Thursday, April 19, 2012

Martian Musings

In a few years SpaceX will have the Falcon Heavy and a Dragon lander. The lander will be able to put about ten tons on the martian surface. The Bigelow BA330 already exists with life support for six. The FH upper stage can provide thrust for the BA330 to reach mars orbit which requires about six FH fuel payloads.

Suppose they (colonists and transportation company) agree to a charter. By providing free rides to colonists, the company gets 1000 sq. km. for each person they get to the martian surface. Each individual person arriving on mars agrees to make a single one sq. km. claim and no more.

The first mission to mars: 12 colonist / researchers.

Two dragon landers are sent to mars. One takes ten tons of supplies to the surface with a navigation beacon. The other is fueled and empty in mars orbit. Cost 2 x $250m. = $500m. Two BA330 (each with a dragon lander attached) are sent to mars orbit each with six crew and tethered for artificial gravity. Cost 2 x $900m  = $1.8 billion. Total mission cost $2.3b.

If they have no trouble collecting the dragon lander in orbit, they go four at a time to the surface. Otherwise they go six at a time in just the two landers they brought with them (and a bit less of the supplies they brought with them.)

The colonist get a free ride and one sq. km. The company providing the free ride gets 12000 sq. km. for $2.3b or almost $200k per sq. km. to break even. This first mission is obviously not for the money. This first dozen colonist prepare the way for the next mission arrival by first getting power and water ISRU.

The second mission: 36 colonists / industrialists (chemists, machinists, etc.)

Two more BA330 are put into orbit and fueled. Life support is upgraded so that 18 crew go in each. Six landers will be waiting in mars orbit for their arrival. Cost $1.5b (6 landers) + $1.8b = $3.3b. for which the transportation company gets 36000 sq. km. So now break even is about $100k per sq. km.

This is better, but $5.6b to put four dozen settlers on mars is a big investment. What happens from here? These 36 will specialize in farming ISRU and industrial development. They will provide welcome hands to reduce the workload on the first dozen. We shall see how the 4 dz. do. We help them as we can. They will be preparing habitats to sell to the colonists that follow in what ever time it takes. The third mission may be ten years after the first.

Third mission: 49 Farmers and ranchers.

Bigelow will create a module bigger than the BA330 but smaller than the BA2100 which can be put in orbit by the FH. It will cost about $200m and have life support for 49. It will require about ten ($1b) FH fueling missions. 7 ($700m) landers will go along. Total cost to mars surface, $1.9b. Break even for transportation, about $40k per sq. km.

What's happening during the decades following that first mission?

Later missions bring more colonists as SpaceX works toward it's goal of $500k/person to mars bringing it's break even to $500 per sq. km. The colonists going to mars get a free ride and each claim a single sq. km. per the terms of the charter; however, they also will purchase a habitat prepared for them by an earlier colonist. Say the seller charges $20k over cost (costs which rolls over with every sale for the construction of more habitats.) They have over 400 plots to sell giving them a lifetime income, just from their one claim, of over $8m. While people on earth may purchase land from the transport companies (or plots from the colonists) as the cost goes from $40k to $500/sq. km. colonists themselves may reinvest their sales profits by buying some land from the transport company to increase their lifetime earnings to over $8m.

Colonists could build this tractor on mars

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