Tesla? It’s A Zero

by Karl Denninger 

Elon once again pulled his magic bag out and pontificated on a Mars mission recently, sending the stock of Tesla up in a rocket shot.

Let’s be clear folks — there is not now nor will there be a viable Mars mission at any time in the reasonable future.

This is a matter of physics, not desire or will.  In order to get to Mars you must use a transfer orbit; Earth and Mars must be in the correct orbital relationship for the launch.  If you miss the window you don’t get another one for several years because the Earth and Mars change relationship by just under half a degree daily.  If you miss the launch window for any reason, in other words, you get to wait over two years before you can try again.

That’s just the start of the bad news.  It requires ~250 days, more or less, to get there.  But once you get there you need the inverse planetary relationship to launch from Mars back to Earth!  This means that the shortest round trip requires a stay on Mars of more than a year.

Now think about the realities here folks.  First, we have no means available to put people into space for multiple years in the impaired gravity during transit and on Mars itself and have them be able to survive coming back into Earth’s gravity.  This means you would have to launch something that’s big enough you can rotate it to generate artificial gravity without making everyone puke; that’s a fairly large spacecraft (in diameter.)  You have to get that off the planet and into orbit first, probably in pieces, assemble it and get enough fuel up there to be able to launch it into the transfer orbit.

Oh, then you have a new problem — lifting that “thing” out of Earth’s gravity well for the Mars transit shot is only half the problem.  You have do it on the other end and you have to carry the fuel with you since there are no known ways to extract, process and refuel said ship on Mars.  We currently have no means to lift the required fuel for the return out of Earth’s gravity well; that problem might be solveable with multiple “into orbit” supply launches, but it would take a lot of them — while Mars only has 40% of Earth gravity that’s still very significant and coming back you get out of its gravity well to make the trans-orbital insertion back.

This all assumes you would not be terminally compromised by the more than a year stay in the ~40% gravity that Mars itself has.  We have not figured out any way to create artificial gravity .aka. “Star Trek” other than by centrifugal force and that’s impractical at best once on the Red Planet.

Oh, speaking of which, that more than a year is at best.  Miss the return launch window (e.g. due to a technical problem) and you get to stay for even longer — again, as with the other end, more than two years before you can take another shot at it.  You need enough supplies to survive that long — or you’re slowly and nastily dead.

We haven’t even discussed the other environmental problems once you get there.  There’s no atmosphere which is bad enough, but what’s worse is that there is no magnetosphere of note either because Mars doesn’t have a rotating, molten core.  The latter is why the atmosphere was stripped from Mars originally but more to the point it is also what keeps solar radiation from killing everyone on Earth!  The only rational defense against that would be to operate entirely underground.

To do that you’d have to tunnel underground, and that means you need to haul the equipment up there to do it, along with the energy supply to run it.  Solar energy is much weaker at Martian distances than it is on Earth, which makes trying to use solar energy a serious problem.  Yes, it works for the Rover, but the Rover is a tiny consumer of energy by comparison.  Digging holes in the planet’s crust is another matter entirely.

Then there’s the question of how you will manage to maintain a breathable atmosphere.  Mars doesn’t have one, and you can’t carry enough O2 with you (in LOX or otherwise) to last years on Mars since you have to lift everything originally off Earth.  Musk has yet to explain how he intends to replenish the oxygen or scrub the CO2 you produce when you breathe.  Chemical scrubbers are great but they run out and you can’t just order up more (note that transit time up above again!)

I’m not done yet but really at this point it’s idiotic to continue since I’ve already explained how you’re going to die about six times before you manage to get to the return window for a launch back to Earth.

Given what we know how to do today and what we know of the composition of Mars as a planet this certainly appears to be at best a one-way ticket — so why do it at all, with no chance of a successful return?

In other words Musk isn’t really expecting to pull this off.

He’s trying to distract you from the fact that his company has never made a nickel in profit, it never will, he keeps conning people out of more and more money, especially those on Wall Street, and every penny that has been put into that company has already irretrievably gone “poof” like a fart in a church.

I’ve brought this up before on these pages — h/t for the poke and reminder in The Bar on Tickerforum; I figured it was worth a wider exposure lest there be plenty of people too stupid to realize they’re being had.

In short Tesla is a zero.