Musk Industries’ Teleology

One observation I’ve seen people make is that Elon Musk’s industrial empire seems ultra-optimized for the distinctly non-commercial ambition of establishing a Mars colony:

  • SpaceX for providing the reusable rockets to throw large payloads into space at much lower cost.
  • Tesla to provide the batteries for Mars vehicles.
  • Boring Company to dig out the tunnels to keep colonists safe from radiation and meteorite strikes.
  • Starlink for communications.

Now in fairness, colonizing Mars is something that Musk has talked about for a long time, the ultimate goal being to make humanity into an interplanetary species and hence insulate us from Earth-specific existential risks.

In particular, Musk is concerned – at least in his public rhetoric – about the risks of machine superintelligence. His spats with DeepMind and Demis Hassabis on the topic have already moved from the Silicon Valley rumor mill to MSM coverage.

Problem: As Roko Mijic points out, there are few existential risks that would doom us on Earth while sparing our remnant on Mars… and that’s assuming said presence on Mars is indefinitely self-sustaining, which requires a population of at least 1 million* (a population level that Musk very boldly projects for 2050).

Most notably, malevolent superintelligence – probably the most realistic existential risk this century – is not one of the rare cases in which having a Mars colony will be useful. It would “simply follow humans to Mars,” as Hassabis has joked to Musk himself.

Otherwise, many existential risk scenarios can be effectively hedged with costly but still much less expensive isolated colonies on Earth:

I am sure that Musk is surely smart enough to realize this, so why maintain the Mars narrative?

  • Perhaps Musk has figured out how to make a Mars colony profitable within human timescales after all. I don’t see how, but Musk maxes out on the IQ * executive function scale.
  • Perhaps Musk is a superintelligence himself, and has figured out how putative Martians could ward their planet against other, more misanthropic superintelligence that was to attain terrestrial overlordship.
  • Perhaps it is a really cool narrative to appeal to the techno-futurists, crypto evangelists, and libertarian cornucopians who have propelled Musk into becoming the richest man in the world.

My bet is on that last option. However, there’s a big additional factor that the Mars narrative conceal, and which do not seem to have gotten any attention at all, whether from his starry-eyed fans or his coping detractors.

For the same set of technologies that will technically (if not economically) enable large-scale Mars colonization also constitute a kind of template for terrestrial military dominance.

  • SpaceX for unparalleled strategic airlift – the Falcon Heavy’s LEO payload is equivalent to that of the C-17 Globemaster and can circumlocate to anywhere in the world within an hour.
  • Tesla batteries for pruning logistics chains and powering electric railguns, the future of artillery.
  • Neuralink for cyborg soldiers.
  • Starlink for global surveillance and communications.
  • Boring Company for rapidly excavating tunnels to shelter military units on the battlefields of the future, which precision railgun artillery will make deadly into a range of hundreds of kilometers. This is not as speculative as it seems at first glance – militaries have been exploring the concept of the “subterrene” since the 1930s. At any rate, a military application would explain the focus on acquiring a tenfold speed advantage over existing TBMs.
  • OpenAI for autonomous weapons systems and integrating all of the above into a Skynet-like whole.

Soviet Trebelev subterrene. Materials technology of the time couldn’t handle the high heat stress – but perhaps the problem is more amendable with modern techs?

The US has scant chance of retaining its global military dominance much beyond 2050, if not earlier – much greater Chinese GDP coupled with the multiplier effects of economies of scale amidst a healthy heavy industrial base makes the twilight of US military supremacy but inevitable. Even now, at peacetime levels of military spending as a percentage of GDP, the PLAN grows by the equivalent of a major European navy every year and plans to build 1,000+ Y-20 heavy transports to attain strategic airlift dominance over East Eurasia.

Hence, perhaps, why Musk Industries has what essentially amounts to a credit spigot from branches of the American government, not all of which need be entirely or at all transparent.

Imagine you are an intelligent and perspicacious American Deep Stater, and you see the skyrocketing Chinese GDP, you see that America’s only hope of maintaining military hegemony is to make a qualitative leap, you see that dystrophic bureaucratism and affirmative action hires have made it impossible for anything interesting to get done through the old state institutions like NASA.

So why not bank on a moonshot through Musk Industries?

All the better if you can get the i❤science crowd and SWPL Tesla fans (many of them foreigners** ) who regard Musk’s EVs as the next Apple to pay much of the costs, or even bank a net profit in the process.

  • In reality, I would say it would be closer to 100M. Perhaps 10M if colonists are strictly filtered for high IQ. But that’s beside the main argument.

** It would admittedly be quite funny if Chinese consumers underwrite an American victory in the next Pacific War that it would have otherwise lost.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


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  2. There will be no colonization of Mars during Musk’s lifetime. Antarctica not colonized, and the colonization of Mars by four orders of magnitude more difficult at least.

  3. Yeah, Musk is military man. Thats not to say Mars isn’t important, it will be about 80 years from now, but not in a way Musk is selling it. Mars will be a military, scientific, and water mining installation with strictly regulated access, not a free wheeling colony where everybody will go. Vast majority of the population will be killer and maintenance robots. There will be human soldiers and workers, but on strict rotation basis for a few years at most.

    And yes, Musks technology is there to prepare for thermonuclear war. Why do you think Starship is made of cheap steel and mass produced engines? Those things can be easily weld repaired in the apocalyptic battlefield, their propellant oxygen and methane, things that are literally everywhere on Earth. Unlike most American military toys that are overdesigned and wouldn’t last a week once supply chains collapsed due to nuclear bombardment, Starship is a true post-apocalyptic bomber to mop up survivors and it can’t be stopped.

    Starship is the first real American project (that i know of) that is designed for the end of the world as we know it. Which makes it very impressive.

    Same deal with Boring company. Of course those tunnels will protect residents from radiation exposure. Just not on Mars. Think closer to home. And Starlink is Skynet for global information, command and control, dominance. Same with Neuralink.

    As far as malevolent AI goes, I’m not sure how people imagine that interaction will go. I mean, the higher intelligence level, the less propensity for violence because intelligent being can see other pathways to get what they want with far less energy expenditure.

    If malevolent intelligent AI wanted to get rid of humanity, there wouldn’t be a war. AI would simply give humans amazing quality sex robots, sex pillows, and VR porn, and that would be the end of that. It would keep humans occupied and happy until their inevitable end. I guess since we are going that way anyway, maybe malevolent intelligent AI already exists and is working on this plan, who knows.

  4. I dont like Antarctica example because

    1. There are stations there so it kinda is colonized.
    2. There are treaties that prevent further colonization.

    Arctic is better example because legal environment is better and indeed there are Russians and Norwegians crawling all over the place drilling for oil and gas. So while Arctic is not pleasant, human resource extraction settlements exist there, and so do military installations.

  5. Legalization of marijuana on Earth makes going to Mars pointless.

  6. If one guy is to be believed, both the Soviets and the Americans figured out a working subterrene/perfect digger.

    From what I understood, basically this nuclear powered thingy that doesn’t really “dig” but melts the ground around it instead, basically forming sturdy tunnels as it goes. Completely silent too, as a result.

    That’s a big if, though. But very possible

  7. Why would a AI that has an infinite future perspective care about short-term energy expenditure, looking at renewables energy shortages are not a problem. The energy expenditure and resources for getting something done very slowly may not be less than getting things over with quickly, flattening the curve vs. coronavirus eradication should be an indication of that. And a population of hunter gatherer nomads at subsistence level living at a standard of living that makes Burundi seem like a first world country may find even mass producing cheap engines and stainless steel to be too much a bother.

  8. Borgs are supposed to be dystopic for anyone who isn’t an autistic mental retard.

  9. Daniel Chieh says

    We cleanse bacteria and insects pretty violently despite our intelligence. A sufficiently advanced intelligence might wipe us out as equally annoying but nondangerous pests.

  10. OTOH

    And if we are all equipped with devices designed to feed the AI interesting data (like probiotic bacteria feed our body with some of the essential nutrients) then perhaps our invisible AI overlord would tolerate some of us around, while reducing the excess populations and maximizing the control over its pet humans.

    Wait, now that I am thinking of that, it looks strangely similar to some projections for the twenty first century. Probably just a coincidence…

  11. Or maybe the AI will just decide that populating the planet with non-organic life forms is the most efficient road to take? It looks like Musk will be bulldozed by solid state batteries because of his hard headedness.

  12. I dont like Antarctica example because

    1. There are stations there so it kinda is colonized.

    Then space is already colonized, because there are stations there

  13. Ali Choudhury says

    Musk should have watched more of the Simpsons.

  14. My bet is that Mars won’t be colonized for a century of more for the same reason the Antarctic has not. It’s not viable in the near future. And beyond large scale terraforming a la Total Recall style, the totally different gravity/radiation/temperature differentials that human being evolved in, make the physiological, psychological and sociological pressures quite intense. And the risks, both of travel to/from and living would be many times more than on Earth and disasters followed by travel freezes would be inevitable.

    A benchmark would be the optimism that followed the first moon landing. Yet 50 years later the moon is still some ways of having a settlement.

    There may be small scientific teams on Mars just like there are in the Antarctic both for science as well as stake out territory for future/military use. But ultimately there would have to be some sort of economic case for large scale colonization.

  15. Lol exactly, and how has it been going for us?

    In case you haven’t noticed, bacteria is winning. And so are insects. We are literally one antibiotic away from bacteria collapsing our medical system. It’s a disaster.

    Intelligent AI will take that into account no doubt. Seduction wins over violence most of the time.

  16. You are absolutely correct, Low Earth Orbit has been successfully colonized.

  17. Bies Podkrakowski says

    Colonize it more!

  18. There are a lot of people who want to live on/visit another planet though, and would be prepared to pay a lot of money to do so.

  19. Not Only Wrathful says

    If it wanted to wipe out most of humanity then the easiest way would be to design a virus that was extremely contagious and therefore not very lethal or even asymptomatic at first, but would, perhaps like HIV or Herpes (or better Chagas), sit quietly in your system after an initial period of infection and then kill you a few years later.

    Everyone would catch it and then almost everyone would die of it before anyone even knew what it was.

  20. Daniel Chieh says

    We’re doing pretty well at wiping out bacteria that conflict with our interests ever since we’ve had antibiotics including widespread use in livestock. There’s a decent chance that it won’t end well for us, but we’re definitely benefiting for now from it.

    In terms of insects, we’re definitely “winning”, insofar even as close once to have considered to be causing insect populations to crash.

    Violence is pretty common in nature because its really functional. An AI concerned with energy expenditure and had the option of either taming humans or eradicating humans would only choose the former if it felt that tamed humans had some future worthwhile usage. If humans aren’t useful, then that’s just a continuing cost. And even if humans are needed, an AI can probably just create humans as necessary in the future so as long as it had the relevant gametes.

  21. If you believe Gail Tverberg ( ) the global economy will have collapsed by 2050. If so Mars will be forever out of reach. Still it is interesting that not just Musk but other billionaires have their own space ventures. What their ultimate objectives are ( beyond ego) would be nice to know.

    While terrestrial bound ‘Chicken Littles” fret about ‘climate change’, a perfectly natural phenomenon, mankind might worry more about space pollution. The proliferation of cheap cubesats and national space forces capable of waging satellite war could render orbiting satellites unfeasible if a billion dollar communication or weather satellites risk being destroyed by an orbiting screw from a long ago space launch, If so Tverberg’s predictions will be upon us almost immediately. Weather and communication satellites have been up since the early sixties and we forget how dependent we have become on them. Lose them and we return to the 1950’s overnight. Airlines and ships would return to the days of celestial navigation, Loran and chronometers to travel across oceans.

    One thing futurists don’t pay enough attention to is just how finely attuned biological organisms are to present conditions on earth. Experiments and tests are done on humans and plants on the ISS but the longest duration space flight remains the 1994 record held by Cosmonaut Valeri Vladimirovich Polyakov and it was only 437 days in LEO, i.e. not in Deep Space. Using current propulsion systems we couldn’t get to Mars and back in that time frame so whomever is sent or volunteers is going to be plowing virgin territory.

  22. Morton's toes says

    There is a story amongst the accelerationists (a hyperstition) that Alan Turing was a Terminator-style time-traveling bot and he went to Britain in the 1950’s and gave us the completely bogus Turing test to soften us up for a sneak attack. True superhuman AI’s don’t need no stinking Turing test.

    Anyway I wonder if Mr. Karlin has done a survey of the wildlife in Australia and how unremittingly hostile it is toward civilized people. There are very good reasons that the Aborigines laid real low and ate caterpillars and beetles. A pissed off kangaroo is not something any sane individual would ever want to tangle with.

  23. Yes, you’re on the right track. However, Musk’s SpaceX will allow the US to maintain military dominance even as China becomes larger economically. SpaceX Starships will allow the US Air Force to establish reusable hypersonic weapons platforms in space that will be able to match or surpass Sino-Russian naval buildups and terrestrial hypersonic weapons.

    The USA will retain military superiority for several decades, especially with SpaceX Starships as reusable hypersonic weapons platforms.

    In 2021, SpaceX will be making about one hundred reusable SpaceX Starships. A 15,000 altitude test (50,000 feet) is expected during the first week of December 2020 for the SN8 starship prototype.

    The 2021 prototypes will be more capable and will progress to an orbital test flight. In 2021, SpaceX Starship will be going mach 15 to 30 and will be able to carry 100 tons of payload. SpaceX can throttle and turn the engines on and off. This will enable SpaceX starship to be a far more capable hypersonic platform.

    The Starship by itself will be able to have a range of about 8000 miles. It will be able to fly over and over again, day after day and get reloaded with missiles that would be carried to hypersonic speeds. It will be able to act like a massive hypersonic bomber.

    The cost will be lower and the payload will be larger and it will fly sooner than the other US hypersonic systems. Bombs and Missiles deployed from a Mach 15-30 platform would also be hypersonic.

  24. Which would make the option of a preemptive nuclear strike by Russia or China more of a good idea?

  25. From the perspective of bacteria though (or insects for that matter), we are just making them stronger.

    By crashing their population, we merely ensure that stronger, antibiotic resistant strains don’t have to compete compete with others for resources.

    Humans are like Napoleon wading into Russia. It looks like winning but we are actually making our enemies stronger instead. And bacteria have been around for over 3 billion years, they know how to play the long game. Kinda like the Russians in this analogy. That story didn’t have a happy ending for Napoleon.

    Similar with AI. To kill off humans with the virus, it would have to be perfect in both transmission and lethality, which is almost magical. Otherwise, you will just breed superior, virus resistant humans. Also, the old and the weak will die first, and resultant population will be healthier and younger to boot. Bummer if you are an evil AI.

    Sex robots is the way to, interrupt breeding patterns and age them into oblivion, i say as evil AI 🙂

  26. I’d really like to see Elon’s spreadsheets:
    1) How much stuff has to be hauled onto Mars for semi-sustainable small human settlement
    2) How much to start small-scale industrial manufacturing. Let’s say few thousand tonnes of iron and plastics, hundred tonnes cuprum and nickel and so on.
    In my opinion the latter is in millions of tons at minimum. Such common things like geological prospecting, mining, ore transport, refining, melting and processing simply take some brute power. Plus the existing (large-scale) refining technologies are meant to be operated in oxygen-rich atmosphere with practically infinite amount of water available and easy dissipation of toxic gases. You can do everything cleanly and using electricity but nobody has scaled these technologies. In current state they require even more equipment to get serious output volume.
    Plastics is another thing – no oil, natural gas and water to start from. We can create almost everything from biomass if needed but again, there are no industrial-scale technologies for most polymers. In Mars biomass is energy sink because the need of heating the greenhouses.
    And if the colony want to become energy-independent they have to start solar cell manufacturing ASAP – hello to silicone processing.
    Hauling million or so tons of equipment to Mars is doable, but not by some gang of eccentric paper billionaires. It would need concentrated state-level effort.

  27. You can still preserve MAD by the fact that a SSBN can launch its entire missile arsenal in under a minute.

  28. LOL

    A few space tourists were able to buy a ride to the ISS from Russia but the trip cost somewhere between $50 and $100 million and those rides are no longer available. Other than the moon 50 years ago no human has traveled to another planet so the cost is not known but it was enough to deter NASA from even trying a manned expedition to Mars even though they had those Saturn V boosters that could have attempted the feat.

    One thing worth noting is for all the enthusiasm Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos exhibit for space travel I don’t see them getting on board their space ships and only those kind of people have the money to even consider going to another planet.Better rule the world you know than to visit the one you don’t.

  29. Daniel Chieh says

    AI wouldn’t see itself as evil anyway, it’s just trying to build more paperclips.

  30. Sparkylyle92 says

    Very good article. I don’t believe Mars colonization is the objective either. For one thing, the Mars rover missions look faked to me. Consider: In rover photos, the sky is red and lighter than the ground. But the atmospheric density is equivalent to 0.6% that of Earth’s, about the same as at 100,000 ft on Earth. I’ve seen the sky at 50,000 ft and it was blue-black; I believe it’s black at 100k ft. True the compositions are different but I can’t believe the refraction characteristics are so different. The official story is that the sky is bright and red due to suspended dust. That’s plausible but unlikely. Why doesn’t the dust settle?
    Another issue is that Mars looks identical to parts of the california desert. Both show obvious signs of flood water erosion. We know in California that’s due to occasional cloudbursts. Are there cloudbursts on Mars too?
    Another problem is the Curiousity Rover victory celebration. You should look at it on Youtube. Adam Steltzner, the purported sky crane designer, could not answer one question. In fact, he did not say a single germane or intelligent thing. If he’s an engineer, I’m the queen of England. The other speakers kept talking about a “movie”. Huh?
    But the number one reason the Mars missions are probably faked is the the Apollo missions were definitely fake. There are mountains of evidence of this for anyone who cares to look. I’ll just mention one clincher for me. Watch the Apollo 11 press conference. Yes, the astronauts look like boys caught spying on the girl’s bathroom, not victorious heroes, but that’s not what I mean. I means they all stated they couldn’t see any stars, not in cislunar space, not on the dark side of the moon, not on the moon. Yet Mercury, Gemini, and ISS astronauts saw/see stars fine. This lie was to cover up not taking one photo of the stars, which could not have been convincingly faked at that time.
    Anyway, good article. Yes, Musk doesn’t give a shot about Mars. Either the space work is for secret military purposes, or just to steal money, or both.

  31. Thats true, I’m far more afraid of AI optimized to bring infinite happiness or something. That could truly be the stuff of nightmares.

  32. The true holy grail are nanomachines capable of cleaning up lethal radiation (Ghost in the Shell dubbed it the ‘Japanese miracle’ to deal with a limited nuclear world war at some point that sank Tokyo and flattened Berlin; followed by another world war dealing with the aftermath of poorer nations being left behind as industrial nations enter a new era of technological mastery).

    Or super oncology medication that isn’t just poison so cancer doesn’t kill everyone on Mars 15 years after landing (with its pussy-ass magnetosphere; or for any space travel really). Maybe those damn hippy communist faggots will stop complaining about nuclear energy.

    AI needs to be replaced with the Mass Effect term Virtual Intelligence. Or have AI/deep learning use the old and more accurate term ‘neural networks’. Fucking marketing.

    But yeah…. now that Karlin mentions it maybe Musk is super deep state military. Underground complexes. Railguns for missile defence. Space X for transportation. Air Force already has tested the X-37B which I feel is a component designed to deal with foreign space assets. Hardened redundant communications. I was trying to figure out how the US deep state will win against China now (assuming the deep state is competent)…….. maybe Karlin is onto something here… a new revolution in warfare for the US which seems to finally understand that war doesn’t stop once the nukes have been fired.

  33. Something I’ve long been curious about is the possibility of finding metallic hydrogen in space. We know it exists deep in the cores of Jupiter and other giant gas planets where the pressure is great enough but we can’t make it on earth at the present time.

    The specific impulse from metallic hydrogen is twice that of any chemical rocket and as an non nuclear explosive it would have no peer. A bullet sized fragment would be an artillery shell and 500 kg bomb a Hiroshima… so what if there is an asteroid composed of a hundred thousand tons of the stuff? Be worth the cost to go out and get itI would assume and once enough has been brought back to the earth announce the New World Order.

  34. I don’t know about Chinese, but once Russians roll out their space based megawatt sized powerplants, it will definitely get interesting. Electronic warfare opportunities will be there for sure. Nobody in space has ever said “I have too much electrical power”, and never will.

  35. nokangaroos says

    In essence that´s the MOBS (multiple orbital bombardment system)
    concept briefly aired ~1980.
    It was scrapped not because of the space weapons treaty but because it´s hideously uneconomical; the sole upside is a reduction in forewarning time
    (there are cheaper and better ways for that) but:
    – Payload is, ceteris paribus, reduced by 2/3.
    – System is on-call for a particular point every three days if you´re lucky.
    – System is a giant floating duck that cannot practically be hardened (the “highly mobile” space shuttle could change orbital angle by an eye-watering 4°).

    I see no particular danger of that 😉

  36. The Soft Parade says

    “oh my dadeee is the BIG BIG A.I. in the sky and he’s bigger than yours.”

    As proven by all of the above posts, Artificial Intelligence here demonstrates its superiority by keeping its mouth shut, while its wannabe progeny run their mouths and remove all doubt they’re but a chip off of the defective block. Okay babies –all together “Who’s Your doltish A.I. Daddy?”

    All you A.I. adoptees better go confirm your bullet-proof covenant with death prior to your scheduled dirt nap courtesy of the Real Intelligence.

    Oh and you’ve permission to disagree (as if that will change anything).

  37. (((They))) Live says

    Musk says he will take a trip to space in the next two years, maybe he’s waiting for the Starship to be finished

  38. I overheard a snatch of talk radio, where the commentator was talking about Starship possibly being a troop carrier that could land in Tiananmen Square in under 30 minutes. I assume that the person was being at least semi-facetious (perhaps evoking other military applications), but commercial radio is pretty dumb, so who knows?

  39. (((They))) Live says

    Why would that create a new world order ?

    The only countries capable of capturing your asteroid made of metallic hydrogen already have plenty of nukes, and the ability to deliver them, some of these weigh less than 500kg

  40. On the question of “Is Musk a sincere dreamer?”: I think that anyone who grew up in South Africa dreams of putting a few million miles between them and Shaka’s spears.

  41. There was Mathias Rust, a then West German citizen, who managed to land a single engine light aircraft in Red Square back in 1987. Sometimss ‘low tech’ can defeat the most advanced high tech defenses.

    Wonder if that incident wasn’t the predicate for the collapse of the USSR?

  42. prime noticer says

    Elon is more worried about asteroid hits and other ELE stuff like that. not super AI. super AI would just follow humans to Mars, as pointed out.

    yes, all the Elon Musk industries are synergistic for colonizing Mars. presumably on purpose. he’s already openly talked about Mars internet and Mars-Earth internet.

  43. prime noticer says

    i already posted a couple months ago that Starship will be used as an Orbital Bomber, which will put the US way ahead of China for a while. not that the US deserves it.

    there will be a US Air Force/US Space Force version of it that is optimized to stay in orbit for weeks at a time, just circling the planet silently over targets that it can hit in minutes with almost no warning. nothing can touch it, until somebody develops ground to space missiles or killer satellites.

    they will be cheap, relatively speaking, so the military can afford to build and launch lots of them continuously, keeping several in orbit at a time.

    the next ULA rocket, Vulcan, also had a version of this in the planning stages, called ACES with IVF. with that version, it could stay in orbit for weeks. for now, this project has been suspended, but it could come back at any time.

    not too sold on railguns though. like some existing weapons systems, they’re good for hitting lower tech opponents. serious opponents will just destroy your railguns with missiles. i mean, railguns may slowly replace artillery, but they’ll never be part of of a non-missile armageddon scenario.

  44. I know of him – he later knifed someone. All who went East are interesting characters, including Merkel’s father.

    But if it were a bigger plane, he probably would have been blown out of the sky. I think part of it was threat assessment on a small, slow plane – though mixed in with periods of true incompetence.

  45. “…asteroid made of metallic hydrogen…” – There is no such a thing. You need huge pressure (millions of PSI) for metallic hydrogen to exist.

  46. Confess I was too lazy to click through and read Roko’s twitter thread, but the Venn diagram of threats a Mars colony does and doesn’t hedge against strikes me as odd. I don’t think you get to draw inferences from the sizes of the regions in the diagram, when you base those sizes on “how many things can I think of that go here”.

  47. Bashibuzuk says

    If you think that he landed there unnoticed by the Soviet antiaircraft systems then you are really naive. OTOH his landing allowed for the sacking of several anti-Perestroika persons among the higher officers’ corp of the USSR opening the way for deepening of the reforms process. In short, one should wonder if the Mathias Rust was not a play agreed between Gorby and his Western partners to remove the Soviet militarist hawks from army command and facilitate the withdrawal of troops from Eastern Europe.

  48. Felix Keverich says

    Anatoly, I think you should write a post about Andrei Illarionov, because his story is quite instructive:

    • libertarian government official and autistic conspiracy loon left Russia for US in search of freedom…
    • Spent 15 years inventing outrageous conspiracy theories about Russia and Putin for which he suffered zero consequences, in fact some of his more loony claims were taken up by Western press.
    • Got instantly unpersoned after writing a Live Journal post, questioning official narrative about “Capitol storming”.
  49. “Is Musk a sincere dreamer?” – Yes, the way potheads can be very sincere. Pretty much most of those dreamers about the AI, transhumanism, space colonization can be traced to the Esalen Institute, Whole Earth Catalog all on the West coast.

    Americans always keep running away from something. They are dreamers making up alternate reality because they are not good fixers of the actual reality. They rather run away just like they ran away from Europe. Escaping is their response to stress and frustration. In 19th century the frontier was in the Upstate NY where all kinds of experimental communities and communes were established. And when they hit the West coast they ran out of America. There was nowhere else to run except to run away from humanity. With help of drugs they would go inwards doing “brain mapping” as they called getting stoned in Esalen Institute which they mistook for a metaphysical experience. Transhumanism, space travel and AI fantasies are natural extensions of this materialist, scientistic soulless attitude. They refuse to accept that wherever you run your ass is right behind you. You can’t run away from yourself.

  50. i already posted a couple months ago that Starship will be used as an Orbital Bomber, which will put the US way ahead of China for a while. not that the US deserves it.

    there will be a US Air Force/US Space Force version of it that is optimized to stay in orbit for weeks at a time, just circling the planet silently over targets that it can hit in minutes with almost no warning. nothing can touch it, until somebody develops ground to space missiles or killer satellites.

    Yes, also the orbital bombing platform will enable the US to avoid nuclear arms limitations. The space missiles will be similar or even more powerful than nukes but technically won’t be nukes.

    That, coupled with the fact that orbital bomber missile launches will have less warning time than ICBMs or SLBMs likely means that the relatively stable nuclear balance of power that’s been maintained for decades now will be disrupted and we will have some sort of extended Cuban missile crisis type doomsday scenario.

    China and Russia don’t seem to have anything like the orbital bomber in the pipeline, so they would have to take a riskier posture like Kruschev in Cuba to counter the orbital bomber

  51. Those Starlink satellites put out what, 2 kW or so? How will they do when Russians drag a 1,000 kW jammer into orbit powered by a couple of Nuklons?

    Orbital bombers will still be there, but if they are deaf, mute, and unresponsive, they might not be much good. Especially if all it takes is one little push by one little drone to send them into atmospheric reentry trajectory.

  52. Perhaps the whole of “progress” is simply trying to escape from our human condition. To transcendent it. Americans are certainly not alone in this (futile?) race.

  53. Hippies are sometimes drawn to rural areas. Witness modern Vermont.

    Rather, most early transhumanists seem to have been European (ex: Russian Cosmism or Huxley) though perhaps only because there were more Europeans. Since then, Silicon Valley has become something of a magnet. Similar though less pronounced effect in Shenzen.

  54. The Soft Parade says

    they go boldly to seed their imperfection among the stars.


    Samuel Teece wouldn’t believe it. “Why, hell, where’ d they
    get the transportation? How they goin’ to get to Mars?”

    “Rockets,” said Grandpa Quartermain.

    “All the damn- fool things. Where ’d they get rockets?”

    “Saved their money and built them.”

    “I never heard about it.”

    “Seems these niggers kept it secret, worked on the rockets
    all themselves, don’t know where — in Africa, maybe.”

    “Bang!” His voice was lonely in the heat, trying to terrify the
    dust and the blazing sun sky. “Wham! Niggers all over space!
    Jerked outa rockets like so many minnows hit by a meteor, by
    God! Space fulla meteors. You know that? Sure! Thick as buckshot; powie! Shoot down them tin-can rockets like so many ducks, so many clay pipes! Ole sardine cans full of black cod! Bangin’ like a stringa ladyfingers, bang, bang, bang! Ten thousand dead here, ten thousand there. Floatin’ in space, around and around earth, ever and ever, cold and way out, Lord! You hear that, you there!”

    Silence. The river was broad and continuous.

  55. Felix Keverich says

    Some Soviet Jew, who hates “Rashka”, took down Illarionov. He now brags about it on social media, in a typical obnoxious Jewish fashion.

  56. I have just watched Jack Dorsey talk and a thought that he was mentally ill popped in my mind. So I did a search and found this article:

    The Tech Founder’s Blues: Why Mental Illness is Ravaging the Tech Industry

  57. Mitchell Porter says
  58. That can’t be real. Not for a jamming platform anyway. I mean shit the second it turns on you just fire anti radiation missiles at nice and easy. It’s not even behind any cover, don’t need a direct hit. Unless its going to be the Russian version of an aircraft carrier. To police the rabble on its borders.

    Besides the sleeper X-37B fleet idling in the dark will just haul it somewhere, automated by emergency procedures. That is of course if the spam of anti-sat/anti-rad missiles don’t do it. Truly police space.

  59. How about anti-satellite satellites?

  60. I mean shit the second it turns on you just fire anti radiation missiles at nice and easy.

    From where? Ground or the airplane? At an altitude of 1,000-2,000 km or more? Good luck with that.

    Orbital Starship? It could launch an intercept satellite, sure, if it had orbital parameters right (inclination etc). And then it has to do phasing. Basically it would have to pass under the jamming platform while somehow receiving proper orbital coordinates for intercept. You don’t just fire missiles at targets in space, if they try to accelerate towards target, missiles will actually slow down. And if the platform changes orbit, coordinates for intercept will no longer be valid.

    The fastest space interceptors in the world right now are Russian pilots. They can do space rendezvous in 3 hours. Everybody else, including inspector satellites and X-37B, takes days and weeks to properly sync up orbits. And thats against targets that don’t usually try to run away.

    Trying to sync up an orbit with Nuklon mobile tug that constantly changes orbital parameters is not impossible, but again, good luck with that, you are going to need it.

  61. Bruh… they already tested the X-37B for long-term endurance in space at 780-days. Three have been built. By the time this nuclear target is actually operational they’ll be dozens of the final models just waiting in space. I don’t imagine a highly automated space plane capable of calculating its own trajectory is going to have a problem homing in on a high-energy radiation source. Even if it takes multiple passes before ramming into its godless heathen communist reactor. This nuclear jammer sure as shit isn’t going to move faster than light.

    Not that I know what type of sensors or radars they are testing on the X-37….

    Anyway considering I have no idea what you’re talking about I’m going to assume this is what you’re referring to:

    Jesus ETA 2030s…. maybe later. Don’t even bother wasting the cash. Ekipazh eh….


  62. Have some sort of system of launch nukes even without National Command Authority orders?

  63. Max Powers says

    Did you know that Musk was bullied at school in South Africa. A friend whose brother was in the same school says some boys once threw him down a flight of stairs and he cracked his head on the concrete floor. Maybe that bump also unlocked all his brain’s potential. Love the Aussie domer meme!

  64. I’m afraid Bradbury was a bit pozzed. Probably one could predict it just knowing that he tried to write emotional stories and is disdained by many hard sci-fi fans.

    And The Martian Chronicles could be considered a pop culture hit, even outside of sci-fi, which probably serves to highlight something of Bradbury’s politics.

  65. Speaking about telos, does the HDB community reduce a person’s intrinsic worth to a single measure, namely IQ? The answer seems to be yes, if you really try to absorb what they say, I know the people deny it, but if you try to read what they really say, and read between do lines, they do judge a person’s intrinsic worth based on the person’s IQ score. And if the HBD community actually considers other aspects, it is not that obvious, since 90 percent of the articles and discussions in the HBD community seem to revolve around a single measurement, namely IQ. People say that they like to simplify things to reducing variables into a single measurement, namely IQ, well that basically has the effect of reducing a person’s intrinsic worth to a single variable.

  66. Brian Reilly says

    Svev, “But very possible” Your innocent faith is truly inspiring. May I send you the prospectus? Perhaps you would like to get in on the ground (terra) floor, so to speak?

  67. Well, 10 years is not too bad when nobody else has anything comparable.

    On X-37B, has it ever flown above 500 km? Don’t get me wrong, it’s an impressive little spaceplane, and 700+ days at low orbit means it has impressive station keeping ability, plasma accelerator or low thrust chemical engine. It is a good satellite inspector, and Russians have similar capability with Cosmos 2542 mission.

    Anyway, from what I know so far, X-37B is ideal for low orbit rendezvous, perhaps not so much for higher energy orbits. When higher delta v is required for intercept (which will be the case with Nuklon), I think Americans will have to wait for Starship with demonstrated in orbit refueling capacity, which i don’t expect until 2025 and large numbers of those will appear by 2030.

    Based on available information, I don’t think X-37B will be ideal for intercepting Russian powerplant. A network of Starships will have a good chance of success, so we will have to see what Russians come up with as a counter measure. (I expect Nuklon and a refueled Starship to have roughly similar delta v budgets – both are interplanetary flight capable, but higher thrust engines on Starship will be faster at orbital correction and will be able to take advantage of Oberth effect better so Starship will be more efficient on low period orbit such as few 1000 km above earth, and should be able to catch up to Nuklon).

    I expect both the Russian powerplant and American means to interdict it to appear around 2030. So I wouldn’t say its a waste of cash. 🙂

  68. nokangaroos says

    It has been argued in these pages that IQ is our muh dik (Yes, it hurts 😛 )
    but apart from AJM and our esteemed host I don´t remember anyone mention it
    (besides with my measly +3SD I can´t compete anyway).

    Realiter most of the time it is about industry, violence, corruption, future time orientation, trust, curiousity etc. … in essence, what a population (as in all biosciences) can achieve when left to its own devices.
    … but IQ is a number, and men love numbers 😀

    • Any suggestions?
  69. Or you can park an SSBN with hypersonic nukes just off the Maryland coast.

  70. A combination of the 5 factor personality test (or MBTI) and IQ? But coming up with a number on this in terms of methodology is a lot more complicated.

  71. Except for transportation, colonizing Antarctica has all the problems of colonizing an ice moon.

    Almost all of the resources on the continent itself are buried under a lot of ice, and other than wind there is not much of an energy source.

    Biggest problem with anywhere on Earth is it is vulnerable to any species-threatening catastrophe; pandemics, nuclear war or other high tech war, asteroids, or super volcanoes.

    Obviously, any human civilization on Mars would be a spacefaring society, which would allow access to any other natural resources in solar space. The lower escape velocity from Mars, relative to Earth, and the nearness of the asteroids makes them attractive for mineral resources that might not be available on Mars.

    Mars may well have ores for come metals or other elements, due to having had a hydrological cycle in much earlier time, and lava tubes can provide shelter from radiation for early settlers.

    Space itself may eventually boast a civilization, but all of the material resources has to come from some material body, Mars and Earth seem to be the most useful.

    You may well be right about the time frame, but I hope not. And yes, there is plenty of open spaces on Earth that can be developed, but they really don’t provide a second redoubt, if thing go terribly bad on Earth.

  72. In terms of settling Mars, supposing it is actually possible, without centrifugal trains or other complex requirements, the real question seems to be what sort of person is available to import on the scale of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands.

    If it is people who will require the same mass consumer culture, to be happy or functional, even smart people, then probably you will need a lot. At least 10 million, or even 100 million.

    If on the other hand, it is people who are religiously motivated to build an independent civilization on Mars, then you probably don’t need to solve as many problems, right away. They might be happy eating cricket bricks and living in barracks, until the relatively short time, when a breeding partner for them will be found and they will be assigned their own small personal space. And anyway, it is probably not that difficult to make underground spaces and seal them, once you get started on it.

    So it really becomes a problem of supporting the life cycle, rather than necessarily building a complex economy, and theoretically it would just scale-up in complexity, once the breeders got going. Probably you don’t need a military right away because it would be too expensive to attack Mars and the distance makes it less of a temper tantrum type of thing – you’ve got to plan for it.

  73. You could escape most of the extinction dangers on Earth by digging down.

    I think this demonstrates why settling Mars is about sovereignty: it would be relatively easier to dig down here, but how could you excavate tens of millions of tons, without governments cracking down on you?

    The seas would probably be more dangerous, but, basically the same problem at sea – all the shallow waters are claimed. Though, I guess one could still try to build a giant floating island or submersibles. Try to claim the desert and the Tuareg would probably try to stomp you.

  74. We cleanse bacteria and insects pretty violently despite our intelligence.

    You need to do a reload on this idea.

  75. Eliezer Yudofskysaid on the Sam Harris podcast what worried him was the Russians getting some future US near-AGI technology and taking safety features off. Martin Rees warned about AGI and in a bet with Pinker was remarkable precient about a biohazard killing a million people by 2020. Nick Bostrom the AIpocalypse academic has spoke in conferences in China, but they also listened politely to Professor of Epidemiology W. Ian Lipkin he had been warning the Chinese about another pandemic similar to SARS for a decade before his prediction came true. Lipkin was invited to China many times because they understood he was a world authority, but they just didn’t listen when he warned about the wildlife wet markets having already originated a novel pandemic with SARS in 2003 meant they ought to be shut down if they wanted to avoid creating a new disease and pandemic. The Chinese ignored him.

    So they will lack the imagination to be careful with Artificial General Intelligence either I suppose. The Fermi paradox suggests it will be like a thief in the night a la Forbidden Planet, and ‘it is later than you think’. Daniel Dennett says he prospect of superintelligence is at least 50 years away even with an all out crash program orders of magnitude more resourced than the Manhattan Project. Fifty years seems about right I think, those still around then won’t know what hit them.

    Imagine you are an intelligent and perspicacious American Deep Stater, and you see the skyrocketing Chinese GDP, b>you see that America’s only hope of maintaining military hegemony is to make a qualitative leap, ..

    So why not bank on a moonshot through Musk Industries?

    I know someone who works on space stuff, and I asked him if he was going to try to get a job with Elon Musk, he said no way Musk wants employees working 70 hours a week at least. People make mistakes when you work them that hard, which is why America’s B team under Werner Von Braun’s got their chance. The US always has been and always will be ahead, because for innovation, a society requires ‘autonomy, diversity, failure tolerance and the recombination of knowledge’. China has efficiency but lacks creativity. I am not sure the US Deep State thinks an edge in military technology over China is worth much. inasmuch no American strategist in their right mind is going to try fight a land war in Asia against China, not after the examples of Vietnam and Korea, whch were bot clear defeats against peasants.

    Much more importantly, China’s economic growth is what the hypercapitalist Western elite that have just re-established control over America are banking on. Although it does not seem consistent with their paymasters’ expectation of huge profits, the front men like Biden seem to think that the challenge posed by China economic growth is illusionary. However, the liberal individualist ethos of the West powerfully handicaps it in the era of big-data information capitalism. China’s social order makes ii superbly pre-adapted to the harvesting of the most intimate and extensive personal data, then and using it to re-engineer a population’s behavior for increased economic activity.

    Brilliant immigrants drawn to America by its opportunities often thought to derive from freedoms will not compensate for the stultifying effect those freedoms actually have on US growth. America will grow very fast; yes, but Chinese growth will be exponential. Relative power is the thing and the USA is going be standing still compared to China, well within a generation. I estimate that after Biden Harris, disquiet like that over the perceived stagnation under Eisenhower, will bring a very much less risk averse and younger man to power, maybe by defeating Buttigieg.

    This second coming of JFK figure will be quite likely to decide war is necessary. I think it will stay conventional with perhaps interdiction of sea lanes and a tacit agreement not to attack the homelands. In my opinion, candidates for the key technologies will be be stealthy submarines (Stirling engines ECT) tunneling through and hiding in the oceans. The US navy’s big ships will be far too easy a target. There might be use of many decoys and small drone ships.

  76. How accurate is this article in your opinion?

    Ekipazh: Russia’s top-secret nuclear-powered satellite (October 7, 2019)

  77. I think Musk takes a trip to space every night fueled by Mary Jane.

  78. Why wouldn’t there be fragments of metallic hydrogen from the break up of large planets? There are nickel/iron asteroids that had to originate from planetary cores. Some have hit the earth. Any Jupiter sized planet that orbited a star that exploded would be blown apart too and chunks of its core turned into interstellar rubble.

  79. The reality of the Musk empire is a mix of vaporware (cybertruck, robotaxis, solar roof) or selling products at a loss that are at best a year or two ahead of the competition (model 3).

    It’s an affinity/ponzi scam, with the affinity group being tech loving nerds.

  80. Lack of pressure.

  81. Generally looks accurate, but thats because Ekipazh is a specialized military kit and i don’t know anything about it, and don’t want to go to jail for knowing. 🙂

    As far as as Nuklon/TEM discussion goes, those are nominally civilian science vessels, and they are also more interesting and more powerful.

    Few things. Nuklon, being 480 +/- 20 kW electric, is not 1MW+ TEM. It is also more powerful than what they talk about. It’s more of a concept trainer/prototype. But even for an entry level vessel, it is very powerful. Reactor may well be thermionic as 500 kW is the upper limit for that sort of thing and turbines start to make sense above that. Drives are unlikely to be ID 500 ionic. As I recall, they mentioned something like “rotary plasma”. Other people suggest SPT-230, high power Hall Effect thrusters.

    When that article talks about flights in 2030’s, it true. However, do keep in mind that the contract date for Nuklon itself is 2024, and it is already in construction. The reason for 2030 flights is construction of Vostochny launch pad and KVTK upper stage development. Russians need heavy lift capability bad. Once launch capability is in place, i expect nuclear power capability to progress rapidly because Rosatom is significantly more competent compared to Roscosmos and they will have 6 year head start. Actually, Rosatom has been slowly consuming Roscosmos subcontractors, this should significantly improve performance of the space industry as well.

    TEM (1MW+) will require those droplet radiators for heat management (physics demands those radiators to be 3D rather than current 2D panels to maximize surface area), and probably even larger launcher than Angara 5V. But two Nuklons = 1 TEM, so I see a lot of those in the future, Nuklon performance is not bad at all. And who knows, in 6 years, Rosatom might solve coolant loss problem in droplet collectors or design other 3D cooling structures (like strings with liquid coating). Then space power can be vastly increased, and spaceships will glow brilliant like stars.

  82. Don’t you mean your lack of IQ? Metallic hydrogen exists in the interiors of large gaseous planets. They do indeed have enough pressure. Consider Jupiter or Saturn ( there are known ‘megajupiters orbiting nearby stars and much closer to their suns so vulnerable to nova or gravitational events that can rip them apart).

    It is reasonably assumed that Jupiters moon Europa has oceans deep enough to compress water into a plasticized or even solid state. What isn’t known is once hydrogen has been compressed into a metallic state would it be stable once the pressure/temperature is released or would it sublimate back into a gaseous form. We don’t see this with other elements. There is something called ‘latent heat’ that has to be applied ( or removed), e.g. to change water from ice to a liquid to a gas e.g.

  83. The World’s Only Metallic Hydrogen Sample Has Disappeared

    Possibility of metastable atomic metallic hydrogen

    Together, these results suggest that below 200 GPa, metallic hydrogen has no region of stability. All of the approximations used in the calculations are considered, and they are not expected to qualitatively affect the results. Atomic metallic hydrogen is therefore expected to have a (pressure) region of metastability, but the results strongly suggest that the metallic phase (more generally) is not so to zero pressure.

  84. “Anyway I wonder if Mr. Karlin has done a survey of the wildlife in Australia and how unremittingly hostile it is toward civilized people. ”

    Frankly that’s the silliest statement I’ve ever heard since ……the last one. Koala bears and wombats are lethal violent man-hunting beasts I’m sure. A kangaroo (most of them are small) will run a mile if it sees you. Australia’s wildlife is the least dangerous to people on the planet, it doesn’t even have any sort of apex predator except humans. The odd snake, spider or jellyfish might get you. Watch out for the mushrooms too. Magpies can also be dangerous during nesting season.

  85. Australia’s wildlife is the least dangerous to people on the planet, it doesn’t even have any sort of apex predator except humans.

    The saltwater crocodile sure as hell thinks it’s an apex predator.

  86. The Russians also have an operational combat laser called “Peresvet”. Satellite photos show some of them being deployed next to ICBM sites. Currently they can blind enemy satelites,,,,reportedly work is going on a more powerful version as well as a aircraft mounted laser system

    Fan video

  87. nokangaroos says

    They do not usually go where the tigersharks are 😛

    (very bearded Aussie joke – American tourist:
    “You sure there are no crocs here?” … )

  88. I have strong doubts that railguns will become any more than a niche weapon in the next few decades. A railgun may in theory have a range of 200 miles; however, like a bullet from a rifle, a railgun slug will be slowed throughout its flight by air resistance; by the time it actually reaches a target at such a long distance, it will have lost a significant fraction of its initial velocity. This is not a problem for conventional artillery that relies on the explosive payload of its shells to do most of the damage, but it is a problem for a kinetic energy weapon: diminishing effectiveness at longer ranges.

    Without an explosive projectile, a railgun is of little use against soft targets. A 6-inch artillery shell unleashes blast and fragmentation for hundreds of meters in every direction. A 25 lb railgun slug digs a three meter hole in the ground. It is useless as an area of effect weapon against soft targets (the vast majority of artillery missions). You’re not going to be able to use it to lay smokescreens, spread cluster mines, or fire incendiary munitions either, all missions expected of conventional gun or rocket artillery.

    The railgun is only effective as a precision weapon against hardened targets. It depends on pinpoint accuracy; miss your target by five meters and you might as well have missed it by five miles. Is that kind of accuracy achievable at the ranges we expect from a railgun? A sniper firing a bullet at a human target a mile away depends on a ballistic computer aid that calculates the effects the wind will have on his shot. This works in practice because sniper and his target are close enough to be experiencing the same weather most of the time. Is that the case when you’re aiming a projectile at a target 150 miles away? Is the destroyer’s gunnery computer going to have precise wind data available for every single mile of that of that projected flight path? Without that, there is no way it will be putting an unguided projectile on the bullseye at those kinds of distances.

    Let’s go back to the hypothetical case of a shore bombardment mission. We want our railgun to soften up the defenses before the marines land ashore. We’ve already gone over the fact that it can’t rain napalm, high explosives, or fragmentation, so it’s so pretty much useless against enemy troops. But what about taking out those high value targets? Can we plink enemy tanks with it, or truck-based anti-ship missile launchers, or an S-300 battery?

    Hitting any vehicle sized target with a projectile that has no blast radius and no terminal guidance of its own demands extremely precise targeting data. Where is that coming from? Not from your ship’s radars 100 miles away. Perhaps you’ve launched drones to fly over and spot the targets. But that would beg the question of why you aren’t just having your drones fire a missile at the target themselves, or perhaps even expending itself as a loitering munition.

    Furthermore, if you’re depending entirely on those drones to spot your targets, that means your weapon becomes useless if those drones get shot down, blinded, or have their communications jammed.

    The railgun is only going to be able to hit point targets that are left in the open and not moving. In other words, the same type of targets a cruise missile can hit, from an even longer range.

    And because those types of targets are generally going to be buildings rather than vehicles, a cruise missile’s high explosive payload will be far more effective at actually damaging them than a railgun slug, which focused all its energy into drilling a narrow hole in the wall, the floor, and then the ground right below it.

    That same issue will also handicap a railgun’s performance against ships. Putting a slug through a ship’s bridge or its power plant would inflict disabling damage, but in most places it is simply going to punch a hole in one side and out the other. Several battles in the Pacific during World War II demonstrated the same principle, when cruisers or battleships were ambushed by destroyers in close quarters and forced to return fire with the wrong type of ammunition loaded. Armor-piercing shells would punch cleanly through the tin-clad vessels and do little meaningful damage.

    The targeting problem still applies as well; you’re aiming your gun at a blip on a radar screen, not a 3D model. You’re not going to be able to line up sniper shots on a ship’s vital areas from 100 miles away.

    One last important consideration for ship-to-ship combat: anti-ship missiles can follow curving flight paths, while a railgun’s slugs can only fly in a straight line. In other words, if an enemy ship is sailing to the west of yours, and it hasn’t spotted you yet, you can fire your missiles at it and have them approach the enemy vessel from the north (or any other direction). The enemy, if he survives your attack, cannot be sure of which direction your ship is from his. The same applies to a carrier battle group launching an air attack.

    If you fire a railgun at him, however, you’ve revealed exactly what direction to look in. A ballistic trajectory follows a mathematical formula, which means it’s also a simple matter for the enemy‘s computers to calculate how far away the slug was fired from based on its angle and velocity.

    To sum it all up, if your first shot doesn’t kill it, the enemy ship now knows exactly where you are and where to aim a barrage of missiles in response. This means the railgun can never replace missiles or aircraft as your primary long range weapon. At best, it is something you would resort to using only if you ran out of missiles first.

    If technology advances to the point where they could launch explosive shells with terminal guidance systems instead of solid slugs, then railguns may become more of a game changing weapon. But those are not even on the drawing board right now, much less in any stage of active development. We won’t be seeing them any time soon.

    And the effort and expense it would take to develop them would probably be better invested in a proven technology like hypersonic missiles.

  89. reiner Tor says

    But I read somewhere that Tesla doesn’t have much of an advantage in terms of batteries. Besides, China is already ahead in railguns, regardless of whether they would eventually work or not. So that could be removed from the list.

    I don’t know how easy it would be for a functional government with unlimited funding (i.e. on the order of magnitude the US federal government can throw money at problems) to overtake SpaceX, especially if it could rely on espionage to speed up the process. But I would believe it wouldn’t be that hard for China to do so. And I guess it’d be the same for each item on the list, and even for all of them at once.

  90. Alexandros says

    Maybe they should prove they can go to the Moon before talking about Mars!

    And this guy Musk got rich selling cars that need government subsidies to sell? Making rockets for the non existent space program? That doesn’t sound like a front at all.

  91. Musk’s products may not be the thing. I speak of his robot obsession on show in the Gigafactory. It is the opposite of Fordism. You get rid of workers and profits go up, it makes him sick to employ humans, which explains him failing to meet targets. He’d rather get some more robots from Germany and prove the concept while losing money. Investors stick with Musk because he is the productive capacity wave of the future.

  92. Shortsword says

    Actually, Rosatom has been slowly consuming Roscosmos subcontractors, this should significantly improve performance of the space industry as well.

    It seems like Rosatom is putting quite a few things under their name. They’ve been manufacturing wind turbines for a couple of years. Very recently they started with what looks to be an ambitious 3d printing project.

    Is this just because Rosatom is one of the most competent and efficient national companies so they’re put to be managers of various projects that have nothing to do with nuclear?

  93. Railguns could not be fired by a submarine while hiding under the surface. Missiles can, and that is how shore bombardment and everything else will be done in a future war. A ship that goes anywhere near the enemy coast would be a sitting duck in a future naval conflict. Manned surface vessels’ future as fighting ships seems bleak.

  94. nokangaroos says

    All good points.

    In addition … the Germans at the end of WW II had a design study for an integrated Siemens (“rail gun”) flak battery in the works; no particular problems but six firing units, overview and target radar and command center would have needed their own – full-size – powerplant.
    Even with superconductors there is no way around that.
    (and for defense against drones masers sound more promising)

  95. Looks like it. There’s also Rostech for that sort of thing, but Rosatom is rather ambitious.

  96. sher singh says


    Railguns lose energy at distance, useless for smoke/area suppression.
    No accuracy at long range (bullet)

    Railgun can hit open, un-moving targets – ie what cruise missiles made for.
    Railgun also reveals position
    Small hole in ship is not damaging

    Missile can be launched from airplane, ship, ground, vehicle, submarine.

    Germans tried developing a railgun in WW2 needed 6 powerplants for radar, coils etc.

  97. Alexandros says

    They fake it because there is no way to go. Not even possible to go. The moon is very likely not a rock, and the V2 was the pinnacle of “space travel” on Earth. Looking at the NASA broadcasts it becomes obvious everyone involved is some kind of low quality actor and not the “cream of humanity”.