Journey to Mars (2030): Lessons from the Mayflower’s Voyage (1620)

I just took a 15 hour flight to Portugal.

It was pretty cramped but I was in an exit row and had room to stretch my legs. The food was ok and I read a book to pass the time.

Sitting on the plane got me thinking about what a journey to Mars would be like.

Will it be like climbing aboard a regular ole airplane? Plunking my butt down for not 15 hours but 270+ days? I have lots of questions about what it’s like to go to Mars, what it’s like to colonize Mars.

Specifically I’m curious about the second or third voyage of Mars.

The first voyage I understand. It’s
proving it can be done. It’s ego and structure. There’s a captain and everyone is paid to be there. The second voyage, the third voyage is more interesting. It’s a symbol of colonizing. It’s a symbol of “We’re not the first, but we’re here to stay.”

My questions are: How long is the voyage to Mars, what is the population like, why do people go, what are the facilities, what issues pop up, and how do people pass the time?

Flying to Portugal got me thinking about Christopher Columbus, who lived in Lisbon for a decade. Christopher Columbus was kind of like the “first voyage” to Mars. Like I said, I think the colonization voyage following is more interesting, and in that case the Mayflower was the first to send colonists over from Europe. (Even though they thought they were sailing to Asia!)

So I thought I’d answer these questions by writing what happened on the Mayflower, and then asking what might happen on a Mars ship.

Who makes decisions?
On the Mayflower: The captain was in charge. The crew carried out his orders. The passengers were along for the ride. If there was a problem, it was the captain’s job to solve it. It was their job to protect the ship, the cargo, the crew, and the passengers (probably in that order, since the captain owned 1/4th of the ship).

To Mars: Have there been 15 month experiments in isolated governance? I can imagine something like this aboard a submarine, though as a military vessel everyone is crew. Or perhaps some lessons from temporary societies like Burning Man are relevant? Love to hear your thoughts on this.

How long is the voyage?
Mayflower: 2 months (60 days)
Mars: 9 months (260 days)

What’s the population like?
Mayflower: 130 people, 100 passengers and 30 crews. A lot of these were families or single men. The captain and crew ran the ship and in case of emergency, for example once when the mast broke, the passengers helped out to fix it.

To Mars: I imagine passengers are going to need to be handy. I think there’s going to be people who are smart and able to help in tough spots. Maybe it will all be crew, but given the idea of colonization you don’t need massive crews, there can be a lot of people who hang out, artists, poets, photographers.

Why do people go?
Mayflower: The main reasons behind the Mayflower were Religious persecution or to make money/needed to make money as endentured servants. “I’m going to this new area farm, make money, grow crops that are profitable.”

Mars: What people would consider themselves so persecuted that they need to go to another planet? I’d be curious to hear about any of those groups on Earth right now. There are a lot of views that aren’t accepted on Earth. Might be very attractive to someone who wants to leave and start something new.

The flip side is servants. Is it more like a job? Are Mars colonists kind of like Deadliest Catch where I can clear $1,000,000 a year as a salary to send back to Earth? There are a lot of people who find that worth considering.

What else is on the ship?
Mayflower: Cargo, tools, food, no latrine, people fend for themselves.

Mars ship: I imagine it kind of like a plane. No guns (everybody knows there’s no such thing as space pirates, yet). Cargo, lots of food. (The Mayflower got caught without enough food and that was hard.)

What are unexpected emergencies while on board?
Mayflower: The biggest killer was disease. In the first winter the Mayflower got hit hard. Killed half of the crew and half of the passengers, 50 passengers and 15 crew.

Another issue is when the mast broke and the passengers had to pitch in to help repair the ship.

Mars ship: Disease and food aren’t well understood, and they can wreak havoc. Think about where bioengineering is relative to mechanical engineering or agriculture. We need fundamental biotech advances to get to where we need to be.

A lot of people get sick when they’re on a plane for awhile, the dry air, the recirculating particles of gunk. Maybe this has been studied aboard submarines, so there are solutions.

Food is important. Things get really hard when you don’t have any food (luckily AirFrance kept me well fed). I hope the Mars ship has excess food.

What do people do to pass the time?
Mayflower: Reading, playing cards, cooking their own food

Mars: Mayflower sounds familiar. I’d read, play cards, watch Twitch, chat with my buddies, make my own food or buy it at the ship’s food court, work from my laptop (with a delay in my internet connection up to 4 minutes)

I think this is an interesting framework for thinking about what going to Mars might be like and what if it were like the Mayflower. Similar to ocean travel in the age of the Mayflower, space travel is a technology we understand, but not perfectly, in terms of ship building, ship captaining. Some are crew, some are passengers. A big journey requires a big commitment. Religious persecution or making money. People end up doing pretty ordinary things like reading playing cards.

I found this fun to think through. Thanks for reading!

Management Architecture of the Late Show with David Letterman

I always think the “face” of an organization runs everything and does everything. Like in my head Elon Musk is torquing tires on Teslas and Steve Jobs polished iPods. It’s a mistake, every org takes a team. I like hearing about how things really work.

I learned how The Late Show worked from a recent interview with David Letterman.
He had a team, of course. And that team ran The Late Show. He doesn’t come up with everything and says “go do that”.

Here’s his insight into 3 subsystems of the machine, writers, advertisers, and stars:

On writers:

 I don’t know about my writers’ room. I never went to the writers’ room, so I have no idea what went on there. I stayed away: “Just call me when you’re done.”

On advertisers:

I can remember having a conversation via the sales department about Tylenol, and we had Bill O’Reilly on the show, and we were talking about something in the news, not particularly unpleasant but just something in the news. Tylenol called up and said, “You know what? We’re just going to lay out tonight. We’ll be back.”

On Hollywood guests:

Well, at some point publicists took over the talk shows. They were the people that booked the guests, and they had six or seven guests, so you had to be awfully nice to Guest A if you wanted to get to Guest B or C. I was not aware that this was going on until people started saying, “So-and-so is not going to be back on the show if you don’t be nice to so-and-so.” And I said, “What do we care?” And they’d say, “Well, because they also manage so-and-so and so-and-so’s sister, and we want those people on the show.” I realized not early into it that we were a tool for the careers of other people, which mediates what you’re going to talk about

How the Chemical Industry Joined the Fight Against Climate Change

companies including Honeywell and Chemours, a DuPont spinoff, were among the most active backers of a move away from a profitable chemical that has long been the foundation for the fast-growing air-conditioning and refrigeration business.

“They learned that without a rule change, their new products couldn’t compete,” said David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, based in New York. “They woke up and said, ‘The science is real.’”

The rest of the story from the New York Times

Thanks for sending, Katie Doherty!

Patagonia’s Sustainability Strategy: “Don’t Buy Our Products”


From the Harvard Business Review:

In 2005, Patagonia launched the Common Threads Recycling Program. The goal was to reduce the number of products Patagonia customers purchased through a two-fold effort.

The first part was to encourage customers to fix damaged clothing. Patagonia began publishing do-it-yourself repair guides to assist customers in repairing their clothing. To provide an alternative for customers who were unable or unwilling to repair their clothing themselves, Patagonia charged an affordable fee to have garments shipped to their repair facility.

The second aspect of the Common Threads program was to create a second-hand market for Patagonia garments that did not fit or that were no longer worn. Patagonia collaborated with eBay to develop a storefront and also created an online marketplace on its main website. Patagonia also offered to cover the shipping costs for garments that were beyond repair, which Patagonia would then break down and repurpose. To promote its Common Threads initiative, Patagonia created “Worn Wear,” a program that highlights thousands of videos and pictures from customers around the globe who treasure their worn, patched-up Patagonia garments with pride.  While most companies would encourage customers to repeat their purchases, Patagonia prides itself and its customers on waste-free purchases. Patagonia’s next step was to launch a campaign in 2011 to dissuade customers from purchasing clothing that they did not really need.

On the busiest weekend for retailers in the US, a 2011 New York Times ad from Patagonia featured a picture of one of Patagonia’s highest grossing fleece jackets below the words: “DON’T BUY THIS JACKET.” Underneath was a detailed description that defended Patagonia’s rationale based on the negative environmental impacts caused by consumerism. Despite Patagonia’s efforts, sales increased by approximately 30% in the nine months following the ad. The case concludes with the business dilemma facing Chouinard: What should Patagonia do?

2016 – Largest number of shareholder resolutions now concern social and environmental issues

Rethinking activist investors from the Harvard Business Review:

Ask someone to name the demands that activist hedge funds make of companies, and they’ll likely list corporate governance issues such as board changes and executive compensation, or perhaps some form of restructuring. In fact, the largest number of shareholder resolutions filed by investors — the method through which activists work — now concern social and environmental issues. This is a recent phenomenon, according to my research: The number of these resolutions has increased dramatically over the past five years. Political spending, climate change, diversity, and human rights are now some of the most frequent resolutions that investors file.