Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fuel comparison

Which for a crewed mars mission is a better fuel choice: Kerosene or Hydrogen?

While I usually use 5.8 km/s for the mars mission, this paper (link provided by Frank) uses 6.1 km/s so I'll go with that. Let's say we are sending a 60mt ship. Trent's calculator is handy for these results...

LH2 using Rocketdyne SSME Isp=453s. We need about 3.95 times ship mass for fuel. Hydrogen boil off should be less than a ton after 9 months according to the referenced paper. This would require 5 FH fuel flights for $500m.

RP-1 using Merlin Vacuum: Isp=342s. We need 6.17 times ship mass for fuel. This would require 7 FH fuel flights for $700m.

By itself this would suggest LH2 has a 40% cost advantage, but that isn't so. Hydrogen will require more expensive, heavier and voluminous tankage.

How much will the unfueled ship cost? How many flights to assemble it in orbit? How much to add crew and supplies? Assume all of that can be done for $500m. That reduces the cost advantage to 20%. Less considering the tankage differences.

What if the ship has to stay in mars orbit unmanned for an unspecified amount of time? Boil off becomes a bigger issue doesn't it? I think it's a wash but I'd go with kerosene. Just look at the hydrogen tanks on the space shuttle which dominate the structure at launch.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Space suits

Space suits cost too much. Divers spend anywhere from $100 to $1000 for their suits but that's not really analogous. Why should they cost millions? Why should they cost more than a car? We need to get space suits below $10,000 each. This suit is more of an analogy and cost $250,000. It also deals with a major problem with space suits which is the gloves. It's 118 kg vs. 220 kg for a space suit (from a reference Frank sent me.) Both are too heavy as well.

Update: Did I call $10k?

Philosophy of life in space

Every single space settlement proposal I've read about contains the exact same nutty foundation.
Every. Single. One.

I'll talk about that in a moment, but first why that is so? Expense. There is no way to get around the fact that establishing our first settlements in space is going to cost billions of dollars. Most people don't have a clue about how to get around that and partly it's because they hold so dearly to this nutty idea.

The other fact is that survival is going to be hard. So, reinforced by this nutty idea that has been shown to never work for long, ever in history, though it's been tried many times; they make elaborate plans to cover every detail. This is the central planning fallacy. In small doses it's not too bad, but when it reinforces the human tendency to want to control others it's a problem. A big, huge problem.

The nutty idea is that space is so hard and so expensive that you can't allow liberty to stand in the way of a great plan. So they come up with central planning strategies to control every minute of the activities of potential colonists making them slaves (but they would never call them that.)

But liberty works. Ownership works. We should give it a chance. It's also the only way I know of to get around the fact that establishing a settlement is going to be expensive. Ownership totally and completely pays that entire expense! Today. At current high costs. Nobody else has a plan that does that and gives freedom to settlers. The Space Settlement Initiative does the former but not the latter, essentially creating a company town. We know about company towns, they have a history (and a great Sean Connery movie.)

People like to control things they have no right to. Space is full of unclaimed territory. Nobody owns it. All unclaimed territory becomes owned by somebody when they make the first claim. People assume this claim has to be made by a sovereign. This is a false assumption. Anybody can claim something that doesn't belong to someone else. All of space is not owned by someone else. It doesn't matter what lawyers on earth argue or treaties nations sign. People are not slaves even if they act like it. If a group of people get together and agree to establish an orderly way to make claims... It has the force of law. Once claimed, property is bought and sold, conveyed by deed, and has a chain of title like any other.

It's the only known way to pay for space settlement that can start now (because it doesn't require some outside agency to give it's blessing. To counter those that would like to regulate that which they have no right; claims do not have to be made public until the time is right.) We don't have to wait. Can it really fund the billions needed to start a settlement? Yes. Here's how...

I propose the company that agree to deliver settlers to a colony according to the terms of a settlement charter get to claim 1000 sq. km. as their own for each colonist they transport (free for the colonist including a metric ton of supplies. Skinny people get a bit more supplies. Life just isn't fair to us fat guys. The supplies the colonist pays for, the transportation cost is paid by the company.) So if the first mission to mars has a dozen colonist (in two ships, I suggest) they would be able to claim 12,000 sq. km. as part of the terms of agreement to a settlement charter. But that land is worthless isn't it? Yes, that's close enough to true. It has very little value to start. What will make it valuable will be settlement itself. BTW, the more colonists they transport per mission the lower the cost per colonist and the more potential money the transportation company will make. It also means more colonist to support each other giving the new colony a better chance of survival. Sending less than a half dozen at first is nuts because it doesn't do much to establish a new colony. Do you imagine six people could have made a viable go of north America?

Developed land has value. It will take settlers to develop the land and give it value. Robots could do some of that (if you want to wait forever) but even robots can ultimately not give the land value. Settlement gives the land value. So in the above scenario we have a company owning 12,000 sq. km or 1.2 million hectares. It will take time to give that land value and only settlers will do that (we aren't going to mine anything on mars that will be worth transporting back to earth.) So pick a number for how much it costs to deliver a dozen settlers to mars? Now divide that by 1.2 million. That's how much is needed on the sale of a developed hectare (about 2.47 acres) to cover the cost of delivering those colonists. If your plots are about a typical half acre then divide by 6 million instead. That transportation company isn't going to recover their costs immediately. But they don't have to and may even have other means of covering their costs. The important point is as they add colonists that land will go up in value many times more than the cost of transporting the colonists and supplies. The land near the colony will go up in value first. The land farther away will go up in value later.

I say I can put a dozen colonists on mars for much less than $6b meaning the transportation company needs less than $2000 an acre to completely cover their costs. At some point down the road development of that land will make it worth much, much more. If Elon is even close to right that he can bring transportation costs down to $500k per person this brings the recovery cost down to $10 an acre. Do you suppose some people that will never leave earth might buy a few acres? I do and that's undeveloped property. Before any real value has been put into it. As a matter of fact, the first settlers will probably be the first buyers as well. That's because the settlement charter limits their claim to a single sq. km. But they are going to realize that the value of land is going to go up as more settlers arrive. So many of the early settlers are going to buy more land. The transportation company may sell that land cheap to early settlers before the value goes up, perhaps for $100 per hectare ($10,000 per sq. km.) ...or $370 for 32,000 sq. meters (you'll have to read other posts to discover why I picked that area.)

This plan, zero transportation cost per colonist today, even beats Elon's $500k per person sometime in the future (if ever.) Which means the colonist can concentrate on what they are going to bring (which must include the proper life support for about a six month trip and the first few years on mars. Mostly freeze dried food.) Much of which will depend on the recycling capacity of the transport ship and what is available once on mars. Each colonist will then have the liberty to bring the tools they have the skills to use (within the weight restrictions.) Space suits are obviously going to have to come way down in cost.

Vehicles: Rovers and Heavy Equipment

Mars is sandy which means vehicles need to be able to get traction in dunes. Which means tank treads or fat tires. Vehicles they build on mars can be heavy iron but the cost of bringing things from earth means those need to be light. The colonist must also land near their supplies but are not likely to be within walking distance. This is why I describe a rover and trailer they will bring with them. Let's describe it a bit more.

The rover is small and only design to pull the trailer. It has four tires that are inflated and attached after being removed from the Dragon. They will have a couple of spares as well. It has a rack for batteries also coming from the Dragon (well, everything comes from the Dragon lander, doesn't it.) It has a fifth wheel ball top center. It has a controller (both wireless and with wire.) It's very simple.

The unfoldable trailer has two wheel at one end and a hitch at the other. When loaded most of the weight should be on the hitch to give the rover weight so it has traction. It will of course be tested in earth gravity and may even be tested in moon gravity. Portable power and large supply oxygen tanks are loaded on the trailer. The crew rides in their suits. It may or may not have an inflatable tent. They will also bring portable power which can extend the range of the rover. They may wait in their lander producing methane and oxygen to take with them extending the range to their permanent habitat site.

They're going to need more vehicles including heavy equipment. They are not going to bring heavy equipment with them from earth (though parts may be included in pre-positioned supplies?) They are going to fabricate them ISRU. They will literally make this tractor from mars dirt. The engine modules are the only thing they will bring with them.

First Permanent Habitat

Assume the lander the colonist use is a Red Dragon (since nobody else is building a human mars lander AFAIK.) It will act as a temporary shelter but with only 10 m3 of volume this should be for a very short duration. No more than a few days. Although it can hold up to seven astronauts, no less than two and no more than four will go on this first landing. The rest of the volume will have essential supplies. Which includes an electric tractor with a 40+ km range and an unfolding trailer that can comfortably hold the crew and supplies. They will need this vehicle to reach a pre-prepared site. Hopefully they will have landed within only a few kilometers from a supply Dragon already on the surface.

They're priority is to set up the first permanent habitat which should be large enough for themselves and others waiting in orbit to land. It's not meant to be pretty. It's meant for survival. Pretty comes later.

They will be leaving the dragon they landed in to get to the nearest supply Dragon which will be their second temporary shelter. This one will be packed full, so they will have to unpack it so they can use it for a few days while building the new shelter. The site prep might only be a trench or it could be a buried inflated tube with an airlock at each end. Either way, it will require the crew to finish up.

In their supplies will be four lightweight aluminum airlock doors (later they will make more from ISRU iron) which will have a ring around the frame on both sides for attaching a stretch airtight fabric. These doors will be rounded rectangles, not circles. It will also have fixtures for hoses and electric ports. At four corners poles can be attached to separate two of these doors forming the airlock. In supplies they will have aerosol spray sealant for where the fabric meets the door frame. They will put together two airlocks and test that they can hold full atmospheric pressure and should be positioned at both ends of the trench waiting for the inflatable tube that will extend between them. This tube will be attached to both airlocks, sealed and inflated. Then the entire shelter will be covered with martian dirt.

They might have figured out to move supplies into the shelter before they attached it to the airlocks and inflated it. If not, they will have to move supplies in through one or both airlocks. This will include a heating and cooling unit and batteries that might come from rovers. They have a cord that runs from the Dragon to one of the airlocks electric ports. Later, after the shelter is up, they can deploy solar panels for additional power. Setting up this first permanent shelter should not take more than a few days. They should then work on finishing up secondary shelters near other supply Dragons.

I propose the volume of this first permanent shelter be 10x10x50 meters or 5000 m3. This will be a nice change from the 10 m3 of the Dragon. The reason for a 50m length is it fits into the size of a plot in another proposal of mine. How they decorate the interiors of their shelters is up to them. Once survival is taken care of they can make new habitats using local materials using any design they come up with. It's called liberty.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mars Starter Kit

Dead people don't do much science. So mars colonists will need to first focus on being self sufficient. The colony will need geologists and industrial chemists that can find raw materials for machinists to make into tools and products useful for the survival of the community. Here's a catalog of over 80,000 tools that a martian machinist might find useful. We need to trim this down to a working set that would allow duplication of the set and creation of any other thing they might need. Simple, reliable and relatively easy to produce should be the guideline.

Where to start? I'm going to dive into the middle and start with the Electric motor / generator. This will either use electricity to turn a shaft or the shaft can be turned to produce electricity. We need to be able to produce it's component parts: Housing, insulated wire, magnets.

Magnets are easy to make. You need a piece of iron in the right shape to become the magnet and an electromagnet to produce a magnetic field. An electromagnet is just a piece of iron with an insulated wire wrapped around it and a current run through the wire. You just need insulated wire.

To produce wire you need a metal roller to feed a rod and wire mill. It seems everyone on the internet wants to sell you enameled wire but nobody wants to tell you how to make it (I've found industrial processes but they are too great a scale for our martians) still looking... Basically you dip your wire in a liquid insulator that is cured on the wire. But I want to find a good example.

The metal parts for our motor/generator will be cast and milled. You may remember casting from shop class, you need liquid metal and a sand mold. Lathes, mills and grinders are basic machinist tools for turning hunks of metal into useful things. All of this may sound complicated but it really isn't. It's all in a days work for a person with the skills. You only need lightweight tabletop units. These can be used to produce all the parts for their bigger cousins. I part company with OSE with regard to the multimachine since I think discrete tools make a bit more sense. But I'm sure it would get used and is designed to be easily manufactured. The thing to note is the multimachine is made by someone with general mechanical skills.

Three or four colonists specializing in motor/generators should be able to produce a variety of different size motors every day. It's actually not required for survival but it's so useful to have for a variety of needs.

Perhaps simpler is the hydraulic motor. While it doesn't generate electricity it is fairly easy to make and drives a turning shaft that can give motive force to other machines and vehicles. It requires a hose to distribute power.

More fundamentally is the need to work iron and steel which is just more like the above, but that's enough about machinists; how about the chemist and electricians/electronics?

A chemist is needed because the colony is going to need more than just the simple stuff like water and oxygen. We breath out poison CO2 gas which has to be scrubbed from our environment in a simple, reliable way that doesn't break down. Beyond that are the polymer insulators needed for our wire. Beyond that is everything else. We'll need quite a few chemists who will need laboratory equipment. Which is to say, we need to include a colonist or two that is also a glass blower. Glass has other uses as well of course.

Fortunately, the advanced electronics that will be hard to produce ISRU are both small and light. They might be imported from earth for quite a while. Life support will not be based on electronics that have to be imported. That would be a really bad design. The good news is the colonist do not have to depend on advanced electronics. There's an awful lot they can do with discrete components they build themselves. We landed on the moon during the age of discreet components don't forget.

Also it should be noted that we don't have to get this all right on the first try. We are going to need to supply the missing gaps. But those gaps will be known (because current colonists will tell us) and will be the first thing we select for in new colonists.

Imagine this underground shirtsleeve working environment. Older related post.

We also shouldn't forget 3D printing. Update: $600 with case.

Martian Materials

Martians will live off the land (ISRU) including the atmosphere. Some materials, like water, can be used just as they are. Other things will be part of an industrial process to produce useful items. Useful items like the tools they will need to make other useful items. Let's start with the atmosphere:

95% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen, 1.6% argon. The sabatier reaction take CO2, Hydrogen and energy to produce methane and water. Methane is useful as a fuel, but the hydrogen has to go back into the process. So rather than producing water this actually produces oxygen. Of course, oxygen has it's uses.

Plants need CO2, water and (filtered on mars) sunlight and produce oxygen, food, nice smells and a pleasant environment. Some will also require ants or bees for pollination. Plants also require nitrogen and both nitrogen and argon are useful buffer gasses. Now the martian soil.

Water is the first thing colonists are going to look for. The good news is that an orbiting Gamma Ray Spectrometer found ice just under the surface almost everywhere including around the equator. So colonists will need to be able to drill wells, heat the ice and pump it to the surface. Mars even has snow and liquid water rain. Glaciers may exist underground on mars but would probably be a bad place for a colony because it may have less mineral diversity than other places. Industry needs more than just water. Update: They don't need wells. They can get water just by heating dirt from the surface which is the Mars One plan.

While many will talk a good game, we don't really know that much about the composition of martian soil. We know that everything we need for an industrial society exists on mars. We just don't know the concentration and distribution beyond a few simple things. We're just going to have to go and find out.

We do know that iron (15% of soil and everywhere) is abundant and steel will be needed to produce most tools and industrial machines. Steel making is going to be an essential knowledge and specialty for some of the colonists.

Aluminum (4% of mars soil) can come from alumina silicate clay when there is no bauxite. It does require a lot of energy to produce.

Silicon dioxide (45% of soil) provides silicon for making solar panels.

Copper sulfide can be found at the base of lava flows.

The mars society provides a plastics page. Also OSE bioplastics. They will need an extruder to produce some useful products.

 Mars society materials page.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Passenger Service

Someday hopefully a lot of people will be working and living throughout the solar system. When that day comes there will be companies providing passenger service from orbit to orbit for a ticket price that makes it profitable for them to operate. There will probably be many different engines types in use (chemical, nuclear, solar sails, etc) with varying levels of service and accommodations.

Landers will probably be unique for each destination and run by different companies. They will also sell tickets to ride for a profit. Makes one wonder if Tom Hanks will someday make a movie about being stuck in orbit without the price of a ticket?

What about the passengers? What will there motivations be? In the near future, they probably won't be the actual purchaser of tickets. They will mostly have sponsors that want them someplace other than where they are for their own reasons. One being that they will need people with certain skills for work in certain locations.

We can define space faring as a time when people do buy their own tickets to ride.

Asteroid miners

Thank you Planetary Resources. You've killed quite a bit of the giggle factor with your announcements.

In time I think this may become a source of funding to bring humans to LEO. Robots can do a lot and are better than humans at many things. Productivity is still going to require hands on humans.

So I can easily see companies sponsoring people to LEO as workers. These people will just have to remember one thing... LEO is halfway to anywhere.

Two false assumptions

They're related. First is that we don't know if humans can survive on mars. Second is that even if they can it would require an unsustainable level of support from earth.

We certainly do know that humans could survive on mars and it wouldn't require them to become mole people lacking a decent life either. We can't be sure what the entire biological effect of 38% g will be but we could absolutely survive and adapt to whatever that is. Zero g is not the same thing. But this isn't going to go away until we do it. Radiation is another one of those fears that won't go away until we deal with it. This is why we need frontiers... to deal with these pansy fears.

Then you have those that think without earth support the martians would just wither away and die. That's just silly. Not totally unsurprising when you hear of plans to send a half dozen or less. Yes, it is possible to guarantee failure by not making a good first commitment. The fact is, because of the challenges they would face, if we give them a decent start they would probably pass us up in technology in a hundred years or so. The university of mars is going to have to provide a real science and engineering education. Economics too. 'Gender feelings are hurt' studies will probably not be offered. Victimhood 101 is definitely out the window. The human race really needs to be shook up. We live in a sea of false assumptions. Killing these two would just be a good start.

I realize I'm making an assertion I can't prove. We will have to go before it can be settled.

I have an assumption that Zubrin and Musk both claim is false. I can see cost to LEO per person going as low as $2m. I can see the cost per person to go to mars orbit going to $38m. I can see the cost per person to land on mars being $22m. I add those up and I get $62m per person. I can even see how that could go lower in time. I just don't see, regardless of my fantastic imagination, the price per person for a ticket to mars going to $500k. I just don't know how you get there? I can see perhaps $30m. I have a hard time getting any lower.

I've outlined how it's economically possible to settle mars even at $100m per person. Get anywhere near $500k and I would expect an explosion of folks heading out into the solar system. Update: Newer argument.

Perhaps Zubrin and Musk have nuclear ambitions the rest of us don't know about? Just kidding.

I strongly suspect if we are going to colonize mars some company is going to have to accept a few billion dollar cost with an uncertain return. I believe that people with both the vision and resources are already working on it. I hope to see it in my lifetime. Government is never going to do it. Spending other peoples money is not visionary. It takes liberty to make it happen.

Sometimes I just need to rant.

Then there's a third false assumption that earth must have some mars export or mars becomes economically non-viable. This is just economic ignorance. It's exactly the same as saying the earth is non-viable economically without some trading partner. But you can't argue this one with some people.

Earth orbit to mars orbit

Nobody has yet built a general purpose spaceship. It would not be for going down gravity wells but simply to get from orbit to orbit. NASA has a design called the Nautilus-X which is one example but at a cost of $3.7b each (and that's without fuel) it's a bit pricey for commercial use. The biggest problem for me is they don't give it's mass which makes it impossible to determine fuel requirements.

That leaves me looking at the BA330 which has the same crew of six, a mass of 23mt and a cost of $100m and using it as the basis of a ship design. It would require something like the Falcon Heavy to put it into orbit for another $100m which has the added advantage of providing the ship an engine and fuel storage tanks for free. Not enough to hold all the fuel for a mars trip, but kerosene and oxygen can be stored in lightweight plastic and gravity fed into the upper stage tanks of the FH if we're just going from orbit to orbit. If the complete ship has a 50mt mass we need about ten FH fuel launches costing $1b. But if the ship only has a total mass of 30mt we only need six for $600m. So it's safe to say we could transport six crew to mars from LEO for $167m each. That's too much.

How much would it cost to upgrade the life support to 21? Which still leaves them each a comfortable 15 cubic meters of volume each. Assuming we do that, cost per person goes to anywhere from $38m to $48m.

What about radiation and long term zero g?

Send two ship and tether them together for artificial gravity.

Fuel and supplies provide a radiation shield. Radiation may be less of a problem than originally thought.

Another way to go.

Getting to the surface of mars

We've done it since the 70s, but it ain't easy.

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy (first flight this year if not delayed; Update: 2013) will be able to send a Red Dragon directly to mars orbit. It should be able to take 10mt to the surface for $150m which could include up to seven colonists. This would make the cost per person from orbit to the surface $21.5m per person.

Cargo would go straight to the surface, but passengers would transfer to the dragon from mars orbit. Possibly, transfer to the dragon would happen before orbit from a ship that has a free return to earth trajectory.

I'm not aware of any other private mars landers in the works. NASA however, intends to put a 2000 lbs. rover on mars. Update: Curiosity rover landing was a success and rover is roving.

Fictional account.

Mars settlement requires life support

"Many hands make light work."

The first pioneers going to mars will need to bring their own habitats and life support. Temporary shelter they will bring with them, but permanent shelter with elbow room will take time to build and time to enhance. Before colonists can follow they will have to show that life support can be had from local resources. Power is their most essential need (it provides the capacity to get all the other needs.)

Colonists that follow will have it much easier. Material and labor for their habitats can be provided long before they arrive. By purchasing this from existing colonists the funds needed for future habitats can be rolled over into the next construction. Early habitats will be crude compared to those that will follow, but will be sold and resold as a starter home for each wave of new colonists.

With enough power there is no reason settlers can't live in the comfort of large underground mansions with shirt sleeve gardens on the surface of mars. Zubrin describes what I call his 50m round hobby farms, able to supply food for three or more taking about a quarter hectare of surface space. Not everybody needs to be a farmer or do those that do need to grow everything. Specialization is the basis for trade in a local economy.

Water seems to be abundant on mars. Power brings it to the surface. Water is a useful heat sink for transporting warmth to where ever it's needed in an underground mansion or shopping mall. Water and power provides oxygen to breath and hydrogen to combine with carbon from the atmosphere to produce fuel for vehicles.

ref: wild west mars

I don't know when I wrote this originally? It's been sitting as a draft.

Every martian a millionaire

There is a balance between risk and reward. Reward too low? Don't take the risk.

Mars colonists will be risking their lives to open up a whole new world. Even so, there is no shortage of volunteers. Many thousands would go if they could figure out how to pay for it. A settlement charter which has the force of law simply by the agreement of its members can provide the how (regarding funding; technology is a separate issue.)

Nobody owns unclaimed property. Nobody can grant it (unless they first claim it which is prohibited to sovereigns if they signed the OST.) All ownership of property starts with a claim. Claims are not the divine right of sovereigns; anybody can make a claim. Making a reasonable claim in an orderly manner by many individuals gives it legal force. The 49er miners could explain that. So let's assume all martians start with ownership of a single square kilometer (they can buy more from others if they so choose.) What does that mean with regard to a martians wealth?

Undeveloped land is close to worthless but could be sold for some amount. Developed land has value. Land can be developed simply by putting work into it; but generally land is developed at a cost of materials and labor. When sold, that cost is recovered along with some profit (if sufficient demand exists.) That recovered cost can be rolled over to develop more land. So would a single square kilometer offer millions in profit potential? Let's see...

With 86.4% utilization (nothing landlocked) 432 plots of 2000 square meters (40m x 50m, about a half acre each) would be available for sale from a single claim. Divide 432 into a million means every $2315 in profit provides a million dollars. Renting could provide a similar profit. So even if not fully developed, if you could by labor add $10/hr to the value of your land (landscape it in preparation for further development) it would take only a few weeks to improve it to that value. If you paid material and labor to build a habitat worth $100k you could certainly get more than a few thousand in profits. This makes every martian a millionaire provided they overcome two issues (demand and transportation costs.) Supply is restricted and enforced by agreement to the settlement charter which provides the legal basis for land claims.

The key issue is demand. Where would that come from? New colonist would be the main factor. While they could spend months in a temporary shelter building their own permanent habitats it makes sense for them to have one waiting on their arrival. The reason is they will have to spend the same amount of money on labor and materials whether they build it themselves or someone builds it for them. Giving someone a few percent profit to do the work is just how economies function.

None of this works if the colonists can't afford to get to mars which could cost as much as $100m for each. (Update: $41m each.) Is that too hard a nut to crack? Not at all. We've just established that a single claim is potentially worth millions. That would imply that 1000 square kilometers is potentially worth billions. That gives a company a reason to take that risk. They just have to look past a quarterly report.

So a legally binding settlement charter allows a claim of 1000 sq. km. to a transportation company for each colonist they provide free transportation to. Problem solved. The transportation company isn't going to get that money immediately. It will take time, but it is potentially worth trillions** (definitely tens of billions, but real estate isn't their only source of profit) to any company that sees the light. It will take colonists. Those colonists will improve the value of land including company holdings which they can sell to people on both planets. Elon says 10,000 colonists over the next few decades is reasonable. That would do it. Especially if the volunteers already to go now were to find out they get to become millionaires for their trouble as well. Sign me up.

We should also do the company math as well. Let's say it costs them $100m per person to transport them to mars (it won't. It will be much less if done right.) So how much would they have to sell undeveloped land for to break even? 1000 sq. km. or 400,000 quarter hectare plots would be $250 per quarter hectare for break even. They might not get that but they could certainly get something that would defer their costs. Developed and undeveloped land are two different products. Developed land value should not suffer even with a large supply of undeveloped land. Companies would have an incentive to bring in labor to increase the value of their holdings but even that shouldn't adversely affect the value of colonists developed land.

Economics doesn't stop at real estate. Colonists will all have their specialties providing products and services to other colonists. Let's leave Marxism (and all it's derivatives) on earth. Free enterprise will open up the solar system (and galaxy and universe and multi-verse if that actually exists.)

Back to outline

**If they transportation companies could choose not to sell their land (this really can't happen as it would be too expensive) they would end up owning 99.9% of the land between them, but this would still not result in a company town. What it would mean is any from those companies choosing to retire on mars would have a dynasty that would endure for generations.

Update: I comment at "Whatever Happened to Space Colonies?"

Energy on mars

The single most important thing a mars colony needs is energy. Nothing else happens without it. Have too little and life is limited. It is required to produce all elements of life support. It is required for all industrial activity. Solar and nuclear are the main sources. Thorium may be the best nuclear source. Some history. A blog.

Dr. Alexander Cannara says, "...every cubic meter of rock on Earth, Moon & Mars has 12 grams of Th232, which turns out to be enough to feed a reactor that meets an American’s energy-consuming needs for about a decade."

Of course, the colonists will need training to make a reactor. Nuclear power is the easy part.

What about solar power on mars? Part of supplies they bring from earth would be several 2 metre-wide rolls of thin-film solar panel arrays which would take two astronauts 17 hours to set up each providing about 100 kilowatts of power. Of course they will need to produce their own ISRU solar power collection methods in short order.

Secondary power sources include methane which can come from the martian atmosphere and used to run engines that can produce, electricity, hydraulics or direct power to a drive shaft or PTO. For energy storage they should consider Nickel-Iron Batteries.

Colonists are going to arrive on mars in a lander which is a temporary shelter. I would propose the lander include a small thorium power reactor (227 kg, 250 KW) so the colonist would have immediate and long term power (one less thing to worry about.) They are going to need to immediately build a permanent shelter which starts with a trench. They could start from orbit to limit how long they stay in the temporary shelter.

150 kw for four.

Industrial Ecology

Things break. In order to live on mars, colonists need to fix those things.

While supplies from earth will be needed to get a colony started, that is not economically viable for most things. Colonist must become self sufficient ASAP. This can happen quickly and with the least amount of colonists if we focus on a limited number of things they can be trained for and get experience producing from local resources. Adaption of the Global Village Construction Set to the mars setting gives us a good place to start.

Humans need certain things to survive. A habitat provides protection from the environment (even on earth that can kill you.) We need food, water and air to breath. We need energy. ...and other things like sewage disposal (have an RVer explain a honey bucket to ya.)

An industrial ecology are those things related in a way that they can create themselves as well as all other things. Keeping these things to a limited number helps us determine the least number of colonists required to have theoretical self sufficiency. Actual self sufficiency will require somewhat more to have the labor force required, but it shouldn't be that many more. As few as perhaps a few dozen items can be the starter kit that provides full life support for all colonists.

We start with martian soil and atmosphere for raw materials. Compressed soil can provide a building material. Power can be in the form of electricity or hydraulics. Combustion engines can produce either. Solar power can be used either directly or to produce fuel for engines. Sunlight can provide the energy for food production. They will need to produce plastics to construct those farms.

Getting to mars will require high technology, but actually living on mars does not. One of the most important things they will need is cheap energy. Without lawyers nuclear energy on mars could be magnitudes cheaper than here on earth.

A future article will put together a mars starter kit listing a minimum of essential items for a complete industrial ecology. Update: ok, it didn't end up being a list of interrelated items. I'll have to continue to work on that.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

LEO profit potential

Bigelow has a business plan for LEO profits. The billionaires backing Planetary Resources do as well. SpaceX, offering transportation services, is already making profits from satellites (the magic of accrual accounting) and cargo (so far, from a very successful demo flight. $1.6b in the near future) going to and from LEO even before they offer passenger service. Long term profits remain to be seen but the outlook is good and will get better as more destinations (station and ship transfers) increase the flight rate.

Getting to LEO

A list of private spaceflight companies. It doesn't list the Russian Soyuz who currently have the only human transport to LEO (China isn't selling us seats.) Interestingly it does list the SpaceX dragon because they could potentially transport human now, but is waiting for safety upgrades (SuperDraco engine which makes it a solid ground lander rather than a water lander.)

Others are working on it: Boeing's CST-100, Blue Origin's orbital spacecraft, Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser.

Cost per seat on the Soyuz to LEO range from $20m to $68m with this 2010 article saying $51m.

SpaceX has said they will charge $20m per seat. With an F9 launch price of $57m (now $54m) and seven seats on the reusable Dragon it would seem they could make a profit at a much lower price if they decided to.

The Dragon has been over designed from the start to be a universal lander (Red Dragon.) A Falcon Heavy (FH) will be able to put a fully fueled Red Dragon in mars orbit in preparation for crew transfer and landing for $150m. The FH will have it's first flight later this year and can lift 53mt for a cost ranging from $80m to $125m.

The FH has the potential of launching a Dragon derived shuttle with much more than seven passengers (say 50) to achieve a much lower cost per passenger. This could potentially bring the cost to LEO per passenger down to around $2m per.

Update: It Begins.

Steps to mars.

Frank Stratford makes this important point for the need to...
...investigate the technologies, requirements, financing, and revenue potential for a humans to Mars program, looking beyond government funding as the only solution.
I don't know that we need another mars group to achieve this. But that doesn't change the importance of these factors. For my part I'm going to add an evergreen page to this blog that will focus on these issues.

gap between sizzle and steak

Bar-B-Que is a memorial day tradition. Is this what the brave fought and died for?

I wish you, your family and friends happiness.

We have a republic, if we can keep it. Will we be able to keep it when China falls?

They fought and died. How will we honor them?

Marginal cost for a larger mars crew

The mars homestead project sees itself as a better use of resources than the design reference mission. This is my argument for why you send a dozen or more at a time rather than a mission crew of 4 to 6.

Assume we have a FH capable of putting 53mt to LEO for $100m, which can also preposition a red Dragon lander in mars orbit for $150m capable of landing seven on the surface of mars.

Bigelow has a BA330 with life support for six and a mass of 23mt. Assume it is the basis of a 50mt ship that costs $250m unfueled to LEO. This provides an abundant 55m3 (cubic meters) for each crew member. Using a 300s kerosene engine this ship would require about ten FH fuel missions to reach mars costing about $1b. We should also preposition supplies on the surface of mars. Let's say four red dragons for $600m. Add a crew dragon launch for another $60m. We round up $1.91b to $2b for incidental expenses.

So this configuration gives us a total cost of $2b to send six to the surface of mars with supplies.

We could pack crew into as little as 9m3 but if life support for a BA330 were upgraded to 21 they would still have an abundant 15m3 per crew. I don't know what the cost of upgrading life support might be (haven't found a good reference on current systems costs.) Let's say it's $20m.

We need to preposition two more red dragon landers for an additional $300m and add two more crew launches to LEO for $120m. The fuel launches don't change because we haven't added enough mass to make a difference. So let's round up the additional costs from $440m to $500m.

So for an additional 25% cost we get an additional 350% of crew to build our colony on mars. We should send two of these ships with 42 crew. We need to stop thinking small. Many hands will make the workload lighter and provide each with more mutual support. It will make the colony more likely to succeed. Overall it will lower risk.

Update: we can lower cost even more if we have an extended dragon putting 21 to LEO in one launch of a FH. This upgrade would only come when we have more mars missions. This passenger shuttle may actually be cheaper than a single dragon since it doesn't require as much capability. Because of the greater difficulty of landing on mars we continue using the seven passenger red dragon landers.

Elon says he hopes to get the cost down to $500k per person. If he gets anywhere near that and you combine my settlement charter with it you've got the greatest land rush humanity has ever seen.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dragon now part of ISS.


FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2012
1603 GMT (12:03 p.m. EDT)
All 16 bolts in the common berthing mechanism have driven to create a firm connection between Dragon and the Harmony module. The commercial spacecraft is now part of the International Space Station, the first U.S. vehicle to visit the outpost since the last space shuttle mission departed in July 2011. 

Final berthing occurred at 12:02 p.m. EDT (1602 GMT) as the space station flew over the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.
More info.



Update: $71 or Free?

Barrack the conservative

That's what he tells us.

Federal budget deficits...

Bush:
2005: $318 billion
2006: $248 billion
2007: $161 billion
2008: $459 billion

Obama:
2009: $1.413 Trillion
2010: $1.293 Trillion
2011: $1.300 Trillion
2012: $1.327 Trillion Update: or $5T if you don't cheat.

Another way to put it since the age of universe 13.7 billion years? In just the last year Obama has spent $100 more than we have for every year of the universes existence.

Update: Barrack the magician: 88 million people vanish.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mars Focus

This article is a good starting point for a discussion of what should be the focus in getting to mars. When you have focus you can actually accomplish things you can't without. But if you focus on the wrong things, that's even worse. So what are the things the articles says we should focus on?
  1. Funding
  2. Keeping humans alive
  3. Cost is unacceptable
  4. Risk is too high
  5. Give us a reason to go
Proposed solution: “Mars Consortium” In other words, more talking without doing. That may sound harsh or unfair, but the fact is people are doing what needs to be done now. What is missing is the realization that we can go very soon and it can be fully funded by a very few private [relatively low] risk takers. Yes, we should be studying the issues; But not just as a academic exercise. We should mitigate risks by focusing on a definite plan and executing it; rather than unending speculation. My turn...

The Focus: mars settlement with individual financial security.

What does that mean? Let's work backwards through the articles focus list.

Give us a reason to go.
Individual financial security is a reason all by itself to go and is entirely possible. I don't see people identifying this as a point of focus but I think it's a damned important one. Then there's Musk's humanity backup. More important is that people would like to go and live there assuming they could see how.

Risk is too high.
What are the steps?
  1. Earth to LEO.
  2. LEO to mars orbit.
  3. Mars orbit to surface.
  4. Live on surface.
I've not heard of anything that would prevent us from doing any of these four (discussion?) Of course, risks should be mitigated. The way you do that is make reasonable assumptions and test them on mars with plenty of backup resources. We know how to keep humans alive. We start by making sure we have the funding for continuous supplies until they don't need them anymore. I'll talk numbers in a moment.

Cost is unacceptable. 
Would it be too harsh to just answer WRONG? Of course they are too high. With activity they will come down. But they are only unacceptable when you don't see how to pay them. Face it. The cost is going to remain high for a while. But we could have the beginning of a civilization on a whole new world for less than $5b. That's a hell of a bargain for 144 million sq. km. of potential private property. ...or 14 Billion hectares.

Keep humans alive.
You do that by self sufficiency (ISRU and an industrial ecology) which requires enough colonists to produce the minimum set of tools and materials for producing all others. Things break and they are going to need to be able to replace those things themselves. They can do that with as little as a few dozen properly trained people, but more is definitely better.

Funding. 
This has been the showstopper that nobody seems to see their way beyond. It is not a show stopper. We can put 4 dozen colonists on mars for much less than $5b. Assuming we don't try to do it just a few at a time. They should go all at once or in no more than two missions to keep the cost per person down. They will need each other for support.

We can keep them fully supplied until they are [quickly] independent for a few $100m a year. So how do we fund it? What does mars have of value? Forget exports. Nothing is valuable enough to export. Martian land has close to zero value today. On earth land is close to zero value in some places as well. Why? Because it hasn't been developed. Once developed, land has value.

Colonists going to mars are risking their own lives. The least we could do is provide them with a lifetime of financial security and the freedom to live their lives. We do that by allowing every individual colonist to claim ownership to a square kilometer of martian real estate. They could then develop over 400 half acre plots for resell to following colonists from their own individual claim. Musk envisions 10,000 colonists in the next few decades. That would do it.

How do the colonists pay for passage to mars? They do not. Instead, for every colonist a transportation company brings to mars, they get a thousand sq. kilometers of land. This land will not immediately pay the cost of transportation, but it certainly will as more people arrive and develop communities. If you knew of some scrub land that was going to have a town in its place. You'd buy it.

Focus on getting the cost down and we will forever be waiting for costs to come down.

Focus on getting people to live in a new community and it will grow while bringing costs down. Always has. Always will.

Update: Falcon 9/Dragon launched successfully at 3:44 AM eastern. The Dragon spacecraft separated and the solar arrays deployed. I missed it by seven minutes... still wiping the sleep out of my eyes.

Update: old news, but new to me... Elon says he'll go into space in 2017.

Crying Wolf

imminent end of life

Reminds me of the little boy that cried wolf. The thing is, the wolf eventually came!

I'm pretty sure most predictions of a dire future are wrong. I'm equally sure we are going to discover things are going to get very bad, very quick some time in the future. It will come as a surprise and everybody will tell us how they warned us about it.

Only in the last century and for the first time in human existence have we had the ability to wipe ourselves out. We might come close.

Asking to die

...the Iranian nation will remain committed to the full annihilation of the Zionist regime of Israel...
Shouldn't that be to a lunatic asylum?

I mean, if Israel ever took them at their word, wouldn't that require Israel to attack them first?

Almost like Obama saying, "don't call my bluff."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lack of responsibility?

That's really not a question in this case. I'm sorry he's black because this isn't a race issue.

This is a society issue where it would be much less likely to have happened without government programs that take responsibility out of peoples hands.

It's hard to imagine this happening if we hadn't gotten rid of the shame of out of wedlock children. It's not the children that should be shamed but the parents. Both of them.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Optimum success strategy

Today's SpaceX Abort got me thinking about the importance of failure on success.

Jesus told us that adults should become like children (in some respects rather than others.)

What do we lose or gain as we become adults? We do learn fear of failure which is both a good and bad thing. It's a good thing because it holds us back from being too rash. But it's a bad thing if it leads to too great a cost.

This was a successful abort because it saved the vehicle and lead to the discovery of a problem that needed correction (a valve on engine five needs replacing before they launch next Tuesday.)

What if SpaceX decided a bad valve must never happen again so they implement extremely costly quality controls? They already have excellent quality controls and systems in place to catch problems before they explode [literally] into bigger problems.

A danger always exist that caution becomes so great it causes stagnation. It's a balance. Take away too much risk (not all risk mitigation actually is) and you take away reward.

Sometimes it's best not to know what you can't do.

A real head turner

Imagine this driving past you.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Two more days

More via Rand.


0940 GMT (5:40 a.m. EDT)
The target launch time for Tuesday is 3:44:34 a.m. EDT (0744:34 GMT).
0926 GMT (5:26 a.m. EDT)
The rocket is being drained of propellant as the launch team backs out of this morning's countdown following an abort moments before liftoff at 4:55 a.m. EDT (0855 GMT).
0915 GMT (5:15 a.m. EDT)
NASA plans a post-scrub news conference at 6:30 a.m. EDT (1030 GMT). We'll carry it live.
0905 GMT (5:05 a.m. EDT)
The strongback has been returned to a position next to the Falcon 9.
0901 GMT (5:01 a.m. EDT)
SpaceX reports the problem triggering the abort was a high chamber pressure reading on Engine No. 5 of the first stage. Aborts are common in Falcon 9 countdowns when computers recognize a limit out of a predefined range. Sometimes the fix is as simple as adjusting the acceptable range in the computer, but with a one-second launch window this morning, there will no opportunity to resolve the issue today.
0858 GMT (4:58 a.m. EDT)
The launch team is safing the rocket and Dragon spacecraft after this morning's abort. The next launch opportunity is Tuesday morning at 3:44 a.m. EDT (0744 GMT), assuming whatever issue caused the abort is resolved in time.
0856 GMT (4:56 a.m. EDT)
It's not clear what caused the abort just before liftoff, but this will mean Falcon 9 will not launch today. The rocket had a near-instantaneous launch window in which it could fly today.
0855 GMT (4:55 a.m. EDT)
ABORT. The ignition sequence started, but there was a countdown cutoff before launch.

Ex-Patriot Act

We can't have people making rational decisions regarding their own life. We've got to put a stop to that.

We've got to vote these idiots out of control.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My philosophy as well

“I’m not going to try to convince people I can do it,” [Elon Musk] said. “I’m just going to do it.
I came to the same conclusion about myself a while back. When you suffer from depression you become more analytical about your own life. But it doesn't help to tell others about your plans. It would be nice if you could because it's helpful to have others critically comment. But they don't critically comment, they criticize which is a huge difference.

I have a three year plan. I hope to see some results in about a year and a half. For now it requires me to not spend any money for the next six months. I have not had the will power. I can't afford not to have it. But I've said about all I will. Failure is part of the process.

What he thinks it means

His anecdote does not mean what he thinks it means.

Krugman is trying to make a case for regulation and uses a fictional story where "Gatewood is in fact skipping town with a satchel full of embezzled cash."


How does regulation fix this? But the real question is, does embezzlement make the bank stronger or weaker? In other words, isn't the act itself self regulating?


He even admits...
[money-losing mistakes] in itself is no reason for the government to get involved.
But then asserts...
But banks are special, because the risks they take are borne, in large part, by taxpayers and the economy as a whole.
Further he asserts that banks are special because of destructive panics. So, why don't we unspecial them by not having taxpayers bail them out. Ever consider that? Wouldn't it be better for panics to be small and local rather than systemic and threatening not just our nation but the world. Let them fail and become smaller. Not propped up for even greater future damage.


So not able to actually make a case he asserts...
It’s clear, then, that we need to restore the sorts of safeguards that gave us a couple of generations without major banking panics.
Which is like saying, "let's hold back all the little earthquakes that relieve pressure on the economic fault lines. Let's make sure that when the big one finally does hit it takes down everything."


Losing money is how economics regulates economic decisions. Trying to take that away with regulations just makes things worse. Failure is a good thing. It's what made America a world power.


Krugman thinks he's smarter than reality. He isn't.

Monday, May 14, 2012

More than just despicable

This is treason or perhaps I should say a high crime? via Rand.

First Landing

Seven red dragon landers have been waiting two years on the surface of mars for this day. Three teams of four astronauts each, currently in two ships in orbit, will compete for the right to be the first humans to land on mars.

All the red dragons sit in a circle around a central dragon on the mars equator, all about ten kilometers apart (or perhaps a little farther and on the edges of the landing ellipse of the crew landers) and identically equipped. Each contains a Thorium reactor that provides 250KW of power for a minimum of twenty years. Each has life support supplies for a dozen astronauts, water for six months, food for two years (and seeds to grow more) and oxygen indefinitely produced by portable equipment from martian air.

Each dragon contains the essential elements (a starter kit) of the mars construction set (an adaption of the global village construction set) including machine tools and two power cubes that run on locally produced methane providing portable electricity and hydraulic power. Solar panels are also included but not deployed. Update: A case for solar panels alone.

Each team of four will work around the clock using rovers in continuous contact by satellites with the crew to each build habitats around three of the dragons. They will start by digging a 50 m. trench, 10 m. wide and deep. In it they will put an inflatable habitat with airlocks at each end that will be covered with dirt once in place in the trench. They are considered complete when sensors report they are fully inflated and covered so that radiation inside is low enough to be safe (at the highest daily radiation levels.) Once the first team completes its second habitat they win; then they all continue to work so that all seven dragons have two habitats completed nearby. Each habitat will be completed by a ground team so they have life support for a dozen at each habitat.

The four chosen to be the first humans on mars will take one of the three red dragons in orbit with them to the martian surface to land near the central dragon and its habitat. With them they have a electric rover capable of towing a trailer up to 40 km. on a single charge. Which means they need to land within 50 km. (this range could be extended) of the central dragon or they will have a problem. Since this will be the eighth precision landing of a red dragon (more if there have been precursor missions which we can assume) they should have a good idea of their chances. A power cube and solar panels brought with them can extend their range. The collapsible trailer has an inflatable habitat with life support for six. Once they land (after appropriate ceremony is recorded) they will move supplies and equipment into the closest habitat. Their first priority will be looking for water. Those in orbit will be exploring with rovers.

Those on the ground will begin construction of the first Zubrin 50 m. hobby farm. They will need three or four of these to fully supply all twelve colonists. They will have materials to build a dozen. Once completed, the first level of self sufficiency will have been accomplished.

After that they get down to life as the remaining eight in orbit join them on the surface with two more red dragons. They will each claim a half acre property near each other (part of their one square kilometer settlement claim) and help each other build personal habitats. They will then complete the missing elements of their mars construction set with each taking on their own specialties. A banking system will be established to facilitate barter. A title company will be established to maintain chain of title. No zoning board will exist to tell anyone how they can subdivide or use their own property.

They will not be able to bring all their supplies from orbit which will be left as extra provisions for colonists that follow. Those that follow will each have a private home waiting for them and can claim their own one square kilometer of mars. Each will choose to manufacture or grow or mine elements required for life on mars. A truly new world will provide a backup for the only one we've known.

They can decide for themselves whether to enslave themselves to 'the public' or remain free people.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Vesta says, "Surprise!"

What we learned. More via Zimmerman.

The problem...

...is that expanding in to space is so freaking expensive that there does not seem to be any way to make it turn a profit.
Which is described as the elephant in the room. ...and then there's this...
...space industrialization and colonization are both incidental to rather than central to the human enterprise of space.
You'd think futurists would be more visionary. You can turn a profit and colonization is central.

Then there's the absurd argument that you need millions of people for industry. Millions of people allow for more efficiency. They aren't required to enable. That just requires a handful of people with the right skills. People seem to have these absurd blinders until somebody comes along and shows them how it's done. Why is it... if they can't imagine it, it becomes impossible?
[A NASA] study found it would cost NASA between $1.7 billion and $4 billion to develop and build the same Falcon 9 launch vehicle that cost SpaceX $390 million. In its analysis, NASA says it had verified the SpaceX cost figures.
A side point is that there operations costs are also low like their development costs.

So people say it can't be done until it's less freaking expensive. Why does this assertion drive me mad? Because it's not true. Obviously, lower cost is better. No argument there. SpaceX demonstrates how we get those lower costs. By individual initiative. Moaning about lower costs does not make them happen. Someone has to take the initiative and make it happen. It's not about costs, it's about profit. Profit can be had at current costs which will lower over time making it more profitable.

Mars has about 144 million square kilometer of real estate that currently has a value close to zero. Value is not intrinsic, it is determined by people. People determine value by wanting something and by how much it costs them to get it. It doesn't matter if you don't want to live on mars. It just matters that some people do.

So if you had an underground mansion on mars with shirtsleeve surface gardens and life support for a number of people in a self sufficient community (with malls and community centers) and could get there for free (and I'll show how) suddenly that near zero value plot of land would be worth something more. It would have a market value.

People have some weird ideas about self sufficiency thinking it requires magic self replicating technology and millions of people. It doesn't. What it does require is a core of machinery and skills that are a self sufficient ecology capable of reproducing themselves and potential capability of producing all other things. This requires a few dozen skilled people, not millions. Having more people just makes it easier. Before SpaceX scaled up for production purposes they had about a hundred people making there first rockets. Sure they bought stuff meaning other people were part of the process. They did it because it made sense to do so, not because they had to. Choices should not be confused with capability.

How do colonists get to mars for free considering a mission will cost billions? I suggest a settlement charter that provides value to companies that transport colonists for free. This charter establishes an agreed upon law of the land. It doesn't require the approval of governments because this is virgin territory. Governments do not own this unclaimed property nor the people that would claim it. The colonists will make this legal by their combined actions supported by historical precedent.

Why would these companies do this for worthless land even if for millions of hectares? Because it's value will go up as more people get to mars. They just have to look past a quarterly report. Some companies do. Elon has repeatedly said it is his goal to get 10,000 people to mars. That'll do it. A few billion dollars is not cheap, but some are willing to take that risk and that's all it will take. If they ever do get the transportation costs down near the $500k per person they claim is possible then the argument against will evaporate. 1000 sq. km. per person delivered would then be a gold mine of profit.

What about the life of colonists? Some think it would be bleak but they aren't seeing it clearly. People will have freedom and the resources for great achievements. They wont have to convince the captain of some space ship to go someplace they want... they can just get into their own car and drive. A car that is easily produced and repaired, built by a handful of skilled workers that get the job done even if it isn't the model of the future. A car that runs on locally produced fuel from the martian air. Every single person going to mars, all of them, will have millions of dollars in assets to finance their dreams if they accept a settlement charter that makes that happen. This isn't the far future. This is the next few decades beginning now.

After the first few dozen being supplied from earth the colony will grow and expand. After a few hundred or thousands, people will specialize in a thriving integrated economy where people can focus on their passions without a government telling them where they can spit. It's a whole new world that will be part of an entire solar system economy. They will not be alone. I might live to see it start.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bigelow and SpaceX

Representatives from Bigelow and SpaceX will meet with officials in Japan shortly after the next launch of the Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft and will...

Offer Crewed Missions to Private Space Stations

Do they know that together they make a spaceship?

Zubrin hits one out of the park

via Rand.

This denied holocaust has... a death toll exceeding that achieved by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or any of the other tyrants whose crimes fill the sordid pages of human history.

Trading one Silent Spring for one half century of holocaust.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

We have the technology

via Rand.


Boldly going. Awesome concept; however, a $1T, 85 million kg. ship is not realistic.

What could we do? A saucer is just not a good shape for space but we can keep the three cylinders.

A BA330 is 23mt for $100m. But a Falcon Heavy will lift 53mt and so let's get Bigelow to make a 40mt BA700 with life support for 21 for $180m? There's no technical difficulty here because Bigelow has shown their designs to be very scalable (see the 70 mt. BA2100.) Putting three in orbit cost $900m. giving you redundancy and tethered together you get artificial gravity. You get three used FH upper stages for free to provide propulsion. Total dry ship mass of about 200mt. Add to that one red Dragon (5mt. and $50m each) for every seven crew. A crew of 63 would require 9 so our ship now has a mass of 250mt and cost $1.5b.

That's $24m per crew which is amortized over the number of ship missions. Fuel cost is per mission.

How much fuel depends on the mission but let's say 2,400mt. for a mars mission. This gives you a fuel cost of $3.6b. Definitely an incentive for a LEO fuel market.

...and that's the whole point!

That's $81m per person for 63 people to the martian surface for under $6b. That would show a commitment to the success of a martian colony.  I wish Robert Zubrin and/or Elon Musk would provide details on how you get that down to $500k per person.

Power Update: 100kw and 1.2mt.

Now you know why bud light cans work...



Nitrogen is the reaction mass.

Victory day

My ex-wife reminds me that today is a holiday for the defeat of nazi germany in the great patriotic war which is how Russians refer to WW2.

Not jumbo shrimp

These are dwarf mammoths. They sound adorable.

Did ya know?...

Vesta is the only place outside of earth, other than mars and the moon, that we have samples of?

I didn't know that. We may find out more tomorrow.

Apps for apes

Great. Now these monkeys* are going to take away our programming jobs!

For those comically challenged that was a joke. In the 70s we called mainframe computer operators tape apes.

*Ok, Orangutans. It's just that both apes and monkeys sounds funnier.

It's a healthy fear

Too long in coming.

Morons in charge

Capt. Jeff Haney was flying the Air Force's next-generation stealth F-22 Raptor on a routine training mission in Alaska in November 2010 when a sudden malfunction cut off his oxygen completely. ... Air Force Accident Investigation Board ... determined ... Haney was to blame for the crash because he was too distracted by his inability to breathe to fly the plane properly.
So it's the pilots fault that the plane didn't provide him with oxygen. ...and the other whopper...
Despite being the most advanced [expensive] fighters on the planet, none of the planes have been used on a combat mission since they went combat-ready in late 2005. Critics told ABC News that's because the jet was designed to fight rival, sophisticated fighters – an enemy that doesn't exist right now.
What?! We're not using them because we want to give the enemy a chance? Is that what they're saying?

Heads should roll.