Why We Can’t Go to Mars

DragonCon is enormous. If you haven’t been there, you have no idea how big it is. But, over in the Hilton, is a small (but overstuffed) set of conference rooms that host the “Reality Tracks.” These tracks are for a different kind of fan… those who want to build science fiction, not just read about it. The Space, Science, Skeptics, and EFF tracks are almost a con-within-a-con. A few hundred people spend their entire weekend in the Hilton, only adventuring out to the other hotels for a quick whirl through the exhibition halls and to stare dumbfounded at the hall costumes.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to participate in Space Track’s first “Mars Day.” The presentations fell along a spectrum from “Rah, rah, let’s go NOW!” to… well, me. I was probably the most pessimistic presenter, with the title “Why We Can’t Go to Mars… Yet!”


The room was packed. Every chair taken (eventually, even the handicapped ones), half a dozen people sitting on the floor up front, another half a dozen standing in the back… and (I later learned) a handful of people in the hallway outside listening.


If you weren’t there, I’ve uploaded my slides synchronized with the live audio to YouTube. It’s about an hour long. I hope you enjoy it!

(If you just want the slides without the audio, a PDF is available here.)

A Note on the Slideshow

It seemed like such a simple idea. I had my slides in Apple Keynote. I had captured the audio to an MP3 file using my iPhone. Marrying them together would give me a movie of the slides synchronized with the live voiceover. Simple, right?

Bozhe moy, u meenya tapor v golove!

Only Apple can take a 54 MB Keynote file, add a 62 MB audio file, and come up with a 1450 MB movie file! Yep, a 13X increase in required filesize. I’ll edit this blog post with details later, and some hints on how to reduce it, but it shouldn’t be this hard…


  1. […] 2030. (As some of you know, I kicked up a little dust at DragonCon this year by explaining “Why We Can’t Go to Mars.” Weir acknowledges that we’re not going to go to Mars before 2030, and that […]