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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Closed loop life support not required

Is it required to colonize mars? This older article says...
For the International Space Station, the crew and operations resupply requirement is about 10 kg per person per day. The ISS will typically have a crew of four; in 90 days it needs 900 kg per person; 3600 kg for the crew. This is easily within shuttle capabilities, even the capabilities of a crew and cargo vehicle flying on an ELV. There is little motivation to do better.
A Mars proto-settlement of 1,000 people is a lot different. Such a settlement is not feasible with this state of technology. Consider 1000 people, 365 days, at about 10 kg/day. This figures to 3.65 million kg (about 8 million lb) per year. Even at reduced launch cost of $1,000/lb, the delivery cost to Mars is at least $5,000/lb. The annual cost therefore is $40 billion just for life support. No government or consortium of governments will put up with such high cost, and it is out of the question for the private sector. [I propose zero resupply.]
Bioregenerative technology is needed. This technology is also highly applicable to cleaning up our environment here on Earth.
A permanent outpost needs a closed micro-ecology or something close to it. This means full recycling of all life support supplies, including waste and garbage. Periods of "no opportunity" for Mars resupply last almost two years; transit times are six months or more. Not only is the cost infeasible for ISS-level technology, the masses to be transported are outrageous.
I've been using 8 kg per person per day, but let's go with 10 kg. First, that $40 billion is bogus even in their scenario. Nobody today would propose all supplies come from earth. You also have two different scenarios to consider, getting to mars and living on mars.

Getting to mars takes about 250 days or 2,500 kg per person. Not outrageous. It's actually much less since 75% of that is water which we can recycled pretty well. So well, that they may dump most of that water before doing a mars orbit insertion burn. Ok, so let's look at those 1,000 people on mars...

They don't need any life support from earth after an initial bit to get them started. Everything they need other than plant seeds (the perfect low mass space travelers) already exists on mars. So instead of 3.65 million kg they only need enough to get production started. Water production can be started before any colonists even arrive. They aren't going to have 1000 colonists all at once. Perhaps a dozen on the first landing that will prepare for the 3 to 5 dozen arriving two years later. Those will then prepare for the hundreds that follow every 26 months.

So you need freeze dried food for a dozen with emergency backup until local production gets in gear. Say 300 days times 0.62 kg of freeze dried food times 12 colonists. Let's call that 2500 kg (2232) which fits on one $150m lander. We could easily send more if required. $40 billion is a scary number. $150 million, not so much. Let's also not forget the arriving colonists will bring between 2 to 10 weeks of life support with them. Some of that can become emergency reserve.

Even biosphere II was a success when you realize a closed loop is not required.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

No gas caps. No fuel depots.

How useful would your car be if it had no gas cap?

Imagine if they built it with a full tank of fuel, but no way to refill it. Would gas stations exist?

That's the way they build rockets.

Do we want to be a spacefaring species? Build an easily refuelable spaceship.

Make it the upper stage of a Falcon 9. About 13 tons and never intended to land once put in orbit. We can make other sizes for other launch vehicles but a small continuously usable ship with about 180 cubic meters of volume and life support for a dozen (not that it would always carry that many) would have a lot of general use. A refuelable SSTO lander would be sent ahead on a low cost trajectory for any mission requiring this addition. The infrastructure to refuel the lander might take a while to catch up with it but is that any reason not to have it? Would it be a reason not to include a gas cap on your car?

Update: The Falcon is fueled on the ground. How hard would it be to use those same connections to refuel it in zero g?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Just chesting... uh... testing the ability to pull traffic

Need a metronome?

Respond or die

That seems to be the situation with CATALIST.

He explains why triangulation is obsolete and changing American fundamentally is in progress (more so than we suspected.)

This is what happens when you face a hive mind.
...allows the left to do is drive deeper into the pool of extreme left-wing Americans who are otherwise unmotivated to actually vote.
Given that only a minority votes this is important. There are more on the right than on the left even in left wing cities, but they don't vote.

The take away is forget the moderate and fight for real ...or die.

UPDATE: I believe this is related.
7) The administration uses FOIAs as a tip service to uncover what news organizations are pursuing. Requests are now routinely forwarded to political appointees. At the agency that oversees the new health care law, for example, political appointees now handle the FOIA requests.
The hive is everywhere.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A mars vision

Will mars colonists require billions in support while struggling to survive?

Only if we're stupid. It doesn't have to be. We have a severe vision problem these days. Let's fix that. First the vision (which may be refined with your help) then how to get there...

Imagine we have a handful of people on mars. Choose your favorite method for how they got there. It doesn't matter. They will teach us how to survive and extract the basic requirement for life from mars itself. Jerry Pournelle correctly pointed out in the 1970s that the single most important issue for living in style beyond the earth is energy which is abundantly available from nuclear power, including that nuclear power plant we orbit. I like Thorium, which is abundant in the martian regolith (martians will call it dirt, one syllable) but even solar panels are enough because they can produce more panels on mars if we send enough to begin with (manufacturing requires energy beyond life support.) We've already sent nuclear power with our last rover. If we cared enough about the colonists future we could send landers with integral nuclear power (and long extension cords?) but it's not essential.

Here's the first epiphany (two are required... well ok, three.) We don't have to provide costly resupply from earth even though they will need things. We solve two problems with one solution. The higher the cost to send things to mars the better the solution works. It is based on the fact that everything going to mars, no matter what, has a mass surcharge above it's nominal cost.

Over 200,000 people want to live the rest of their lives on mars. Those that mock them display their own elitist ignorance. Mars One, after ten years, wants to send them at a rate of two a year (four every two years) which is a rate that would take 100,000 years to send them all. Not good enough.

Let's send them all. All it takes is sound economics (a basic reality.) This vision will need your criticism and refinements as well. Let's ask Elon Musk (now that he's won a 2.6 billion dollar award from NASA his detractors have more fuel for their infantile claims that he's not running a profitable business.) The success of his company means that Elon is developing the technology to go to mars but his business plan is a little weak. He just wants to sell tickets but will anybody sell their life savings to buy one? How does he get the price down to half a million? Does he have to? How do they each get a million dollar space suit? What will they arrive with on the surface of mars to survive?

My vision is that every colonist gets a free ticket and arrives a millionaire. That should take care of the supply of colonists. It's not funded by any government (except marginally) and in the process we solve the launch vehicle market problem. Can this actually be done? Absolutely and I will include my argument herein why it should be done (see coming third epiphany) and the one essential element that must happen.

The second epiphany is that assets exist (if they can be sold) to pay the ticket for any that want to go. It's not my epiphany. I borrowed it from the Space Settlement Initiative. Their's is not my vision. They require government blessings and new law. Mine doesn't. They require Alaska sized land grants creating a company town problem and conflicting with the Outer Space Treaty (IMHO) even if they think it doesn't because of that pesky government blessings requirement. I say sell it by the square meter from square kilometer sized claims. Claims made by possession after colonists land. Claims that produce legal title once deeds convey title, because of chain of title. Millions of title holders will have political power to go with that very solid historic precedent. We solve the chicken and egg problem with a trust. Money for land goes in. Money for tickets and deeds go out (after being properly claimed.) Mars has over 144 million square kilometers of potential real estate. That's over 14 billion hectares. Over 140 trillion square meters. How much of that would we have to sell (perhaps 10%, so 14 trillion) at what cost (a quarter? a dime?) to buy tickets for colonists? It would not take $1.4 trillion for missions so we have more than enough land. It does require the martian colonists to support and defend strong property rights. Rights that would have made it possible to travel to mars in the first place. Will people buy land on mars? They already do from con men that aren't actually providing them with anything. The colonists themselves will provide the first and most effective line of defense for those property rights. The number of people owning the land will be the second. That land has no value now, but it does have future value which is what they are buying and how it must be marketed. Done right (at some cost) it would work. This is a perfect match with the media approach of Mars One.

Now the third epiphany (and this is the big one.) If you've read a lot of plans for getting to mars they all have one glaring problem. They are not based on individual liberty and free enterprise. They can't even imagine that possibility, yet history teaches it's the only thing that really works for anything above a small group of people. We're losing this argument here on earth but it remains the truth. Sucking on the government teat will only last until the money runs out. Printing more of it doesn't resolve this.

We need to look at some more numbers. My plan is based on roughly $50 million cost per colonist. The money accumulates in the trust (while technology moves forward) until we can pay for a dozen or more to go. If the MCT cost $500 million and sends 100 that's $5 million per. If somehow Musk or anybody gets it lower, so much the better.

How's that every martian a millionaire work? It is essential we insist that every ticket include both a space suit and a mass allotment of probably 1000 kg to the surface. This is the personal property of the colonist and will include only enough essential life support to meet and trade with existing martians who will have an abundance of life support to trade. This means no separate and costly resupply missions and wealth to the arriving colonists. How much wealth? It will depend on how wisely they choose items that hold value but those items will be competing with the cost to buy them directly from earth. Suppose Musk can send 2500 kg to mars for $150 million as he's proposed. That's $60,000 per kg. Let's say the new colonist choose items that only hold a fraction of that value, say $1,000 per kg. That's a million dollars for each arriving colonist right there (assets on the books as it were.) Where does that money come to buy these assets? Some will bring money to mars (because after selling everything or not, they don't have to give it away for a ticket.) Some will earn money on mars in a free trade society (how much will Mars One pay their reality stars? I hear it's a lucrative gig.) Regardless, personal property will have value and workers will be needed, providing jobs for everyone. They can buy property, improve it and sell it for example. Every skill will be marketable. Free enterprise works.

One problem will be not enough ships for all the people that want to go. Isn't that a good problem? What about ships? We don't wait for the MCT. We don't send too large by mass and too small by volume ships like the Orion. We send a six crew ship massing under 13 tons on an F9. Actually, we integrate something like a Sundancer with the upper stage of an F9. No orbital assembly, just refuel it.We send two to mars orbit tethered together for artificial gravity for a mission with a dozen crew (360 m3 divided among 12.) We send six landers ahead to wait in mars orbit. The two ships take 8 months to get there on a free return trajectory. They have hall thrusters as backup and to return empty to earth orbit. The landers take two at a time to the martian surface with all their personal possessions. That's $75 million cost per colonist right there, but expect economy of scale to kick in.

We should send one additional lander straight to the martian surface with parts for two tractors for digging trenches (ten meter wide in my plans, but that's up to them.) The martians aren't going to live in tin cans (that's temporary and emergency backup.) They are going to live in mansions dug into the dirt by heavy equipment (eventually by heavier than these two tractors which may become the property of two colonists by lottery.) Most martians will hardly ever wear their space suits because habitat volume is something they can have of as much as they want. They own it. They would connect them with shirtsleeve underground walk ways. Wouldn't you build yourself a mansion in that situation? Nothing would stop them.

We need to send dozens to get a good start on a martian industrial ecology. A single person could have all the skills for the few dozen machines needed to make all others but they wouldn't have enough hands or time. Sending four to live on mars waiting for others to arrive is also a risky mistake. The first mission should have at least a dozen which makes the cost per person lower as well. Isolating a handful is just a bad idea. What happens if someone with essential skills dies in an accident? We need to give them the best start we can. They are humanities heroes.

There are too many details to include all for now. So have at it. Let the refinement begin.

(Submitted to the Space Review.)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The perfect marriage

I don't think Mars One will get $6 billion from commercials on a reality show. I'm sorry. Looking at the numbers I just don't. But they should get something between one and two billion  (over ten years) because that's in the right ballpark for other such shows.

Yes, landing on mars will be like landing on the moon with even more eyes watching but humans have an amazing capacity to lose interest in the amazing. Then you've got what ever is left.

2500 kg to the surface of mars on SpaceX landers for $150m has been proposed by Elon. That's using an $85m FH launch and a wider $50m Dragon lander. So it certainly seems doable. So $60,000/kg for supplies to the surface of mars.

Any human mission to mars is going to require presupply. Both mine and Mars One's do. Let's marry the two!

Mars One sends the landers they already plan to send plus 4 more with food because we're sending 12 rather than 4 colonists on the first trip costing them a bit more than a billion dollars (which they certainly should be able to raise.) This gives them more crew and talent to perform their reality show making it more interesting and less work per person. We still only land 4 on the first landing but the others are waiting in orbit with two more landers. Those first four will not have to wait another two years for company.

We will pay the cost to transport the colonists and they will provide the tv commercials to promote the colony trust website where martian real estate will be sold.

Sounds like the very definition of synergy to me!

Iron sharpens iron

...so one person sharpens another. - Proverbs 27:17

Chances are, things are not going to be right with the first iteration. Refinement is very often required. Starting with sound principles you can, in time, end up with good results. That's my hope with my mars plan. I want to modify it until it works.

I'm reminded of Joe Pesci's character in 'My Cousin Vinny.'

Lisa (Marisa Tomei): ...So what's your problem?
Vinny: My problem is, I wanted to win my first case without any help from anybody.
Lisa: Well, I guess that plan's moot.
Vinny: Yeah.
Lisa: You know, this could be a sign of things to come. You win all your cases, but with somebody else's help. Right? You win case, after case, - and then afterwards, you have to go up somebody and you have to say- "thank you"! Oh my God, what a fuckin' nightmare!

Anyway, what this is all leading up to is analysis of Rand's walk down memory lane (Rethinking the Vision.)

He writes why we should go into space... The United States should become a spacefaring nation, and the leader of a spacefaring civilization.

I would say instead... Humans with liberty should extend into the universe.

Because I think it's about humanity and not just one political entity and spacefaring means nothing without liberty. Leave human enslavement back on earth where it has its home. You do that with strong property rights. Nobody can take from another without their consent in free trade. The greater good can't be used as a moral justification for theft (even just a tiny bit.) His formulation includes the concept of leadership which mine fails to. Leadership is certainly important. So mine does need refinement somehow but it's where I would start. I'd like to end up with something inspiring.

Absolutely yes to: affordable and massively parallel ... development. ... We need to think in terms of wealth creation

[UPDATE: Absa-fukin-tootly right... it needed more emphasis.]

Absolutely right, and how does wealth happen? With ownership and free trade. That's why my plan starts with every martian a millionaire. Let's not get stuck on why mars. It's just one of all other destinations. Our goal is the entire universe starting with our solar system. Mars is about precedent.

We arrange it so settlers get a free ticket and arrive with enough resources to follow their dreams. Because of the high cost of travel, all their personal property comes with a mass surcharge. It competes with the cost of buying something from earth. This is potential wealth. All the colonists have to do is choose their personal property so that some of it holds its wealth long enough to be valuable as trade goods over time. This means their free travel ticket must include enough mass to do this. I believe just 1000 kg will be enough (having a mass surcharge value of about $1000/kg.) This also negates the need for separate supply missions and that cost.

[UPDATE: Using $150m for 2500 kg would be $60k/kg so $1000/kg is more than reasonable. Who's going to buy it? Anybody whose alternative is to get it from earth. The possessions should be chosen carefully with that in mind. If you're thinking that wealth doesn't exist on mars to buy any of it, you're thinking incorrectly. Over time it certainly will be. You're still a millionaire no matter how much time it might take to sell assets you own. They also will have land that will appreciate over time and faster by their own, on site, actions.]

The wealth of the universe must be distributed among humans and not governments to avoid enslavement. This is a moral imperative. We need to do this right from the start.

The assets exist. Since they have no current value there should be no fight over them (except from those already wanting to keep this wealth from anybody.) We use existing, worthless real estate to pay the ticket for every colonist that wants to go. Thanks to Mars One, we know that at least 200,000 want to go to mars. It's worthless now but has potential future value with that development Rand mentioned. Development is how to create value. It only happens after assets are claimed and start to be traded. It is a moral imperative. It would be a crime against humanity not to make these assets part of human wealth.

You are a dreamer Rand. Am I not as well? Is my dream foolish because it's not your dream? Is my dream a fuckin' nightmare?

This is my challenge to you Rand. Be Iron. Be specific. Sharpen and refine my dream with your criticism. It is my respect and admiration for your intelligence and perception that I ask.

What to criticize first? Let's start with the price tag. I set the price at 25 cents a square meter with an additional $10 for any lot less than 1000 sq. m. The smallest lot is 100 sq. m. for $35. The preferred lot is 2000 sq. m. for $500. Will enough people pay this? Once in peoples hands (only after the land has been claimed and deeds issued) it would of course reach it's own level of value through trade.

My opinion is they will. It doesn't matter if others think it's a bad deal. If my opinion is wrong we change it to what does work. 14 billion hectares is a lot of square meters and a lot of money even at a penny each. The trade off being there is actually too much land for too few buyers (assuming not all the billions of us want to buy.) Which is why we must value it higher to start off.

This isn't a con. That land will become valuable and faster with more colonists sooner. Four every two years is not fast enough. Free travel and a million dollars when you land should create land rush. This beats paying for one of four chances to go at a rate that would take 100 years to accomplish.

That mass surcharge value is real and better the higher the cost to go. We can take advantage of this fact. All it requires is that we insure that each ticket to ride includes a good and reasonable mass allotment. Setting up a trust for buying tickets insures this.

We need to bypass the monolithic government space agency with blitzkrieg. We don't fight for their attention and funds, we ignore them. Blitzkrieg worked in part because it was a new mind set.

Low marginal costs mean that as demand for a service grows, the price can drop rapidly.

What is the marginal cost with my plan? How much does it cost to add one more colonist?

The MCT is in the right direction (it's only one direction among other possibilities) because although it cost more overall it lowers the cost per colonist. But whatever plan we choose, costs go down with more frequent travel of more people.

High marginal costs will forever constrain the level of activity that’s possible.

Which is not the same as high costs and a good thing because cost is liable to remain high no matter what we do. But getting marginal costs down can and should happen. Four colonists every two years is not going to do it. We do not and should not wait hundreds of years to eventually get the clue. That's lost opportunity cost.

The only reliable way to lower marginal costs is to pursue full reusability.

Which requires different vehicles for each leg of the trip. The orbit to orbit general purpose ship should be the easiest and cheapest vehicle. A SSTO martian lander should happen eventually but just landing is the trick today. The F9, FH and Dragon 2 will soon take care of the first leg (to anywhere.) Hopefully SpaceX will get some real competition and that will become just another airline ticket.

The critical requirement of a reusable space system is refuelability.

This is so obvious that not getting it is an intelligence test (political agendas and intelligence not being compatible.) But not hydrogen for now. Methane and LOX. YMMV. Depots yes, but first comes refueling itself. Just being able to refuel a ship greatly expands our options and takes nothing away from the (no brainer) argument for depots.

A person might reasonably object that refueling makes no difference.

I admire your rhetorical jiu jitsu Rand, but we both know it's the reasoning of a dunce.

us[ing] the Moon as a steppingstone to other destinations.

When it's not a distraction that prevents us from getting to other destinations. Economics should decide. Being able to use the moon will take time and expense. Of course the moon will eventually become part of the entire economic sphere. Let all pursue their dreams.

Will it be safe to trust our precious astronauts to private launchers?

Yes. Next question.

...man’s future in space is too important to be left to NASA.

Or any government entity. Period. Full stop.

Once you let that camels nose in the tent you've already lost. It's just a matter of time. That's why strong property rights matter right from the start. Our founders fought over a tea tax. Wouldn't you like to pay just that tea tax now?

NASA should have planned on going to the Moon with the launch vehicles it had and not those it wanted to have.

We can go to mars now with the Falcon Heavy and Red lander. Now, today, because it's a process that takes time. These vehicles will be ready during that time. Mars One already has them on its critical path for a reason. They take existing technology as central to their plan. The lander and LV are not yet operational. They are the closest to being so.

...we need to open up the new space frontier the way the old American frontier was opened.

A thousand times yes. This means resources in the hands of the dreamers. Every martian a millionaire.