National Space Society Space Settlement Campaign Supports Elon Musk’s Mars Settlement Plans

At today’s meeting of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, Elon Musk, CEO of Space X, announced his bold plan to build a city on Mars. For over 40 years the National Space Society has led advocacy for space settlement. According to Mark Hopkins, economist and Chair of the Executive Committee of the National Space Society, “The vast majority of the resources of our solar system lie in space rather than on the Earth. By settling Mars and other locations in space we can overcome the resource limits of Earth leading to a hopeful, prosperous future for all of humanity.”

During the talk Musk detailed the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) for the first time. The first stage of the ITS towers 77.5 meters with a diameter of 12 meters and uses 42 Raptor engines to provide a total of 28 million lbs of thrust. The second stage is 49.5 meters long, 17 m in diameter, uses 9 Raptor engines, and comes in both a crew/cargo model and a tanker model. Musk’s plans are based on four key approaches: full reusability of all components, refueling in orbit around Earth, refueling on Mars with locally produced propellant, and using a rocket fuel (methane/oxygen) that can be easily manufactured on Mars. Musk envisions that the eventual cost of a ticket to Mars will be in the $100K-$200K U.S. dollars range, allowing ordinary people to eventually travel to Mars.

SpacX ITS launch
SpacX ITS launch
SpaceX ITS reusable first stage return
SpaceX ITS reusable first stage return
SpaceX ITS refueling in orbit (image: SpaceX)
SpaceX ITS refueling in orbit
SpaceX ITS approaching Mars
SpaceX ITS approaching Mars
SpaceX ITS nearing Mars
SpaceX ITS final approach to Mars
SpaceX ITS Mars entry
SpaceX ITS Mars entry
SpaceX Raptor engine test
SpaceX Raptor engine test
SpaceX has already built an ITS prototype composite fuel tank
SpaceX has already built a prototype ITS composite fuel tank

What has been a bold vision of the future for humanity is now becoming reality. Humanity has begun the first concrete steps towards space settlement. The next decade will be one of the most pivotal in human history. Today we are beginning the journey to becoming a multiplanetary species.

In recognition of these momentous developments taking place the National Space Society is convening the first “Space Settlement Summit” in January to bring together leading people, companies and organizations that are making space settlement a reality. Participation in this event will be by invitation only and limited to entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, venture capitalists, and thought leaders deeply involved in making space settlement a reality. The objective of the event will be to show the synergistic in-space ecosystem that is emerging; to facilitate a convergence of interests and opportunities among the key players; and to identify critical issues along the path to space settlement. We are at the dawn of a new era for humanity and the National Space Society is continuing its role as the leading voice for space settlement.

Musk’s reveal of his Mars colonization plan follows the announcement September 12th of the Blue Origin “New Glenn” heavy-lift vehicle by Jeff Bezos. The New Glenn is 7 meters in diameter and comes in both a two stage and a three stage version. The reusable first stage is powered by seven BE-4 engines fueled by liquid natural gas and liquid oxygen, providing 3.85 million pounds of thrust. The second stage uses a single BE-4 engine, and the optional third stage a single liquid hydrogen-oxygen BE-3 engine, the same engine used in the flight proven reusable New Shepard sub-orbital vehicle.

“The New Glenn is a major step forward for commercial space,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. “With the SpaceX ITS and Falcon Heavy, the United Launch Alliance Vulcan, and the Blue Origin New Glenn operational, the U.S. will have four domestic options for commercial medium to heavy lift. This will allow NASA to make use of commercial heavy lift services with greater confidence than if only a single operator existed.”

The U.S National Space Policy of 2010 states “To promote a robust domestic commercial space industry, departments and agencies shall: Purchase and use commercial space capabilities and services to the maximum practical extent when such capabilities and services are available in the marketplace and meet United States Government requirements.”

“NASA ought to welcome the usage of the ITS, Vulcan, the New Glenn and the Falcon Heavy in future NASA planning,” said Skran. “NASA can only benefit from the existence of multiple commercial medium to heavy lift providers with re-usable first stages that offer the possibility of significant cost reductions.”

Milestone 2 on the NSS Space Settlement Roadmap is titled “Higher Commercial Launch Rates and Lower Cost to Orbit” ( Future NASA usage of commercially available partially or fully re-usable medium to heavy lift vehicles will be critical to achieving this milestone.

“Competition like that seen between Blue Origin and SpaceX is key to rapid progress in space,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President. “Elon just presented a plan for settling the solar system in this century that is realistic and affordable. In my paper, ‘A Pathway to a Thriving Commercial Space Economy’ at IAC, I also laid out a path forward to a thriving new economy in space that produces new opportunities for all.”

Musk’s plan’s address MILESTONES 15 (“Logistics System”), 16 (“Base”), and 17 (“A True Martian Settlement”) in the evolving NSS Space Settlement Roadmap (see NSS supports the exploration, development, and settlement of space, including free space, the Moon, asteroids, and other locations in addition to Mars.

NSS has been pushing hard via legislative outreach in cooperation with the Alliance for Space Development to make space development and settlement part of the objectives that guide NASA. In March 2016 Rep. Dana Rohrabacher introduced H.R.4752 the “Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act (see to make development and settlement of space part of the fundamental law governing NASA.

More recently, on September 21, 2016, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee marked up S.3346, the NASA Transition Act of 2016. This bi-partisan Bill, co-sponsored by Senators Cruz, Nelson, Rubio, Peters, Wicker, and Udall, contains the following ground-breaking statement:

Section 202(a) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 (42 U.S.C. 18312(a)) is amended to read as follows:
“(a) LONG-TERM GOALS—The long-term goals of the human space flight and exploration efforts of NASA shall be—
“(1) to expand permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and to do so, where practical, in a manner involving international, academic, and industry partners; and
“(2) the peaceful settlement of a location in space or on another celestial body and a thriving space economy in the 21st century.”

The entire S.3346 “NASA Transition Act of 2016” can be found at: NSS applauds the Senate for taking this forward-looking position in favor of space development and settlement, but much remains to be done to make space development and settlement a reality. Join us in the fight for a better future at

Elon Musk talk “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species” to be webcast September 27

On Tuesday September 27, on the second day of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, Elon Musk will deliver a special keynote presentation on “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species.”

Musk will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for colonizing the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.

The presentation is scheduled for one hour beginning at 2:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time, 1:30 PM Central Daylight Time (Guadalajara), 12:30 PM Mountain Daylight Time, and 11:30 AM Pacific Daylight Time.

This and other IAC plenary sessions will be webcast on this direct link to IAC webcasts on For a schedule of other sessions see the IAC website plenaries and highlight lectures page.

Olympus Mons

Image courtesy SpaceX

Dropping the Ball in a Rotating Space Settlement

Here’s a virtual space settlement “ball drop” experiment courtesy of Joe Strout. The ball starts out six meters above the deck, initially stationary with respect to the rotating settlement. Then it is dropped, much like Galileo dropping stones from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but it results in a behavior that Galileo never saw:


The viewpoint is lined up for optimally seeing the slight pull to the left. In reality, of course, there is no pull to the left… the ball is traveling in a straight line, at a constant velocity from the moment it was released, and the settlement is rotating around it. Note that the appearance of moving toward the viewer is an illusion: the ball is not being dropped from the vertical dark pillar but from an invisible platform the same distance toward the viewer as where the ball lands.

Details for the curious: The deck here has a 224-m radius and spins at 2 RPM, simulating 1G. The white ceiling at the top of the view is about 130 m up. Those deck plates are 2 m squares, though unfortunately they don’t line up perfectly with the ball’s starting position — but if you can detect a slight bend in the plating, that does align with where the ball starts.  So the ball’s apparent sideways motion is about a meter or so, over a 6 meter drop.

Note that this simulation assumes there is no air here; the ball is falling as in a vacuum. In a real settlement, of course, air would apply a force in the direction of the settlement’s spin, reducing this Coriolis effect by some amount that depends on the aerodynamics of the object.

Courtesy of Joe Strout of High Frontier Forums.

New in the NSS Space Settlement Journal: Bootstrapping Lunar Industry

Making It on the Moon: Bootstrapping Lunar Industry
, a paper by Dave Dietzler, has just been published in the NSS Space Settlement Journal.

Abstract: The cost of rocketing cargo into space is very high. Great savings can result if local resources like oxygen and materials from lunar regolith are used to build and expand Moon bases and create industrial settlements to supply materials for solar power satellites and space settlements, tourism, planetary defense, asteroid mining and research stations. This paper attempts to illustrate the components of a lunar “industrial seed” consisting of equipment needed to produce materials on the Moon and establish a growing industrial presence there that leads to space settlement. The first section discusses some of the issues surrounding transportation to the Moon and the second section quickly examines materials production, manufacturing and construction. Space settlers and industrialists must get an idea of how much propellant and cargo must be launched from Earth and plan out the actual cargoes to determine the size of capital outlay for a Moon mining project.

Read full paper.

Space Colonization and the Space Movement

By Mark Hopkins
Chair of the Executive Committee, National Space Society

The National Space Society (NSS) and its precursor organization, the L-5 Society, have been promoting Space Settlement since 1975. Our ultimate goal is nothing less than the settlement of space and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity. This goal has been moving toward the mainstream at an accelerating pace.

A discussion of recent progress (up until May 2015) can be found in “We Are Winning” (Ad Astra, Fall 2015). Since then the pace has continued to accelerate. Both SpaceX and Blue Origin, using only non-government funds, have returned launch vehicles to Earth for reuse, signaling an imminent reduction in space transportation costs. Space Settlement is the goal of both of these companies. The Space Exploration Development and Settlement Act was introduced in Congress on March 16, 2016. If passed, the SEDS Act would make Space Settlement an official goal of NASA (see “Victory: The Vision of NSS May Soon Become an Official Objective of NASA”). Most recently, Elon Musk, head of SpaceX, announced his company’s plans to send the first human mission to Mars as early as 2024. Musk also announced that he will detail SpaceX’s plans to settle Mars during the International Astronautical Congress in late September 2016. This announcement is likely to cause the goal of Space Settlement to make a major jump toward the mainstream.

NSS has been using the term Space Settlement rather than Space Colonization since our beginning in 1975. All of the other organizations in today’s Space Movement were founded after us and almost all followed our lead, using the term Space Settlement. This was done because in 1975 the word colonization had negative connotations. Much of the world was made up of former colonies that resented their former status.

However, the rapid move of Space Settlement toward the mainstream in the last few years has shown that society outside of Space Movement circles, and particularly outside of space circles, prefers the term Space Colonization. The recent hit movie The Martian provides an example. NSS considers the two terms Space Settlement and Space Colonization to be synonymous. Despite the 40-plus years of the Space Movement using the term Space Settlement, society may well push us to using the term Space Colonization in the future.

The Space Movement began in 1975. Space Colonization is its goal. (For articles about the Movement, see “The Space Movement” at The advancement of this goal toward the mainstream is energizing the Movement. The greatest obstacle for the Space Movement has been credibility. Time and time again we have convinced influential people of the importance of Space Colonization only to have them become disenchanted after talking to space “experts” who have questioned its credibility. The ongoing destruction of this obstacle is creating an environment favorable to the explosive growth of the Space Movement.

Rapid progress toward convincing society as a whole of the importance of Space Colonization to the human future is now possible. NSS can reenergize the belief in the American dream, an ever-improving dramatic betterment of humanity, and a hopeful future for all.

A potential space colony. Artwork: Richard Bizley

NSS Board Member Al Globus Provides Updates on Space Settlement Research

Al GlobusLast year National Space Society Board of Directors member Al Globus released three pre-prints that together suggested a radically easier path to space settlement. A major part of this is the discovery that space settlements in Low Earth Orbit very close to the equator (ELEO) will experience far less radiation than any other location—so little that dedicated shielding may be unnecessary. This massively reduces the mass of space settlement designs (roughly two orders of magnitude).

The paper focused on radiation has now been substantially revised incorporating information from a number of NCRP (National Council on Radiological Protection and Measurement) publications. The bottom line recommendations have not changed, however. This paper can be found at:

  • Orbital Space Settlement Radiation Shielding,” Al Globus and Joe Strout, preprint, June 2016. The major result of this paper is that settlements in low (~500 km) Earth equatorial orbits may not require any radiation shielding at all based on a careful analysis of requirements and extensive simulation of radiation effects. This radically reduces system mass and has profound implications for space settlement as extraterrestrial mining and manufacturing are no longer on the critical path to the first settlements, although they will be essential in later stages. It also means the first settlements can evolve from space stations, hotels, and retirement communities in relatively small steps.

These changes are also reflected in:

  • Space Settlement: An Easier Way,” by Al Globus, Stephen Covey, and Daniel Faber, June 2016 describes a relatively easy, incremental path to free space settlement by taking advantage of very low radiation levels in Equatorial Low Earth Orbit (ELEO) and higher rotation rates. Low levels of radiation in ELEO may permit settlements with little or no radiation shielding. Higher rotation rates permit much smaller settlements. Together this reduces settlement design mass by two to three orders of magnitude and places early settlements very close to Earth, radically reducing the difficulty of building the first space settlements and making launch from Earth practical. The mass model used in this paper is available here as an Excel spreadsheet.

For completeness, here is the third paper although there have been no revisions:

  • Space Settlement Population Rotation Tolerance,” Al Globus and Theodore Hall, preprint, June 2015. This paper reviews the literature to find that space settlement residents and visitors can tolerate at least four, and probably six, rotations per minute to achieve 1g of artificial gravity. This means settlements can be radically smaller, and thus easier to build, than previously believed.

The Billionaire’s Race to Colonize Space: Blue Origin and SpaceX

Elon Musk has made it clear that his mission with SpaceX is to colonize Mars and to help humanity become a multi-planet species.

Jeff Bezos states that Blue Origin is “working hard to bring closer the day when millions of people can live and work in space.”

See the interesting article on this subject by Trevor Nace on The Next Web Insider.

The Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act of 2016

The Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act of 2016 (H.R. 4752) has been introduced by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher “to require the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to investigate and promote the exploration and development of space leading to human settlements beyond Earth, and for other purposes.”

The National Space Society urges you to call or write your Congressional Representative today and request that he or she co-sponsor H.R. 4752 (the Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act of 2016). You should specifically ask that the space staffer for your Representative should contact Tony DeTora in Congressman Rohrabacher’s office to become a co-sponsor.

This bill states: “The Congress declares that expanding permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit in a way that enables human settlement and a thriving space economy will enhance the general welfare of the United States and requires the Administration to encourage and support the development of permanent space settlements.”

It also provides a definition: “The term ‘space settlement’ means any community of humans living beyond Earth’s atmosphere that is able to economically sustain its population through a neutral or positive balance of trade of goods and services, and is able to expand its habitable real estate as need and desire of the community may warrant and international law permits.”

The full text of the bill can be found here:

You can help develop space settlements!

NSS Director Al Globus is working on a new space settlement design and you can easily help just by taking this short space settlement survey.

It’s a one page introduction followed by eight required and six optional questions. The survey usually takes less than ten minutes to complete. You will not be asked for contact information and there are no ads. Your answers will be used to help form the design of a new generation of space settlements!

Kalpana 2
Image courtesy Bryan Versteeg,