ambitious enterprises humankind has ever undertaken.
|SBD’s In-House Mars Props||Odds|
|Over/Under cost of first mission to Mars||$99 billion|
|Odds SpaceX declares bankruptcy before humans reach Mars||19/1|
|Odds Blue Origin declares bankruptcy before humans reach Mars||39/1|
|Over/Under number of people on Mars One’s shortlist who ever go to space||1.5|
|Odds Elon Musk personally goes into space||3/7|
|Odds Jeff Bezos personally goes into space||1/1|
Do you think we are underestimating the Amazon CEO’s sense of adventure? Does the 55-year-old have enough time on his biological clock to reach the cosmos?