Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mars banking

Assuming mars operates on the principles of ownership and contracts how might a mars bank operate?

First let's assume it uses no money! How does it do that?

For one, every customer gets a debit card. Then, go back to the origin of banks. They started as a place to store gold. On mars, account holders would deposit pure metals; Gold, Silver, Copper, Aluminum, Iron, etc. Using their debit card, customers would spend those metal deposits just like money.

Second, the banks do not make loans! The customers make the loans. How does that work?

A person needing a loan goes to the banks website and puts in a loan request (I would like 10 kg of platinum please.) Public comments would attach to each loan request (Q&A basically.) Bank account holders would then put in bids on that loan (I offer 100 grams for 0.1% a day.) At some point they reach 10kg or no loan is made. The borrower can wait for better offers to continue to come in or accept the terms of those that have come in already (only the best of those up to the 10kg are summarized for the borrower so they can decide). The bank handles the transaction for a small set fee (not a percentage of the loan. Other banks will compete by offering lower fees.) This is the first way banks will make an income. The second way is as a commodity exchange offering one metal for another using a simple bid/ask system. There is no fractional banking. The only audit needed is to see what mass of metals they hold which they will make freely available to all their account holders.

Easy Peasy. Anybody with a decent reputation can run their own bank. Caveat Emptor.

Could they handle currency from earth as well? Sure. Why not? It's handled exactly the same way as the metal deposits including a currency and metals exchange. The only regulation required is that account holders have complete transparency to bank holdings. It's all just contract law.

What does the borrower do with his 10 kg of platinum? Most likely he deposits it in that same bank and uses his debit card to conduct his business. It's all just an electronic transaction really except the platinum is for real and held by the bank.

This suggests another mars occupation. Someone to certify the purity of metals for a fee. A person's name and reputation will come to mean a lot on mars. A person's word and even the lowly handshake could return to it's former value. Politics would only exist on a very personal level.

Note how unlikely a bank run would happen if all account holders knew their deposits existed and were secure. Even if there were a bank run; No fractional banking means the bank continues to be in business without danger even if they do end up with fewer deposits on account.

They may also operate tradition insurance operations or be prevented from doing so; it's all contracted.

One more thing to realize. This is not complicated. Getting loans will be easy because everybody on mars will be a land owner and can use that for collateral which the bank will hold against repayment of the loan. Land will have a known mineral content. Everything is transparent. Easy loans means a business boom. Liquidity is no problem.

Update: Crowd sourcing.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Should conservatives be outraged?

Yes. At themselves.
"This was an activist court that you saw today," Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told reporters. "Anytime the Supreme Court renders something constitutional that is clearly unconstitutional, that undermines the credibility of the Supreme Court. I do believe the court's credibility was undermined severely today," she said, later adding that Congress could now force you to buy Ikea furniture.
The point that the Rep. Bachmann missed is that it has always been constitutional for congress to force you to do stuff.

We Americans have done a very irresponsible thing. We elected someone that doesn't believe in traditional America. We the people are responsible; not the supreme court. WE!

Roberts made that very clear by writing, "It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices."

Adults take responsibility. Roberts is correctly telling us we need to be adults.


Article 1 Section 8: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes

That's it, in black and white. It's always been there. The only restriction being "to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States."

Of course there is a problem, the language is a bit ambiguous. Defense and Welfare were the same thing then (note the rest of article 1) but now welfare has an entirely different meaning. What does uniform mean in this context? It means equal and consistent, but that's not really very helpful other than as a principle to be followed. Redistribution of wealth would obviously not conform to that principle but when collecting taxes it's pretty hard not to redistribute wealth. Obviously, they should take as little as possible and everybody should have skin in the game.

They also have the responsibility to make all laws which are "necessary and proper." They don't seem to have stuck to that principle either but that doesn't make their actions unconstitutional according to the opinion of many (who are likely wrong, but Pandora's box is open.)

There is no way to look at the beast we have today and see limited government. It is our responsibility; our duty as we the people; to limit and restrict our government. We have a republic; Roberts has just told us to defend it.

Update: It's on usChief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal wing of the Supreme Court to effectively remove all limits on federal power.

No. It's always been on us. Sarah gets it right.

They've always had the ability to tax us just for being alive. Roberts has just awakened us to the fact.

Now even worse

The reality hasn't changed, but perhaps now the perception will. Obamacare CBO numbers need to be revised in light of the supreme court ruling.
Among other things, if the mandate is just an optional tax that can be paid in lieu of getting health insurance, then the basis by which the law was estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) would seem to be flawed. CBO, taking a page from the book of “behavioral economics,” assumed that very large numbers of American would sign up for insurance under the law even though it would be against their financial interests to do so.
Update: Obamacare May Dramatically Increase the Deficit.

More taxes due to Obamacare.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Firing up the troops

Sarah is right again. Tea parties are rallying everywhere. November is going to be a bloodbath for the left.

We're all woman now

Chemically anyway.

Will the left apologize to Sarah now?

Not holding my breath.

ObamaCare both affirmed and reversed!

The law stands but not for the reasons of the president.

The judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part.

...the individual mandate is not a valid exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it.

Roberts concludes that it doesn't matter that Obama and members of congress lied or that the law itself lies. It is a tax. His faulty reasoning is that...

...stating that individuals “shall” obtain insurance or pay a “penalty” does not require reading §5000A as punishing unlawful conduct.

So Roberts is saying that taxation is not punitive! That is absolutely ridiculous. Roberts is wrong. But the real message Roberts seems to be saying is 'grow up...'

It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.

So what about the dissent? (SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO)

Whatever may be the conceptual limits upon the Commerce Clause and upon the power to tax and spend, they cannot be such as will enable the Federal Government to regulate all private conduct and to compel the States to function as administrators of federal programs. is a blatant violation of the constitutional structure when the States have no choice.

Yeah team! This is a blatant violation of the constitution!

Congress wants unlimited power. It's time we limited them. Politically, this may turn out to be the best result of all. Will enough people grow up?

Update: It's not just law the left doesn't understand. More important is they don't understand economics or just consequences.

...providing an incentive for individuals to delay purchasing health insurance until they become sick, relying on the promise of guaranteed and affordable coverage.

The insurance industry has a name for this which my Swiss cheese brain doesn't recall. The fact is, these consequences are pretty well understood by everyone except children and the left (but I'm being redundant.)

Insurance is a pretty simple thing really. The insurer is taking a straight forward risk for profit. The insured is willing to pay the insurer that profit rather than keeping enough savings on hand to handle contingencies (otherwise known as self insuring.) This arrangement is based on economic realities. Politicians continue to act as if they can somehow impose a different reality. They can not.

But let them repeal the law of gravity. It makes about as much sense.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

You're not informed

If you don't know how 'Wide Receiver' is different from 'Fast & Furious' then you're not informed enough to have an opinion.

Obama has claimed he didn't know anything about F&F but has exercised Executive Privilege which means he is now claiming he lied just like Eric Holder has. Lying to congress is a felony.

So the highest law enforcement official of the land and the president are felons (not yet convicted, but still felons.)

You are now informed, but read this anyway.

Why is Holder protecting Muslim Brotherhood?

It's not just F&F that he's stonewalling.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ticket to ride

What is the governments role in the commercialization of space?

Both Zubrin and Musk have said that a ticket to mars may cost about $500k per person some day. A more realistic number today would be more than $50m per person and even a billion per person if they only send a handful at a time. Costs like these make any human expedition to mars fail to pass the laugh test.

The rule of thumb is:
Government makes costs go up; Competition makes costs go down.

This is one of the main reasons you do not want government screwing with commercial operations. We don't want the government controlling space activities. But government can be a useful customer in getting commercial activities started. One step in that direction would be to kill the SLS right now. The government should never be in the business of building ships in competition with commercial vendors. They have no mission for it. It's total pork.

Commercial activities are incremental. Today, Russia has a monopoly in sending humans to the space station and are charging monopoly prices (about $65m per person.) In a few years they will have competition from the SpaceX Dragon which will immediately drop that ticket price to $20m or less per person (it's ready now, but Musk wants it to be safer.) More competition could reduce that ticket price further. It is very reasonable to see that price going under $2m per person making new commercial activities to LEO much more likely. Zubrin and Musk obviously see the cost per person to LEO going even lower than I do because getting to LEO is only the first of three steps in getting to mars.

The second step is the 6 to 9 month journey to mars orbit. A ship for this purpose could cost about $300m to LEO unfueled (about the same cost as a 747.) The cost of this ship could be amortized over many missions meaning the cost of the ship has little impact on the ticket to ride cost. The operational costs of this ship are it's fuel (everything else is lost in the noise.) The cost per person is lower when sending more people at a time. Competition again is the key to lowering costs and government does have a role. They can buy fuel in LEO (from any source) and sell it at a lower price. Update: The Aldrin Mars Cycler is a way to further reduce the cost of traveling to mars. The cycler would be a large ship which only has a one time fuel cost (long life ion thrusters may be included for minor adjustments.) It permanently travels between the earth and mars. A much lighter ship needing considerably less fuel would catch up as it left earth which would include landers that would leave it as it approached mars. Update: Sundancer is a better choice.

Is it a good idea for the government to buy and sell fuel in LEO? It's a subsidy. Subsidies are always a political football. Personally, I'd rather the government not be involved at all, but this would actually have a return to the taxpayers that other subsidies do not (how are all those green jobs working out for ya, Mr. President?)

The reason I structure it this way is it encourages commercial competition to sell fuel in LEO. Competition lowers costs so eventually these companies could be selling fuel directly to companies that provide transportation to destinations like mars. Competition lowers the ticket to ride cost.

The third leg is landing on mars. Although we've done it with rovers, nobody really knows how that's going to work for larger mass human landers. SpaceX has plans for a Red Dragon. Government has had a hand in financing that research and may do more in the future. But they shouldn't pick and choose winners. This would be crony capitalism which is the antithesis of free enterprise.

Mars isn't the only destination. We have an entire solar system and beyond. But you have to start somewhere and mars is the closest earth analogy with all the resources for life. Every passenger ticket sold is going to be to some specific destination. That's an unavoidable truth. It's not going to happen anywhere, including mars, if the economic justification doesn't exist. That eliminates flags and footprint missions. The only economic justification is expanding the economic sphere BEO with settlement.

With settlement we no longer need government involvement. Settlement is self financing.

Monday, June 25, 2012

How stupid are they?

This is a bombshell...
If §3 of the Arizona statute were valid, every State could give itself independent authority to prosecute federal registration violations, “diminish[ing] the [Federal Government]’s control over enforcement” and “detract[ing] from the ‘integrated scheme of regulation’ created by Congress.”
So it's all about federal 'control' and states can not enforce federal law??? Good to know. This should save the states a lot of their budget by not assisting the federal government with enforcement of any of their laws.

Break a federal law?; Don't worry about local police holding them in jail for the feds to take custody. This could be the first step in eliminating all those government agencies we lived fine without for the first few hundred years of this nation.

Scalia: [This decision] deprives States of what most would consider the defining characteristic of sovereignty: the power to exclude from the sovereign’s territory people who have no right to be there.

The Government complains that state officials might not heed “federal priorities.” Indeed they might not, particularly if those priorities include willful blindness or deliberate inattention to the presence of removable aliens in Arizona.

No kidding.

Thomas: Despite the lack of any conflict between the ordinary meaning of the Arizona law and that of the federal laws at issue here, the Court holds that various provisions of the Arizona law are pre-empted because they “stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.”

In other words, if congress doesn't want the law of the land enforced; states are prohibited from enforcing the law of the land. Picking and choosing which laws to enforce or not is the very definition of tyranny. We had a little thing called the revolution because of it.

Alito: The United States’ attack on §2(B) is quite remarkable. The United States suggests that a state law may be pre-empted, not because it conflicts with a federal statute or regulation, but because it is inconsistent with a federal agency’s current enforcement priorities. Those priorities, however, are not law.

Remarkable, when used by a supreme court judge, is quite remarkable. It means, really pay close attention to what I'm saying. Again, this is about a fall into tyranny, where the law of the land is not really the law of the land; rule of law is the only protection citizens have from tyranny. Eliminate that and we no longer live in the land of the free; the brave better do something this next election.

Update: my comment at Legal Insurrection.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why space?

To escape tyranny.

Why do people accept tyranny in the first place? Perhaps because they are taught not to see it for what it is?
it is clear that the rebels will succeed in violating the treaty’s prohibition against claiming sovereign territory in outer space
Are they or are they just claiming the territory for themselves making themselves a new sovereign?
SpaceX has no intention of settling for just being able to send cargo to the International Space Station
Amen to that.

The difference? aren't going to whine about it. Marilyn vos Savant gave the definitive answer regarding the gender wage difference. If woman cost less, why do businesses continue to hire men? Seems they don't anymore.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Right to the top

House Speaker John Boehner wondered if White House officials were being involved in a cover-up.

"Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt" - Ronin
"Were they lying?"
Duh! We've already caught Holder lying. Now they just need the documents to prove it. Obama has no plausible deniability here. November can't come too soon.

After which, everybody will go back to sleep. This is infuriating. Live coverage.

Rand agrees, right to the top.

Is this news that can not be ignored?

Then there's the smoking gun admission of guilt...

We’re working on gun control “under the radar”

The stench of cover upWhat is in those documents that Obama and Holder so desperately want to hide?

...the DOJ has refused to create a privilege log–which would identify withheld documents, and the legal reason for their being withheld. Which they must do now that the president has invoked executive privilege and has taken responsibility.

... it is President Obama who doesn’t want them to know who is to blame for the Fast and Furious scandal. Executive privilege is not legal when used to hide crimes.

Update: This may be my last post since the topic is evergreen. There's no limit to this administrations corrupt attempts at tyranny...

Nancy Pelosi rants "off with Rove's head!"

Pelosi screaches, "We don't need no stinkin' congress."

Dodd-Frank unconstitutional? Powerline.

Is this a good question?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cheap spacesuits

Getting the suit cost down is really important for our commercial future in space. This looks like one attempt although it appears to have some severe shortcomings.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Screw the young

That's what the demagogues are really saying.
If young Americans knew what was good for them, they would all be in the Tea Party.
Governments should also follow the lead of business and adopt the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
The purpose of GAAP is to prevent lying TO YOURSELF.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Impeachable offense

There are so many to choose from, but now we have another.
Under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, the president has the duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”
If the rule of law still existed in this country Obama would be impeached for executive overreach.

How can the rule of law be violated so? Because neither party respect it. There have been many examples where Romney has violated the rights of Paul supporters. It's clear that Romney has won, but that is no excuse for the behavior of his people.

I'd personally like to see Sarah as president and Allen West her VP. It's not going to happen, but we need a radical housecleaning in government and I believe those two would do it. Besides it would make the media and other elites head's explode.

What can he not do?

May have??? Might be more illegal immigration with new policy???

Almost forgot this.

Obama don't need no stinkin' Congress.

Every citizen should be outraged

Regardless of your political point of view the first amendment protects all Americans. It's under attack and Senator Mitch McConnell is sounding the warning.

This 9 y.o. Scottish girl who has been silenced may be interested in the result.

Lookup vs. Memory

Somehow I misremembered one horsepower to be 550 watts which is wrong. But I feel better knowing others differ as well. I'm going with google: one horsepower = 745.699872 watts. I can remember 746. Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

Units called "horsepower" have differing definitions:
  • The mechanical horsepower, also known as imperial horsepower, of exactly 550 foot-pounds per second is approximately equivalent to 745.7 watts.
  • The metric horsepower of 75 kgf-m per second is approximately equivalent to 735.499 watts.
  • The boiler horsepower is used for rating steam boilers and is equivalent to 34.5 pounds of water evaporated per hour at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, or 9,809.5 watts.
  • One horsepower for rating electric motors is equal to 746 watts.
  • Continental European electric motors used to have dual ratings, using a conversion rate of 0.735 kW for 1 hp
  • British Royal Automobile Club (RAC) horsepower is one of the tax horsepower systems adopted around Europe which make an estimate based on several engine dimensions.
This is interesting: a healthy human can produce about 1.2 hp briefly and sustain about 0.1 hp indefinitely; trained athletes can manage up to about 2.5 hp briefly and 0.3 hp for a period of several hours.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

1% to 16% water in mars soil

This means you do not need to dig wells. Water on mars can be baked out of scooped up mars soil.

Landing on Mars

I've been thinking about this interesting comment.
The [special variant of the SpaceX Dragon capsule] Mars One requires will be slightly larger than the current version.
They also mention the supply Dragon will only bring 2500kg to the surface of mars which is much less than the 10mt I've read about regarding the Red Dragon.

Update: The current dragon, even with superdracos, would make a nice crater. The mars lander will be 5 m. wide. The current Dragon is 3.7 m. wide.

While the PicaX heat shield can withstand mars entry temperatures that's not to say the martian atmosphere will drain away enough energy from a standard Dragon to go subsonic before it crashes into the surface. Which is why some suggest adding a hypercone:

Which has a diameter of 30 to 40 meters.This is suppose to slow a vehicle from mach 5 to mach 1 starting from 10 km high and before you become a new crater. If it is required it's a simple addition requiring very little addition mass. The superdracos would then take over for a soft ground landing.

The worry is that "large, flexible structures are notoriously difficult to control." This one shouldn't be, assuming it's required at all, because the forces would be working for you. The other worry is it would cause you to drift from your target landing site. However, no matter how they land, they will always have an issue regarding the size of the landing ellipse. The final stage with thrusters should mitigate that issue perhaps completely. In any case, they will have to establish missions that allow for whatever reality is.

They may want to discard the hypercone before engaging the superdraco landing system. At mach that should be a really quick operation with no possibility of interference with the rest of the landing.

Update: I wonder if it could be inflated by the martian atmosphere itself? Would that allow the outer ring to be rigid enough?

Update: NASA test.

Update: The Mars One lander will be wider than a standard Dragon (for better braking) and not use a hypercone. The placement and angle of the superdracos should allow supersonic retros.

So, assuming 2.5mt and four crew to the martian surface, what will they have besides a space suit? Life support and a mars buggy of course.

The lunar rover was 210 kg with room for two. For mars I've proposed a two part vehicle: a simple tractor (four balloon wheels, batteries and a central fifth wheel hitch.) That pulls a foldable trailer with room for six in space suits and their life support supplies. The wheels of the trailer are far back putting most of the weight on a simple pole bar hitch. The trailer has a simple eye hitch that fits over the pole with a cap or pin to keep it in place.

Let's assume this tractor and trailer together has a mass of 500 kg (including solar panels that can be laid out on stopping and a small methane engine to extend the battery range) which allows a 500 kg allotment per crew. Each colonist in suit should mass about 150 to 200 kg (about 167 lbs. on mars.) So each colonist will have about a months supplies to reach a pre-established base which they should be withing 20 to 40 km. Their landing ellipse should be about 10 km., but much less if using a landing beacon (the advantage of a propulsive landing.)

Update: Arizona CJ provides this PDF.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

What's wrong with Zubrin's land patent idea?

Zubrin makes some good points about the value of land ownership.
Enormous tracts of land were bought and sold in Kentucky for large sums of money a hundred years before settlers arrived [, land that] might as well have been Mars in the 1600s. 
[A] registry of a sufficiently powerful nation, such as the United States, would be entirely adequate [to] enforce private-property rights in space. [Those properties] probably could be bought and sold now.

[A registry allows] the undeveloped resources of space [to] become a tremendous source of capital to finance their exploration [and settlement].
All of the above is true with one very minor problem. Nations can not give grants to something they don't own. No sovereign nation owns any of of that property and are actually prohibited from ownership if they are part of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. So they can't grant it. However, they can recognize that other's own the property and have legal title. Which is to say, if a title office were established on mars which held a registry of property claims made in accord with reasonable terms; other nations could recognize those private ownership rights held in title so they had international enforcement. Zubrin is saying one strong nation would be enough for all the others to accept those property rights. Which makes it easier for land to be used to provide capital. As Thomas Sowell has pointed out; Land ownership by free individuals is by far (leaving the second thing too far back to see) the most important thing for a strong healthy economy. Valuable land provides the resources and collateral for financial growth.

Historically, the way a land patent worked is a person would pay for the necessary paperwork fees associated with the steps of entry, warrant, and plat. Entry would be adding their name into the registry, warrant would be the actual title and plat would be physical description of the property made by surveyors. By this process the first claim for about 50 acres (depending on time and place) on undeveloped property could be claimed by anybody in the territory. Being bureaucrats this process could take as much as ten years, but the owner still took possession of the property immediately. They had to, to prevent others from making claims on the same property. On mars, title could be issued immediately using a computerized system of pre-surveyed properties.

The problem is people perception that only the state can make decisions. This hasn't always been the case in America, especially when we still had frontiers. The people that claimed their 50 acres didn't ask permission from the state first. They just followed the procedures the state established after they'd claimed their property. There is no reason the same could not be done today. We can wait for the state to recognize the claims in a registry established by it's members.

The question is about the terms. If the terms require possession we have to wait for possession. This is a sort of chicken vs. egg problem because of the need for a few billion dollars of funding to put just a handful of people on mars. The problem of not doing it by possession is that it would involve unending legal squabbles. Smart politicians without greed could get around this by understanding the problem. That leaves that solution out.

Could land claims be recognized before they are possessed? Of course, but what would be the terms? The Space Settlement Initiative has it's ideas, but I see major problems with that as well. It results in a company town where individuals do not own the assets in a fair distribution. People risking their own lives should have some compensation. We have enough slaves right here on earth.

Perhaps awareness of the property rights issue will result in a solution. If not, in a few years a few billion invested will result in possession. Then it doesn't really matter what the politicians and lawyers (but I repeat myself) think.

A tremendous source of capital is something space colonization could use right now.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Space Transport Inc

"Well, we've gone over the numbers and we're going to have to figure out how to bring costs down."

Bill, our CFO, was always talking about bringing costs down. Our first ship, based on a BA700 and the upper stage of a Falcon Heavy (which we bought from SpaceX for a song since it was actually part of the rocket that put our BA700 in orbit) currently had a scientific research team from India spending the next three months studying zero g manufacturing techniques. SpaceX was offering us $15m per round trip passenger to LEO on their Dragon/F9 combo which barely allowed us to charge enough for a profit.

Linda, our marketing/sales director chimed in, "I talked to Matsumori yesterday. Barry says the LEOnardo [the stretch Dragon] will cost us only $2m per seat, but only at full capacity of 42 seats."

"How many on that movie project need to go up?", we'd given a slight discount to the Indians to prepare for the the film crew by painting the interior green. They were like kids having fun, rather than the old government science employees they actually were, when doing it. They got paint all over including themselves. Not to worry they said, it's just part of an Indian holiday custom they assured us.

"Not enough to fill 42 seats."

"Well, get back to them and see what it will cost with the people we will need to send," I knew Linda would get the best price possible for us, "...oh ...and let the film crew know we can give them a longer stay at a reduced rate to handle the difference."

"Will do boss."

That left this settlement charter business to consider. Our flagship (well, our only ship at this point, but we planned more as business picked up) has a dry mass of 40mt and life support for 42. It had been designed with life support for only 18, but when we got wind of the stretch Dragon we paid another $20m for the upgrade. The 'cabins' were just 15 m3 zipper tents tied to 'hard point' metal rings on the BA700s outer walls. They had a built in mattress/sleeping bag and zippered cabinets able to hold life support and other personal supplies that could last for as long as 2 yrs. We could send 42 to mars. That would make our non fuel mass 82mt. We'd need 12 FH flights for fuel. That's a billion dollars for fuel!

Then another $100m to get those 42 to LEO. Six Red Landers for another $900m means our cost is a cool $2 billion. Rumors of fuel from the moon were still rumors at this point. LOX2LEO was still trying to raise capital.

"So what is it these mars colonists are offering?"

"Only $20m in cash, but they want us to be members of their charter giving us 42,000 sq. km. of martian real estate," said 'Buddy' Williams, our lead counsel.

"What's that worth?" I asked.

"Anywhere from nothing to perhaps $100 an acre," Bud saw the puzzled look in my eye and continued, "that's more than 10 million acres so about a billion dollars."

"Forget it then. That's only half our cost and doesn't include any profit."

That ended the meeting for the day, but Bud called me at home later that evening, "Look, I was talking to Linda and she thinks this land deal has a lot more profit potential in it. She's won me over I think."

"Ok, how?"

"Well, we know we have to get at least $200 an acre to cover our costs, right."


"Linda says she can sell it for $250 to $500 an acre."


"She knows one of the colonists personally. It turns out he went to school with Linda. He wants to create a reality show on mars."

"How does that help us?"

"It makes real estate on mars more tangible to potential investors, increasing the pool and the perceived value. Let's not forget, down the road we may be talking about developed land worth considerably more. Musk is saying he wants to get 10,000 colonists on mars. They're all going to need homes."

"Well. We're going to need to put another ship in orbit for our other local customers costing us another $250m. Make that two ships. Talk to Bill about packaging that deal and see what the bank will charge us. Make it a long term loan."

They don't call me a risk taker for nothing.

How to choose a martian

Since going public with their website, apparently a lot of people have made inquiries about becoming a mars colonist for the Mars One project which will be selecting 40 people to train for ten years at the end of which four people will be chosen to go on a mission to mars Sept 2022 landing Apr 2023 assuming they can get the funding.

Jim has given me the right criteria for choosing the candidates with the right stuff. Just ask them one question,

Can you make heavy equipment out of dirt?

Then have them prove it. Why is this the question? Because we have a serious can't do attitude in modern life. People think things come from stores. Grocery store, hardware store, you-name-it store.

That's not where things come from. But to be fair, the naysayers know this. What they're really saying is, yes in theory you could but practically you can't. To which I say, practically they had better be able. Otherwise, leaving earth will forever be too big a hurdle. Things break. No big deal on earth, but on mars that means you die (depending on what breaks.)

Some of the most insightful comments come from Trent, "When I see plans for sending a few guys one way to Mars I don’t see a serious plan. I see a space suicide pact."

Right on. Martians need to be self sufficient. Can they make heavy equipment out of dirt? Of course they can, but will they be able to? They say invention is a mother. The martian settlers will need to have mechanically aptitude and be willing to do dirty jobs (yeah, that's a great premise for a show in this can't do world.) Two guys can put a tractor together (that's just one item of heavy equipment martians will need) from components in 8 hrs. What does it take to build all of those components of steel (from dirt)? Can it be done at all?

Do you still believe that things come from stores? Everything made is made by somebody. Perhaps not me or you, but not by magic either. A person with the training and skills did it. Martians will need that training and those skills. Another misbelief is that people can only make one thing (a serious cognitive illness in this can't do world.) A qualified machinist can make anything if given a blueprint. They can even make the tools and machines they need if they don't have them to start with (yes, they do need a set of hand tools to start with. That they will have.) One person all alone can do this. What they can't do is do it as fast as two or more; but they can (all alone with no outside help) do it.

Especially if they have no real alternative! That's life on a frontier.

It's why we need frontiers. So the can't do attitude doesn't infect us all.

Still the naysayers have a point. We need to avoid a space suicide pact. That means we need to send enough people on a mission. Four to six is not enough. A dozen is barely enough and should have a lot of support. I believe four dozen by the second mission (at the first opportunity after sending the first dozen) is the minimum if we are serious about developing a new planet. A big commitment requires a lot of funding and those paying and risking their lives should have some benefit for it. They have the right to build their own value with their own hands or effort and we should recognize that. Taxpayers don't have to pay for this. It is totally self funding if we...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Industrial ecology response to Jim.

The documentation on the GVCS is not well put together. It's what you might expect from people that are bending metal rather than writing books. But I need to respond to Jim and will do so in this post.

Jim asks, "Backyard mechanics are making heavy equipment out of dirt?"

I say yes and now have to verify that assertion. First, they do get steel from dirt. And they recycle that steel.

Core value #7: Closed-Loop Manufacturing and Material Cycles – Any product should never be a waste, but a feedstock for another process. Our project relies on recycling metal into virgin feedstock for producing further GVCS technologies.

Core value #19: Complete Economy – The work of OSE is intended to be a workable blueprint for a complete economy. Our designs are geared for a maker lifestyle on the part of community members. This is also known as a neo-subsistence lifestyle – where communities can provide all the requirements of a complete economy, such that trade is only an option, not a necessity.

Get that? Trade is an option. Can they live up to that? The next value is important to start up communities.

Core value #31: Flexible Fabrication – This is a mode of production distinct from specialization. In flexible fabrication, general purpose machinery is used by highly skilled workers to produce a wide array of products – as opposed to specialized machines, operated by highly deskilled workers, producing only a single item. Our means to flexible fabrication is the open source fab lab.

Specialization is more efficient but flexible is important when you don't have a large labor force.

# 32: Technological Recursion – The flexible fabrication technology also allows producers to produce more complex machines and parts. This allows a local community to, eventually, attain the capacity to produce any technology known to humankind.

I guess I should have started with that one. Again, I need to show to what extent they've actually attained that.

#36: Replicability – OSE work is intended to be replicable, self-replicating, and viral. The open source nature, low-cost, and simplicity of our designs are key to this.

Can they build a tractor from dirt? Let start with building the tractor from components. That takes two people eight hours. Here are the components. You will note that they give sources for many of the components, but for those made of steel a machinist can make all of those themselves. As #19 says, purchase is never required, just an option.

Since the steel comes from dirt; yes, they can make a tractor from dirt.

Going black

Michelle via Rand.

Nagging thoughts

It takes months to get supplies to mars. What if we overlook something? It could lead to tragedy.

Suppose their is a vitamin deficiency? Could we send supplies fast enough in that case?

The Mars One project intends to send a couple of Red Dragons equipped with life support systems developed by Paragon. If one breaks they would have one backup, but that's obviously a weak link. Life support should not depend on something only the earth can supply. It should be something the colonists could make for themselves. Sure they might have supplies and training to repair the Paragon equipment, but that's not good enough.

They need to be able to control the temperature of their habitats. The design doesn't have to be pretty, but it has to be something they could build themselves.

They need to be able to maintain an oxygen/nitrogen (and perhaps argon) atmosphere. The air must circulate so whatever is scrubbing the carbon dioxide and other dangerous gases will get to it. They can build their own electric motors which is all you really need for a fan. Scrubbing the air itself is a chemical process.

The control mechanisms have to be simple and robust. For temperature control it might just be a manual reset for comfort. It become too hot or cold while sleeping which wakes you up. Other control systems need to work where human senses are not enough to track the situation.

Other things that make life worth living... eggs. Sending chickens shouldn't be too difficult and provides a meat. Milk and honey? Bees shouldn't be too difficult either. Milk could be a problem. Dry milk will probably be an expensive import for a while. Can you make cheese from dry milk? I suppose you could. Dairy cows or goats will eventually find their way to mars. I can imagine pregnant cows delivering just before mars orbit. They send the new born calves to the surface but only the processed meat of the cows. Hmmm... a red dragon refrigerator? That will be an interesting transit for the butchers/ranchers.

They will have gardens with a diversity of plants for various uses. Seeds seem a perfect design for space travel. These are the things I think about in bed at two in the morning.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mars Colonist Training

It's important that the people that go to establish an independent self sufficient colony on mars not be under resourced. Mars One proposes ten years training for groups of four colonists. It's important that it's the right training providing them with the right set of skills for survival.

Much of it seems to be focused on the psychological aspect of isolation. They should consider mitigating this by making them less isolated... send more people.

What skills will they teach? Some will be taught to maintain all the equipment they bring with them, but apparently not to the level of being able to produce that equipment ISRU. I think this is a key flaw and another reason for sending more than 4 colonists. ISRU production of essential equipment can be done but requires about 4 dozen colonists with hands on experience producing a complete industrial ecology starting from martian dirt. They mention geologists, but not chemists and machinists (although they do say other specialists will follow the first four.)

Do they really need an exobiologist in the first four? They don't have enough people to insure survival when things break down, but 25% of the crew will be looking for life rather than being focused on their own survival? Sure the search for life is important, but they can't do that if they're dead. Priorities need to be set.

When you are looking at billions of dollars in cost, adding another 25% is a big bite, but if it gives you 300% more crew with additional skills for survival it might be an expense worth making. Survival has to be priority one. Which, paradoxically means you might not want 50% of your colonist being doctors! which is not the highest priority for survival. Being able to fix essential equipment when it breaks down is a much higher priority. That equipment shouldn't rely on getting parts from earth. That means the designs should be simple and robust. It's why [bio]chemists and machinist/mechanics are perhaps the highest priority, but not specifically mentioned as part of the training.

To be fair, they can't really give full details of a plan in a general audience post. I do hope they will give consideration of adaption of the global village construction set to a mars starter kit (able to produce anything on mars ISRU eventually.)

Want to build a new civilization? Just do it (with the right training: Tractor, Brick maker, Pulverizer, and Power Cube.)

To become skilled, people will have to specialize which means you need more than just a few people. Colonist will support each other with complementary skills. Which is how free markets work incidentally. They should each have the assets to make that work.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Evaluating the MarsOne plan

Mars One plans to land four colonists on mars 7 months after being launched Sept. 14, 2022 for a project cost of $6B. For over a year they've been secretly having discussions with suppliers for all the mission requirements. They intend to cover their costs with a 24/7 reality show among other means.

Mission plan:

2013 - Astronaut selection of 40 to train for ten years.
2014 to Oct. 2016 - Supply mission; First of two landers, each with 2500 kg of food.
2018 - First of two rovers land. Begins site preparations.
2021 - All supplies on mars. Two living units, two life support units, a second supplies unit and another rover. The rovers prepare for the arrival of colonists. At least eight Red Dragons will have made a landing on mars before any manned Dragons make the attempt.
2022 - Water & oxygen produced in sufficient supply to go ahead Sept. 14 crew launch.
2023 - Mars One crew of four lands on mars in April.
2025 - Every two years or so a new crew adds to the colonists numbers bringing new equipment and skills. Included will be two communications relay satellites for almost constant contact (minus two hours per mars year.)

They should talk to Larry Page, when NASA told them their project would need about $10b he told them he would consider $2b, "can you get it down to 1 or 2 billion?"

Is it possible? Our entire plan revolves around using existing, validated technology.

This certainly agrees with my philosophy about it. For example, only SpaceX has a real lander in the works and they have obviously chosen it.

The company plans to deliver food, water and other supplies to Mars through eight unmanned expeditions, including a pair of rovers that will build accommodation inside inflatable units. Further buildings would be created using a brick-making machine and power would come from solar panels.

Unlike my much simpler rovers, these would include a robot arm and digging arm. I also include a brick maker, but made on mars from dirt. I say the first mission should be a dozen colonists rather than just four, but it's better than none. They have an advantage of only killing four if they screw up. But ultimately they hope to have forty colonists apparently? But over ten years rather than the four dozen by the second mission that I've proposed.

I'm concerned that their training is mostly about systems they will bring with them, without consideration of making them self sufficient. These people are employees. I would rather they be free entrepreneurs with the assets to make their own lives. However, this is an interesting funding plan. I hope others join them with plans of their own.

My comment at Rand's latest.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Well, yeah.

It may be that the purpose of depression it to come up with solutions. But that's just my thought. Somewhat related.

IP6 day

It's tomorrow. If all goes well, nobody will notice.

Wanna buy a scope?

NASA just got two and may not be able to launch one. Do you suppose Planetary Resources might be interested in one? Via Zimmerman.

It's been done before.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Die laughing

You've been warned.

Power, not democracy

So much for democracy. Rules don't matter when you have power.

The BIG Reset

World debt (over $200T) is now more than 300% of GDP. We're only fifth but that's no comfort.

$70T in debt is collateral for $700T in derivatives (most of which is on the brink.)

Too big to fail will destroy us all (rather than allowing pockets of wisdom to safe guard us.)

Via Zimmerman.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Will the Senator now demand...

...his taxes be reduced?

Thomas Sowell recommends a book

Taxation: the peoples business.

Says Thomas, "class warfare politics can increase votes for his reelection, even if it raises no more tax revenues for the government."

From the book...
...a tax system which denies him the right to receive a reasonable share of his earnings, then he will no longer exert himself and the country will be deprived of the energy on which its continued greatness depends.

...when, as a result of an excessive or unsound basis of taxation, it becomes evident that the source of taxation is drying up and wealth is being diverted into unproductive channels, yielding neither revenue to the Government nor profit to the people, then it is time to readjust our basis of taxation upon sound principles.

It seems difficult for some to understand that high rates of taxation do not necessarily mean large revenue to the Government, and that more revenue may often be obtained by lower rates.

The Constitution expressly provides that "no money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time." This Constitutional requirement has been evaded...
[some things never change!]

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Radiation on mars

First, about oxygen. They will have plenty. It just takes power. Now to radiation...

Don't you wish scientist could make up their minds? They have many different units of measure for radiation levels. This chart gives some good dose comparisons. Video explaining differences.

Then we have this explanation...
The Rad is a unit of ionizing radiation, measuring its energy distribution in air. A Rontgen is similar, but it measures the energy absorbed by an object. A REM is a Rontgen Equivalent Man, so it measures the energy absorbed by a human being.
So that makes it all as clear as mud. I'm going to stick with sieverts (1 sievert = 100 rem.)

In August the Curiosity rover may land on mars giving us a lot more information about the environment. However, the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft gives us a place to start...
Over the course of about 18 months, Mars Odyssey detected ongoing radiation levels which are 2.5 times higher than the astronauts experience on the International Space Station – 22 millirad per day. The spacecraft also detected 2 solar proton events, where radiation levels peaked about 2,000 millirads in a day, and a few other events that got up to about 100 millirads.
1 rad = 1 rem I'm told by google calc. Perhaps once every 9 months they will have to deal with a 2000 millirads (0.02 sieverts) day. Averaging about 22 millirads (0.00022 seiverts) daily. Where does that all fit on the chart? 0.4 Sv over a short period of time produces radiation poisoning. So the maximum recorded over a day would be 20 times less than required in a few seconds to cause radiation poisoning. That's interesting. What about cancer risk? Anything less than 0.1 Sv in a year has no measurable cancer risk according to the linked chart. Add the average dose for a year and you get 0.08 Sv... in other words, no measurable cancer risk. I went into this not knowing what the results would be. I'm amazed.

Sunburn is a humans built in radiation detector. Most people learn quickly how to avoid sunburns. Another article. Radiation Hazards and the Colonization of Mars article.

Research shows that low levels over time are much less dangerous than the same amount quickly. This reminds me of the story that nuclear submarines have to turn down their radiation detectors before they surface or they would all go off as soon as they opened the hatches to the earth's natural background radiation.

Update: Don't get me wrong. Radiation is a hazard that will have to be mitigated. It's just not something they can't deal with. When the radiation alarms go off, they may have to stay home or at the shopping mall they happen to be at, at the time. Like when Los Angeles gets a smog alert.

Update: Magnetosphere to go.

The more we learn about the martian environment (now that a new rover has landed) the less the radiation issue.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Farming Mars

People need to eat. Zubrin talked about 50m diameter plastic enclosed farms on the surface of mars. Each would feed 3 or 4 and fit on a quarter hectare. At first the plastic with UV protection would be part of the supplies they bring to mars but later they would manufacture it locally. Radiation may require sunlight to be used indirectly but perhaps not in all cases. We're just going to have to find out.

The plants grown would not just be food but also a source of industrial materials. Not everyone would have to be a farmer nor would they all have to grow the same plants. This creates a basis for trade.

Soil is a living thing. It would probably be a good idea to include bags of living earth soil as part of the starter kit for martian farms. Organic material from early mars farms can be used to create more soil for other farms. Freeze dried food is compact and can keep people alive, but a nice fresh beefsteak tomato makes it worth living.

Fish and fowl and other livestock can come soon after.

Update: Another article.