Sunday, December 15, 2013

A modest proposal: How to get massive public financial support for a Mars colony

One of the nagging questions regarding a Mars colony is funding. Sure, some think they have that solved, but only via cutting a lot of corners.

So I ask; wouldn't it be better to go with massive financial support? Yes, it would, and the good news is there's an easy way to get it - while doing a lot of good along the way. 

The answer, in brief, is to use the SLS as the launch vehicle for the numerous launches required, and more importantly, having it live up to its moniker: Senate Launch System.There's also the point that this is probably the only way the SLS will ever be of worthwhile use.

What I'm proposing here is to make Congress, all of it, the colonists, while also asking people to donate via the slogan "Send Congress on a one way trip into space!" I guarantee that the money would flood in. 

Convincing Congress to go is the easiest part; simply point to polls showing that voluntarily leaving Earth would make them very popular with the electorate, and whisper in their ears the magic words "guaranteed reelection!" 

As for the colony, you wouldn't need to worry about (or spend money on) implementing ISRU, life support, or any other infrastructure. Congress, once on Mars and when in need of something, could just do as it usually does and vote for it, paying no heed to any practical considerations whatsoever. If they need food, they can simple tax the locals - being a rock is no excuse for not paying taxes. If they need water, they could appropriate it by legislative fiat. If they are hindered by the low G, they could simply amend the  law of gravity. If they're a couple of days from running out of oxygen, they can simply declare the issue an "Oxygen deficit" and thus ignore it.

But why stop there? Let's do this right and send all politicians on this grand adventure to create a thriving, livable world - called "Earth".

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Water issues on Mars

When it comes to deciding where to place a colony on Mars, one issue oft overlooked is water availability.

Mars has water (which is what makes it the best choice for colonization) but it's not evenly distributed. Some areas are akin to the moon, where water can be found only in tiny concentrations. Extracting it via mining and heating would be enormously costly in terms of energy and infrastructure, even if we assume that Curiosity's results of a water concentration of 1.5 to 3% for Martian soil are representative of other areas of Mars. 

What this boils down to is that unless a colony is located near the north polar ice cap, you probably need an aquifer.  There may well be liquid-water aquifers on Mars, and in fact there almost certainly are. However, we don't know where they are yet.

Synthetic aperture radar may be the answer. A technique has been developed, but it has yet to be utilized on Mars.
JPL has an article about it, which highlights the fact that it's proving quite useful here on Earth. (I"ve often said that one of the prime "exports" of a Martian colony will be innovations in technology, and this is an early example; a technique developed for Mars being used on Earth).

However, even if aquifers are located, that alone isn't enough to select a colony site. Even here on Earth, wells still come up dry even when over a well-mapped aquifer. There are also cases where groundwater has unwelcome substances in it, such as arsenic or salt, which would require the water to be distilled (not a deal-breaker, but something you'd need to know in advance). So, what you need is a test well if an aquifer is your source.

Drilling a well on Mars would be a daunting, expensive task. It could be done with automated systems and robotics, but it would require a lot of mass. The drill pipes alone would weigh many tons. You'd need such a rig to drill a well for a colony anyway, but it's still a lot of upmass.

That leaves us with near-polar sites. There, water access is easier and definite; we already know there is water there, and it's on the surface in the form of ice. That saves the up-mass of a drilling rig, and the need to drill pre-site-selection. The only downside to such a high latitude site is that it reduces the available solar power, primarily during winter (Due to Mars' thin atmosphere, sunlight is not hindered when the sun is closer to the horizon, as it is on Earth). You also might need sunlight for greenhouses.

There's a way around that issue, a better way; nuclear power. With it, you don't need energy storage as you do with solar. For farming, you can use LED lighting, which you may well need even in an equatorial location; sunlight on Mars is weaker than on Earth due to distance, and would be further reduced by passing through the needed thicknesses of glass needed to deal with the near-vacuum of the Martian surface. Plants needing full sun on Earth would not do well in Martian sunlit greenhouses (though reflectors could be used to compensate).

Small reactors are closer to being available than is commonly thought; the Department of Energy and several companies are working on small modular reactors now, and those designs could easily be modified to reduce mass via dispensing with some shielding (On Mars, the shielding could be soil.).  

Via exchanging a small, lightweight nuclear reactor for the drilling equipment and solar collectors, you'd actually save net mass, as well as enabling the colony to be in a more advantageous location and be energy-rich. 

Edit to add: I'm not saying that a reactor is a prerequisite for a Mars colony; it isn't. However, if one is available, I think it would be preferable to solar-based energy for a colony.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Food on Mars

For a Mars colony, food will, of course, be a critical issue.

The situation is simple; they can either produce food, or import it from Earth. The latter is very costly, especially long term, due to the price per pound of getting it to the Martian surface.

There are ways to reduce the mass of transported food, such as via dehydration. However, the cost will still be enormous. As Ken said in the post below, around $76,000 per kilogram.

What this means is that colonists will need, in a fairly short timeframe, to produce most of their food.

As has already been noted on this blog, farming should be one of their first tasks. This is a nececity, and fortunatly, there appear to be no show-stoppers in using Martian soil (It might need preprocessing to remove some iron and most perchlorates, both of which are easily accomplished.)

Therefor, within a few months, the colonists ought to be able to be harvesting many fast-growing crops. Yeilds could be increased via the simple expedient of increasing the partial pressure of CO2 (this has been often demonstrated here on Earth in experimental greenhouses).

However, there is a serous issue that I've not yet seen addressed; farm animals. Some will be vital, such as earthworms, though fortunately those are not hard to transport. What is of concern is meat animals; without them, the colonists will be condemned to exist as vegetarians.

During the early days of a colony, they will be unable to afford the production losses of using their farm produce for animal feed, but that should soon change. Then, they will need meat animals.

This begs the question, one I've yet to see raised anywhere; how do you get farm animals to Mars?

For chickens and turkeys, the answer seems obvious; send fertile eggs and incubate them on Mars. However, this is not as feasible as it sounds, due to the time constraints on per-incubation storage. A fertile chicken egg has lessening chances of developing after a few days, and after three weeks, incubation is impossible. Turkey eggs are better, but only by about an extra week before incubation percentages drop to zero.

It takes approximately 21 days of incubation for a chicken egg to hatch, while a turkey egg takes 28. So, if eggs were launched inside an incubation system that held them in cold storage first (for a maximum of about two weeks to maintain a sufficient incubation percentage) your hatchlings would emerge approximately 5 weeks after liftoff (6 weeks for turkeys) 

The key problem; a minimum-energy Mars voyage takes about 6 months at minimum.

Can hatchlings survive in zero G, even with humans aboard to care for them?

The answer, sadly, appears to be "no". The Russians performed some experiments on their Mir space station, which included hatching quail eggs.

Does this apply to chickens and turkeys as well? We don't know, though the evidence from the quail experiments is hardly promising. Even incubation in zero G caused issues.

The zero-g incubation issue can be dealt with via a small centrifuge, but even so, that would require a journey time of no more than 5 weeks. Therefor, it's quite possible that the only way to get chickens and turkeys to Mars is to do it very fast; a small craft on a very high-energy trajectory. The fastest probe ever launched was New Horizons to Pluto, and that took 78 days to cross Mars' orbit. What we need is something that can do it in half that time. This can be done; a very small Mars entry spacecraft launched by a very large rocket with multiple upper stages could attain the needed velocity, though engineering it to enter and land with an entry speed of over 100,000 mph will be an engineering challenge, and very costly.

What of other needed livestock; pigs, for example? Pigs might have a good chance, though they have, as yet, not been flown in space. All we have to go on are data from other animals, such as dogs, cats, and monkeys - and none of that is long-term. Theoretically, If launched young, piglets, if cared for by a human crew, could probably survive months in zero-g. Or, they might not. We simply do not know.

Sending cows to Mars (A single female calf would suffice, along with a stock of frozen fertilized eggs to be implanted) would be harder yet.

There might be one way around the zero-G issue. Artificial gravity. Connect two Mars-bound transport habitats by a long cable, and then spin up the resulting assembly. In this way, the need to make a fast transit could be eliminated. It may, in fact, be the only viable alternative.

The need to send livestock to Mars might be a longer-term concern, but it is something that will need to be done at some point in the early years of a colony. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What are we waiting for?

We've never had liberty. When the pilgrims arrived in 1620...
...some of the passengers proclaim[ed] that since the settlement would not be made in the agreed upon Virginia territory, they "would use their own liberty; for none had power to command them..."
This could not be allowed, so the Mayflower Compact, signed aboard their ship, would allow some to rule all. It seemed simple enough...
combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; ...  such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.
Is submission and obedience good for the colony? Let's say you have a colony of two. Which should be master over the other? Now three; should one be the slave of the other two? Liberty, ownership and free trade requires no masters or slaves. True consent (no force allowed) benefits everyone.

400 years later, this same choice is ours again. No government cares about mars because it's too far. This is an opportunity. The first colonist can choose liberty, strong property rights and extremely limited government (because really strong property rights means no eminent domain, no taxes, etc.)

Liberty has never been tried. We need the home of the braver, willing to truly be the land of the free. What are we waiting for? I'll tell ya.

To get to mars we need a lander. Mars One has it on their schedule if they get the funds. SpaceX has the design which needs to be produced and tested. Not having a lander is a show stopper. If the lander meets specifications ($190m/2500kg) we have a surcharge of $76k/kg for anything imported to mars from earth. This is potential wealth for any colonist that arrives according to the settlement charter. New colonists may trade some of their goods knowing it has great value if not the entire value of the surcharge.

Before the lander is ready we can proceed with another requirement. The refuelable ship that will take them to mars orbit where they will transfer into the landers that take them to the mars surface. That ship is a profit center before taking anyone to mars. It should be taken on shakedown cruises around the moon to be certain they are good enough to take colonists to mars orbit. These shakedown cruises are themselves a potential source of profit. This should be done now.

Are we brave enough to grab hold of real liberty? Time will tell.

Profit is one reason for going to mars. It is profitable now, but it does require someone with vision and resources to pay for it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Notice anything about this picture?

It appears ready for the Falcon Heavy!

The local mars economy

How is that going to work on mars? Well, we have to start with some assumptions.

People will get to mars by whatever means they do with whatever political baggage they carry. So there may be many groups but with all of mars to choose from they should keep themselves from causing each other too much trouble. Survival will suggest they are helpful to each other regardless of where they came from. Political baggage is unavoidable. However, we are going to assume the members of our local community are fiercely independent and have all agreed to the settlement charter which is to say strong property rights. Nobody can take anybody's property except in free trade. No eminent domain or property taxes by any name will exist. No country is going to find it worth the expense to send enforcement to mars to collect any tax and the martians will mostly ignore them were they to try. We will discuss the exception to this after we've finished with our assumptions. Land will either be owned or unowned. If unowned anybody could mine it but it is subject to claim by any newly arriving member of the charter at which time mining must stop until arrangements agreeable to the new owner are met. So it would be unwise to invest too heavily in unowned property.

We have to understand the time value of money. Which simply means future dollars have a cost which reduces their buying power. If you borrow money, expect to pay a fee.

Since we have no better numbers we will assume the Mars One lander parameters. $150m to $190m will buy you one to the surface of mars with 2500 kg of stuff. Let's use the higher number but say that includes the 9 mo. time value of money. So imports from earth will all have a $76k/kg surcharge. The buyer also owns that lander which has 18 dracos, 8 superdracos, tanks, and about 4 tons of aluminum. Aluminum is 100% recyclable. They may keep that lander as an emergency habitat or scrap it. It is their [strongly enforced by the locals] private property. It may be that none are ever purchased to be sent to mars, outside of the settlement charter contract, but that's ok as you shall see.

Contract law is the law of the land and commodities will be traded and assume whatever natural exchange rate free trade determines. Mars will have no fiat currency. They will have members that do have fiat currency and perhaps other assets on earth. We will assume that most members arrive on mars in a four person lander with personal items. That would mean 625 kg per person (including their own mass.) However, the settlement charter requires the transportation company to provide 1000 kg per person so they will deliver that extra 375 kg separately. So any colonist that severed all ties with earth and sold all their earthly assets would still arrive on mars with over 400 kg of resellable items worth a minimum of $30m. in surcharge value and claim one square kilometer with about 500 plots all of which is potential collateral at a mars bank to start any business they might choose. It should be quite common for arriving settlers to trade some of these imported items for a habitat when they arrive and sell the rest over the course of time.

This may eliminate the need for other resupply from earth essentially making martians independent in that sense quite soon. But wait, $76k/kg? Who on mars could afford that? Probably nobody, so what happens in a free market? People trade. People compete. People will compete by finding ways to make some of those imports ISRU. People will involve themselves in the local economy in individual ways, no central planning required. There are no gouging laws. If something is scarce it will be able to demand a higher price. Things that demand a higher price will look good to somebody wanting to produce and sell such items ISRU. More sellers competing brings the prices down. The laws of economics work everywhere.

How about liquidity? Money exists for a reason. You don't want to have to carry around barter items for day to day transactions. That's where banks come in. Anyone that gains the trust of the community can be a banker. Strong contract law protects everybody. Banks collect commodities (metals most likely, but anything not perishable would do) and issue bank cards that act as money. They do not produce money through fractional lending. They make their money in the commodities exchange and commercial lending to people that all have collateral. Everybody is going to have internet and card readers will be a common item for anybody in business (probably built into the cell phones everybody has.) To avoid multiple bank cards, banks may all agree to just use a personal ID card with the user choosing what bank to draw funds from for any given transaction (martians are very rational you know.) It's quite likely the protocols will be worked out early so the mars ID card (with an extra backup) is part of every arriving colonists stuff. The balance on the card may be kept in grams of silver. So in making a deposit at a bank of iron, copper, gold or whatever, banks will compete on rates to turn that into silver. Business would naturally advertise their wares in grams of silver (about 64 cents here on earth at the moment.) Bank runs should never happen as long as banks use their assets wisely. If it did happen, depositors might have to accept other than silver to cover their deposits. It's not fractional banking. They will be able to pay their depositors. They will have to make all their assets available in reports to everybody over the internet and inspections would be something for the locals to determine (you really can't get away from some politics.) They might have a bank regulations that limit how much exchange rates can change in a single day but that's not essential and something for the locals to determine for themselves. It will all be written in contracts. Caveat Emptor.

All of this economic activity on mars will create value and wealth. Companies on mars may someday go public on earth. This makes earth wealthier without importing a single gram from mars. The banks themselves might have public stock issued on earth.

With people possessing and developing land on mars, people on earth will have confidence that they could buy land as an investment knowing it will go up in value over time. Price determined by a free market. The companies transporting colonists according to the settlement charter would no doubt be able to make more money faster in other ways. But with 500,000 half acre plots to sell for every person they transport, they have a very large potential return on their money even if it takes decades to break even. I expect once people are living on mars and lots of people want to go to mars (having millions of dollars in assets the moment you arrive might be considered an incentive... at least 200,000 people want to go now even without that incentive) the value of land will appreciate rapidly and return on investment for transportation may only take months once the ball is rolling.

So now, what about those countries that do want to take the assets of some that are left on earth? Being smart (my ex-wife believe rich is the definition of smart) they know they will need to protect their assets from confiscation. They will (the rich are funny that way.) Everybody else will not have any assets on earth for them to confiscate. Really that may be the main attraction of mars... getting a fresh start without nanny looking over your shoulder. That's Galt's Gulch.

I want to talk about two more things, dust and food (but not dusty food.)

Dust blows all over mars and some quiver at the dangers. But economically that dust has value. It will be collected for the minerals in it (refined and deposited at your local bank.) They will decide for themselves how to channel that dust on their property with walls and wind breaks.

The early colonists must be provided with enough food to survive. This means they should not depend on local farming at all to start. We don't really know how local farming is going to work out except by doing in on mars, hands on. It won't be nothing. I believe a 50m Zubrin hobby farm will feed three to four. Whatever the true rate of growth per acre is they will be able to grow something. That's what the early colonists will find out for us. That will determine how fast new colonists can arrive. It's not something to wring our hands over but it would be good to know how much it will cost to keep the early colonists alive.

Water is not a problem as long as they have power. They need enough power to take care of all their needs and in addition enough power for the industry to create more means of getting power. So we should be absolutely certain that we oversupply them with power. This is not negotiable. The colony will not survive without this. If you have power and water you have air. So food is really the only issue.

They will need 2.5kg of food per person per day or about 650g if freeze dried. Let's say a combination being about 1kg or $76k per day. To keep a dozen colonists alive would cost over $300m per year. That's a lot of money. That's $650m every 26 month for food supplies or 3.25 landers. So if we don't want to spend $650m a second time they will have to learn to grow enough food before the second wave of colonists arrive. Can they?

Absolutely they will. Even if they don't start with as much variety as they eventually will have. Potatoes alone grow dense enough that nobody is going to starve, but they will have more variety. Food will have value. People will grow it not just for themselves but for others. Expect thriving farmers markets on mars.

Update: This is where I will provide some food production numbers after I've done a bit more research on the topic.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

It's not just Obama

The incredible list.

Is ObamaCare like chappaquiddick?

I mean, mentioning chappaquiddick is all it took to derail Ted Kennedy's run for president.

Can we mention ObamaCare to discredit future democrats?

Leaving this wednesday

I'll be back on the road in a few days. I hope CJ will find something to keep this blog alive during that time (no pressure CJ, it's all in fun.) I'll check back in from time to time. I'm on a mission.

After landing - What then?

CJ brought this topic up and it's a good one. I'd like to explore it a bit more. But I have to back up just a bit to set the scene...

In mars orbit are a dozen colonists in a ship with supplies on the first human mission to mars. They have three landers in orbit with them each capable of safely landing four crew at a time with 30 days of supplies within a 10 km. landing ellipse. On the surface of mars are prepositioned supplies in a number of landers scattered about within a 50 km. radius circle. They also have 3 more supply landers in orbit with them, one of which will follow each crew lander to mitigate any landing that doesn't come within a maximum range of a prepositioned lander.

The first crew of four is chosen by whatever means and lands within 5 km. of the center of the supplies circle. After announcing, "the Canary has landed," the first four spend the first hour on mars doing a quick survey of their immediate area from within their lander. The eight in orbit are making their congratulations while they wait for the earth on time delay to do the same. Before they can really get to business they have to perform the first step ceremony having selected the youngest member of their crew to perform. She's a bit nervous, but somebody's got to do it. History books have to be written ya know.

With that out of the way, it's time to get to work. It's a balmy -40 degrees outside. Helmets are already on from the first step ceremony so it's time to start unpacking. Care must be taken because anything wet will immediately adhere to any surface at that temperature and be almost impossible to separate without damage. They don't want the first death on mars to happen so soon. They will not be getting anything wet for now. Two of the crew will immediately begin setting up an array of solar panels. These will charge batteries that remain on the lander. The other two will use the plastic of a 50m Zubrin hobby farm to set up as a supply tent. This tent will have 10 psi of warm breathable air and power from the lander batteries. It will have a simple airlock for getting in and out. They will move all supplies from the lander into this tent except the water tank and batteries that will remain on the lander. They also have rover batteries that will come out of the lander when they are ready to assemble the rover.

For their first meal on mars they will all gather in the supply tent. Only a quarter of the solar panels have been laid out but this is enough since they haven't assembled any rovers needing charging yet. Each member has an identical cell phone computer which fits into a suit pocket on their arm and is now showing them a map of supply lander locations along with a list of supplies they contain. Tomorrow, two of the crew will go to a nearby supply lander and get what they need for the following days work to continue preparing this first camp. They will need to build a shelter with better radiation protection. For that they need better equipment than their gloved hands.

The first night on mars they sleep under the stars while the crew in space handles communications with earth.

In the morning they assemble the small tractor rover that will pull the unfolded trailer they will ride on to the supply lander they've chosen. They are mainly going for the trenching rover they will bring back to start building the first permanent habitat on mars. The dirt from the trencher is a precious resource since it holds liters of water in every cubic meter for filling their water tanks. In a month this new habitat will be finished and ready to hold more than their dozen crew. Then the second four will land and begin helping to develop their first base. Later they will retrieve one of the two big tractor's parts so they can assemble it to pull the nuclear reactor power lander closer to their underground community industrial production center.

They designate the base, which sits on a corner of an established square kilometer, as Ellis Island community base. With eight sets of hands to do the work they build the town square pykrete public water tank capable of holding enough water for a small town as part of their initial industrial base.

After about two months, when the last four have arrived and the ship begins its slow ion drive journey back to earth, they select by lottery the order in which they will each claim ownership of each individual's private one sq. km. piece of real estate according the settlement charter they agreed to before leaving earth. Part of the daily Mars reality show being broadcast on earth has been showing people the landscape narrated by various colonists. The first dozen agreement has been they will all work together to build two habitats for each colonist on their separate lands. One to be a personal habitat and the other to sell to those that arrive two years later on the next mission. They will also build one 50m Zubrin Hobby farm for each colonist. Private ownership prevents the tragedy of the commons. Not only will they produce shows showing the various activities, but they will show details of their growing industrial capabilities along with requests for designs for things they will need. Earth will not only be a resource for speculators purchasing real estate and shares of local mars community company stocks, but will be a huge source for public domain designs. The frontier spirit will invigorate in two directions.

As a small growing community they will share their labor to help each other just like small ranch communities do on earth. But each individual will be free to choose what they will contribute to their small society in a free market system. Property rights will be absolute with no 'public right' to take anything away from anybody without their true consent. True consent meaning without any force what so ever. This will be an absolutely new experience for humans. It's never been tried before.

As the community gains experience they will let earth know what skills they wish introduced the most. This will determine who goes on the next mission which will include several dozen new colonists. By this time the sale of unimproved 40x50m plots will have established a value that makes thousands of potential new colonists want to make their own claims. Being transported for free and arriving with ownership of about 500 plots they can sell for thousands of dollars in profit each after improvement is the beginning of the great mars colony land rush.

The company claiming 1000 sq. km. for each colonist they transport to mars is finding many willing buyers on earth speculating that the value of their land will only go up in time. Meanwhile all the governments on earth keep passing laws none of the martians are willing to fall for.

Twenty years later three of Elon's sons arrive to establish the mars branch SpaceX manufacturing plant. Elon remains on earth to manage his tenth startup which needs his personal attention. One of his sons starts up the TelsaMars SuperRover company.

Splitting water

A better way?

The case for space and against mars

Everybody knows I believe a colony on mars is the fastest way to open up the entire solar system as the economic sphere of humankind. So I've found two articles with counter arguments to discuss...

First, 'The Case Against Mars', and second, 'The Case for Space.' I will consider their arguments...

As usual there is a certain economic myopia that some bring to the argument...
Mars is not even in the running. Jesco von Puttkamer of NASA, an apparent advocate of men-to-Mars admits that "... Such a program would be unlikely to provide nonterrestrial materials in the foreseeable future as a lunar base or asteroid mining program might do..." Since hardly anyone argues otherwise, this should seal the case against Mars as a goal for the next phase of space development.
Mining is certainly important and it is forgivable that most focus on this. However, it is not the most important nonterrestrial requirement for space development although it will certainly be a factor in that which is. Considering why we haven't made much progress since landing on the moon should hint at what is. The most important issue is an intangible which accounts for its exclusion from most considerations. Mining will become important but it will take decades. During that time, mars can become the giant of offworld industry entirely because it alone harvests the most important factor in development... the liberty of free enterprise. Nothing else has the potential for such explosive economic growth. Nothing ever has. It's too bad we can't convince earthlings of this!

It is not just... Others [that] suffer from an attack of false analogies since the word immediately preceding this comment was Antarctica.
Mars also benefits from the misconception that human needs demand whole planets (when even the smaller asteroids contain billions of tons of resources).
Again missing the point. While a certain amount of free enterprise will be unleashed by various companies mining resources it will not be as fine grained as what the martian colonists will be able to do. Mining asteroids and mars will be done by companies. But in addition, mars will allow independent entrepreneurs to follow their own individual dreams and develop new companies as well without the stark hurdle required to do the same in places other than mars. Mars is going to be a place with large industrial malls owned by individuals (if they take to heart the principles of free enterprise. This is why they should get off to a good start with strong property rights... no eminent domain and no property tax.) Update: Imagine where we would be today if there were no SpaceX. Now imagine a planet full of Elon's because that's what frontiers full of independent people with resources does.

[Martians] will need suits and pressurized hulls like those needed in space.

Well yes, except very shortly after starting the colony (a few years at most) martians will have enough livable work space that most may never use their space suits at all. Space they can even expand without the need for a space suit (if you can't imagine how, you are having the same problem as the author of the case against mars article.)
...sending people on long trips through space in what must, if flown any time soon, be poorly shielded spacecraft.
Ever notice how the case against mars is more so a case against space? Martians will only spend a few months in space, then settle into habitats with plenty of radiation shielding which includes the atmosphere they disdain.
The martian atmosphere does contain about 2.5 percent nitrogen — an element rare in asteroids.
And a real show stopper if you plan on growing food. This is a huge plus for mars.
[Martians] would have to dig themselves into the ground.
As opposed to spacers who would have to import that ground for the same purpose. It's not that they can't do this, but that it is a limiting factor in growth.
because no sound economic incentive for settlement has been advanced, housing on Mars must be built using tax money and maintained using still more tax money.
True for space, but absolutely false for mars. Mars has 144 million sq. km. of real estate, almost worthless today but after possession will appreciate in value enough to pay all the costs of colonization in a very short time. Not only should not a dime of tax money be used to develop mars, government involvement should be unwelcome for the most part. Dennis Tito's recent begging of government for his Inspiration Mars mission is a perfect example. Just a bit of rethinking (see my comments) would mean he could do his project with less risk and cost without inviting in the government regulations monster. But betting on SLS & Orion almost guarantees failure.

As a matter of fact, it is settlement of mars that creates a huge market for the resources from space in order to get there (a one time cost for martians, but a continuous cost for spacers.) Fuel cost is the number one cost for getting to mars as the vehicles will be reused and amortised over hundreds of missions.

Mars does not need terraforming. It will be terraformed the same way earth is, a habitat at a time (in most places on earth we do not live naked under the sun.) If the martians want more, let them do it. It's not earth's problem.
From NASA's perspective, a Mars mission offers another Apollo-like project that would bump down the old, familiar tracks that once led to glory — and there would be no awkward threat of competition from private enterprise.
What stone age thinking! Or rather, childish marxist thinking. They can't even imagine what free enterprise can do even with all the examples from history. They continue to believe it would work if only they got to control it. They can't even fathom that no tax money is required or desired. This is perhaps the strongest argument for mars. It may even be THE argument.
We need not support all proposals for spending money in space. Indeed our credibility and our goals may on occasion be better served by opposition.
I could not agree more.

The second article is nicely arranged under these bolded arguments...

Sunlight Available 24x7

Life and industry require energy and space close to the sun has the advantage in most cases. However, as long as we have all we can use, anything above that is moot. The one case where it isn't an advantage in space is plant growth. Plant growth, by the way, is how most energy on earth is collected and used (you thought it was oil, didn't you?) Mars offers the same sunlight as some places on earth (once UV is taken care of which is very simple) and could be concentrated to offer the same as other places on earth. Space activities will import food from mars.

For industrial power, martians will not depend on solar panels and batteries. They will not have to deal with the regulatory whackos we have here on earth (see THE argument above.) Power really will be too cheap to meter on mars.

Convenient Access to Zero Gravity
Getting rid of waste heat is admittedly more difficult in space than in a planetary environment.
Which is a reason mars will be able to develop huge industry. Why is this argument being made under the topic of zero g? Because that's how the author intends to address this mars advantage.

All Gravitational Options Available
Orbital habitats will [have to] simulate gravity by rotation. 
It is assumed this is a good thing. Is it?

Living at the Top of a Well
This is why mining asteroids to bring materials back to Earth is just barely a possibility for the future, whereas Mars mining would probably not be able to compete due to the tariff which gravity imposes.
Again the myopic mining issue. I suggest that not a gram of mars is required to import to earth for economic success. Wealth has no mass, making it extremely cheap to transport to earth (in the form of digital certificates of various sorts.) Mining asteroids will not be for import to earth either. The minerals are already in the place they are most valuable.

No Weather, Save What We Make for Ourselves

Yeah, mars has seasons like earth. What a burden.

Warning! Warning! Meteor Storm!

Not an issue as they agree.

Convenient Communication with the Homeworld

So space habitats aren't free from earth? You don't say. Mars will have continuous communications even on the far side of the sun through relays.

Convenient Travel to the Homeworld

This is the point they miss. Wealth is all that must travel and that costs almost nothing.  Economic activity is local. Once on mars, most people may never need to leave. Ever. However, getting to mars orbit using reusable vehicles will cost about the same as an airline ticket. From there the costs are the same (because now you are in space.) 

Making A Living
Although a Martian economy may someday become possible, it seems likely to remain a local economy. There seem to be no marketable products that Martians could sell to Earth which would be worth lifting out of the gravity well of Mars. Martians might sell real estate to Earthlings, provided there was some compelling reason to want to live there, and living conditions on Mars were reasonably pleasant.
All economies are local. Nor may there be anything worth dropping onto earth from space. Martians can sell real estate to earthlings that don't want to live there. Living conditions on mars can become pleasant fast under two conditions (private ownership by individuals and abundant power.) Private ownership by individuals pursuing their own dreams is a huge advantage martians will have over spacers living in somebody elses ship.'s difficult to see how the process can get started in the first place without expectations of a return on Earth-originated investments.
Absolutely true. Most people do have a problem seeing ROI which is ironic since ROI is exactly why you choose mars. Growth on mars represents growing wealth on earth. Wealth has no mass.

A Staging Post for the Belt?

Mars will have the fastest growing industry in the solar system at least until every square kilometer has been claimed which will take over a century. That means they will have the infrastructure to make the huge ships and variety of ships that spacers will need. The cost of getting to mars orbit will be negligible to the overall costs. The real point is that spacers have to spend resources travelling to grow industry. Martians don't have to go into orbit to do even more, faster. They will not take months getting to resources. They will take days, hours or minutes.

Room To Grow

Long term space wins. Short term mars wins. Short term is how you get to long term.

Location Options

See Room to Grow.

Spreading Interstellar

See Room to Grow.

Getting What You Need
On Mars, the ores needed are literally underfoot.
Thank you. Thank you very much. Uh huh huh.

Robert Zubrin's Views
might take a millennia to add sufficient oxygen to the Martian atmosphere to make it breathable.
We don't need mars air to be breathable. Is this really an argument for the advantage of space?


Hey, if you have to pigeonhole me, you can call me a planetary chauvinist. You'd be wrong because I have nothing against living in space. I am in fact a proponent. Which is why I advocate colonizing mars because I believe it is the fastest way to do just that. Living in space can only be helped by the industry mars can offer and the creation of a market by those traveling to mars to stay.

I think orbital settlements are the obvious winners in the incremental expansion category.
Obviously wrong (see getting what you need.)
While Mars certainly masses more than the belt or even the moon, this argument doesn't consider the issues of ease of access, or costs of exporting resources.
Exporting resources is not a factor in industrial growth. Exporting wealth is, and is easy. Mars wins ease of access not only because of the distribution on mars (a solid platinum asteroid sounds like a good thing, but economically it's not) but because of the distribution of individuals that will use those resources.
One of the more frequent posters to the threads stated that Mars is more popular, and expressed the opinion this single fact overrides all other considerations.
Because even if not consciously aware of it, people understand the benefits of liberty in their bones.

Arguing that 'Type III civilizations...' is arguing too far into the future. Mars is available the moment we demonstrate a lander which Mars One already has specifications for from SpaceX.

The biggest hurdle for mars is making the colonists pay for the trip and arriving destitute and dependent on some nanny. THAT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE. Colonization will never happen if the colonists have to pay for it. THEY DO NOT HAVE TO NOR BECOME SLAVES TO THOSE THAT DO PAY FOR IT. It just requires a light bulb. Wanting something doesn't matter if you can't pay for it.

The most productive source of fiber

You need fiber to make pykrete so what's the best source? Hemp.
Per acre, hemp is the most productive fiber on earth, making 10 tons of bast fiber, for canvas, rope, lace and linen, and 25 tons of hurd fiber, for paper and building materials.
There ya have it. Mars is for stoners! Seriously though...
...hemp was among the first crops cultivated by our ancestors over 10,000 years ago, and may be the first crop purposely sown.
It could be used for many useful products such as car parts on the road today! Bathroom parts would probably be of interest to martians with molding being a very early martian trade. Yes, everything and the kitchen sink.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Construction techniques for the early days of a Mars colony.

Construction techniques for the early days of a Mars colony.

A great deal of discussion has taken place regarding how to get colonists to Mars, and the various competing plans. The same is true, to a lessor degree, about the initial settlement and what it would look like in its first few days. However, not much has been said regarding how the colony can begin bootstrapping itself.

A few days after landing - what then?

The colonists will need to begin using Martian resources (otherwise, every pound of anything they use is going to be upmass from Earth.) For example, on of their first needs will be to increase their living and working space, because the initial landers will be small and cramped. They'll further need space for growing crops and livestock.

So, you can get this expansion space one of three ways; ship it up in section from Earth (hard, and nightmarishly expensive) create it from local resources, or some combination of the two methods.  

One option for ISRU (In Situ Resource Utilization) is to make brick from Martian soil. The brick structures would then need to be made airtight to roughly the same degree a space station would need. This is not easy. The brock would also need to be protected from cracking, because a crack would mean explosive decompression.

So, that brings us to water. The colonists will need a lot of it (Brick-making uses a lot of water, as does masonry). Therefor, the colonists need a water source. On some areas on Mars, there are thought to be accessible underground aquifers, but we simply do not yet know where they are. Even on Earth, drilling a water well is often a hit or miss proposition.

However, what is certain is that there is accessible water on Mars. We know it exists in vast quantities in, and in areas near, the northern polar ice cap. Therefor, even if it turns out it can't be found in the mid latitudes (though it may be there too, and if so, no problem), we know where to find some, and the colony will surely go where there is water - it would make no sense to put it where there isn't any. 

What this means in practice is that, no matter where on Mars it is, the colony will have an ample water supply.

That also means that, if water can be used to create the needed living space, it would be a great benefit.    

The good news is that water can do exactly that. Instead of using brick, use ice. One of many advantages; ice is airtight. A drawbacks are that ice is also prone to cracking, though no as much as masonry construction. 

Fortunately, there's an answer, one that harks back to World War II. It's called Pykrete.It was developed during WWII for Project Habakkuk, with the goal of building massive, virtually unsinkable aircraft carriers out of ice, to protect North Atlantic shipping.

Pykrete is roughly 13% by weight wood pulp, sawdust, or other absorbent fiber. The rest is water. Ratios vary a bit depending upon the fiber used. The resulting materiel is frozen, and once frozen it is much stronger than ice, and less prone to break. It has a crush strength estimated by some as 1100 PSI, others (especially when using pulp rather than the original sawdust) claim it is higher, 2000 to over 4500 PSI. For comparison, concrete is about 5000.

For an early colony shortly after landing, wood fiber or pulp would be an issue. I think a substitute could be used; clay. And clay has been found on Mars. Any sedimentary silt would do in a pinch. It won't have as much strength, but that can be overcome by simply making the walls thicker.

How does one build in pykrete on Mars? Use tractors (which the colonists will have to have anyway) to excavate large holes in the regolith (or find a handy small crater). About 40 feet in diameter and twenty feet deep would do.

The water would need to be degassed, which is easily accomplished via exposing it to the near vacuum of Mars. This would also aid in prechilling the water; they'd want it to be close to freezing.

To prepare the site, a segmented form could be used; anything that would define the interior dimensions of the construction. The regolith will serve for the exterior. The water and clay (or fiber) are then mixed and poured in continual thin layers, freezing as they go (to avoid giving it a chance to seperate) in the frigid temperatures of Mars. The pykrete will also freeze on contact with the regolith, creating its own outer layer form.

Pouring from the bottom up, the finally reach the roof. A domed form, plastic over iron rods, could be used, and the pykrete applied to the top. At the end of it, you have a solid construct, with walls, ceiling, and floors of yard-thick pykrete. It's already airtight. (An airlock or connector would be put in place pre-pour).

The structure would then be covered by a yard or two of regolith. The interior would need to be insulated and covered for comfortable living, but local materials would work well for that - perhaps fiberglass from local silica. Once insulated, the interior could be heated to normal room temperatures without harming the protected pykrete.
Above, I used a round shape for an example. Other methods may prove superior, such as creating large pykrete, "bricks" and putting them in place with pykrete "mortar". Or a rectangular shape might be preferred.

Bat Durston, was only an advertisement

Never a character in a story except he represents many of them.

Which it helps to know to enjoy this three part article. Part One. Part Two. Part Three.

Looking in the mirror

We know who the real bullies are.

How bullets work

Have you ever seen a rifle shot of a melon? The bullet goes in, in a bullet sized hole and blows out the back of the melon. Every time. You will never see the front of the melon blow out and the bullet come out a small hole in the back. That's not how bullets work.
If Kennedy had been hit in the throat, that bullet would have had to go somewhere—lodge in his body or exit somewhere. It would have caused internal damage and thus have been easily discernible. Nothing in the head-to-toe photographs of the president taken during the autopsy, or, even more pertinently, the x-rays, shows anything that suggests in any way such a frontal hit.
Emphasis mine. It did exit. It was easily discernable (unless you refuse to see it.) It was the back of Kennedy's melon being blown out. Nothing, except that.

Was Kennedy hit in the throat? He had a hole in the front of his throat that looked like a bullet wound according to the doctors. People usually don't have holes in their throats. If they do, it isn't a bullet trying to get out.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Perhaps they could have used a publishing agent?

What's in a name? Everybody knows T-Rex, but why do Carcharodontosaurians get so little recognition? Perhaps they should call themselves C-Dawgs?

Laugh at the dinosaurs if you like, but do you think you're safe?
Gamma rays bursts aren’t just objects of esoteric interest – they have the potential to harm or even end life on our own planet. Had the GRB 130427A event happened in our own galaxy then Earth may have been very seriously affected, possibly to the level of it being an extinction event for humanity.
Would it be ironic if only martians underground survived? We only did because it happened in another galaxy.

Inspiration Mars straight talk

NASA will not have SLS or Orion ready by Jan. 2018.

Orion will not carry humans on board until 2021 at the earliest. Dragon is ready now. It does not need superdracos installed.

Bigelow modules are overkill. ILC Dover could provide Dragon with a 2000kg porch providing perhaps 50m3 of volume. Dragon mass is 4200kg.

A crew of two will require 4000kg (4m3) including themselves and consumables with no recycling assumed. Altogether that's 10200kg.

F9 can put 13000kg in LEO so more luxuries could be added. No SLS or FH required.

If you stop considering SLS & Orion you can use stuff that already exists so you can stop worrying about being able to meet the Jan. 2018 date.

A second launch is required. Either Atlas/Centaur or refueling the F9 upper stage. I have no idea what it costs to put a Centaur in orbit. The Centaur will do the job and exists. It would go into orbit first and then would have to mate to the Dragon.

The F9 upper stage would mate on the ground but the crew would have to wait in orbit for the refueling. We need to have experience refueling in orbit for future missions. We might as well put that milestone behind us now.

The TMI would happen before inflating the porch afterwhich cargo would be moved to provide plenty of space including some for privacy.

It doesn't cost a billion and it doesn't have danger of being delayed if they start now. Tito needs to forget SLS and Orion.

Update: NASA's response to Tito...
"Inspiration Mars' proposed schedule is a significant challenge due to life support systems, space radiation response, habitats, and the human psychology of being in a small spacecraft for over 500 days. The agency is willing to share technical and programmatic expertise with Inspiration Mars, but is unable to commit to sharing expenses with them."
Like I said.

Update: I'm curious to see what reaction this post gets?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

This is surprising

...plants growing better in the Mars soil than Earth soil.

That just doesn't sound right. I believe normal mars soil is toxic to plants, but could be true after the toxins are processed out. For example 15% iron is toxic AFAIK, but that iron is useful if the percentage that causes it to be toxic is taken out.

Precursor mars colony

...almost impossible today on earth, but without lawyers simple on mars. Be sure to watch video. Note construction about a third of the way in. I proposed something very similar for mars. You start with a 10x10x40 m trench. You cover it the same way they do in the video with a curved metal (iron is 15% of mars dust) surface covered with dirt (rather than snow.) Then you finish the inside. You weld metal rather than nail wood (well, until the wood has been grown which does not take that long with the right type of wood.)

I'm convinced. Thirteenth colonist on first landing should be Siberian Husky pup named Lucky. If you're looking at the scale of this being done by the army in Iceland and thinking we could never do this on mars, then you're looking at it the wrong way.

The difference is that a dozen colonists with two tractors in the first 26 months will not be able to do this to the same scale. But that does not matter. What matters is that they will be able to do what they will be able to do. Which is, create comfortable habitats that allow even more shirtsleeve work to be done. This is why four colonists is too few. I see a dozen as a minimum followed by multiple dozens on the second and subsequent landings.

Marble floors and countertops

Will be common for martians. Parochialism will only be overcome after the colonist arrive. Via Zimmerman.

no mechanic for millions of miles

That is the trouble with rovers. Total cost for the MSL was $2.5b.

I could put a dozen colonists on mars for $2.5b and we get a lot more out of it.*

If this electrical problem ends MSL we've lost that money. A dozen colonists could fix a dozen rovers in a day while doing more science even without them.

*Mars One lander pending.

Cuban missile crisis part two

If the Monroe doctrine is dead? Doesn't that allow nuclear missiles more powerful than during the Cuban missile crisis to come closer to our shores than Cuba on ships with such missiles?

China debt... 250% GDP. I thought we were bad at 73% (we are.)

Fox gets another

I always liked her.

Elon's children

It's a race to the future whether Elon will die on mars (just not on impact.) But he has five boys.

I can easily imagine one or more of them being industrialist on mars perhaps of the same mold as their father. Somebody should write a SF story.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

There is a point...

...where you've lost control. This is where the wildest gyrations occur. The point of impact is unpredictable other than it isn't going to be good.

Amazing memory

My youngest sister can tell you details going back decades. I'm in awe mainly because of my own swiss cheese memory. But they can be fooled.

3 Tesla fires

All due to accidents but watch Boeing to smirk. No fatalities. Drivers warned to pull over by car.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Marxism kills

Marxist are children that think they are the smartest of all people. This is why they can't quit trying to rehabilitate something with a known history of death. We absolutely can not allow them to continue this evil in space. Don't argue with children. Make reasonable individual real estate claims by possession in an orderly manner to establish the rules and don't get caught up in the death producing arguments of intellectual idiots that refuse to acknowledge the foundation of their arguments are gibberish.

Let them stand in a corner. It will not make them smarter, but at least it will shut them up.

But they won't which is why 2040 is going to be too late. If we had the Mars One lander (2500kg with up to 4 crew from orbit to the surface for $195m) we could go today.

Will Musk ever focus? Now he's talking about electric airplanes.

Another marxist heard from: "Private property ... is a bad idea." Oh, in space it's different?

NASA ASRG canceled

Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator would be capable of four times the energy of RTGs now used. Brought to you by SLS.

Mangalyaan ($73m) vs MAVEN ($672m)

Also Mangalyaan took 18 months vs five years for MAVEN.


No kidding.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I warned you

Years ago I made the point that mars is a superior destination because the moon is too close.

Now I'm seeing all that I have foreseen. Bigelow wants the government involved in setting property right precedents. The precedents will become defacto law everywhere else. Do you actually think it's a good thing for property owners to have their rights determined by a debating club?

It does not have to be. We can establish property rights and precedents that protect owners from government encroachment by doing it where government has no interest. The moon is too close. terms of establishing lunar property rights or even making that request, that the FAA/AST is the proper gateway to begin that process,” said Mike Gold, Bigelow Aerospace’s chief counsel.
What is their interest in the personal property rights of people? They don't have any. What they do have is a desire to control and derive money from their control. That's all government entities do.

My monitor is dying

It started with one vertical line a few months ago. It now has five.

Worthy of consideration (I mean actual thought and meditation)

It's not the first time.

Assistant liars

Not just these 27 of course.

It's going to get worse... period.

Imagination ...(miracle happens)... Reality

You need a combination of imagination and practical actions to define and reach goals. Those goals don't have to be perfect. Often a near miss is sufficient.

It doesn't take a miracle to go from imagination to reality. It just takes actions which are never completely defined. So it's a serious insult to insinuate that Mars One is imaginary spaceflight.

Then Joel completely misses the obvious with, "Very spacious, modern, and most of all, clean." He focuses on clean as if the presentation should show the normal clutter of a lived in space. Why didn't he catch the more obvious, "This is where they are staying the rest of their lives."

No. They. Will. Not.

This is one of the problems with the Mars One plan. But this is fixable. Mars One is doing a lot of things entirely right because they are looking at what already exists rather than what they'd like to exist. They have talked with companies that already make the things for which they see the need. But they don't see everything which means before they send anyone some of those blind spots need to be made visible. Slandering them doesn't accomplish that.

Yes, dust will have to be dealt with, but let's not treat it as if it was a bridge too far. Dust can cause illness and even death on earth (berylliosis) but we deal with it. We will deal with it on mars. He sums up with, "visionaries never have PowerPoint slides showing astronauts scrubbing filters."

Guess what? He's one of the visionaries and he's pointed out a problem. That's the first step in fixing it. Nothing that works is pristine. It just has to work enough to do it's job. They have limited space on the I.S.S. to fix such things. They do not have limited space on mars if they simply provide a way to make more habitable space. They don't have to scrub filters if they make them right. Perhaps with a water bubble bath? Then you just change the water when needed (or put some fish or snails or whatever to do it for ya?) Whatever the solution requires.

Mars does not require the SLS. ...or many other showstoppers that aren't.

We need visionaries. Visionaries with money are especially helpful. We don't absolutely need naysayers, but they can be useful in keeping people honest.

Epimenides paradox revisited

Obama the Barrack says, 'all Barracks are liars,' but Obama is himself a liar. No paradox.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Industry on mars

CJ made such a great comment that it deserves a detailed reply...

I agree that building tractor from parts is easy (And with or without 3d printing, they'll have to be able to do that). But, shipping all those parts from Earth would be a lot of upmass. For the first few, not a problem, but I don't think that's viable long term. So, they'd need to go ISRU for parts (for both new tractors and repair parts on older ones.)

My scenario is a dozen colonists on the first mission and 26 months later three dozen more. Mission planners need to understand that a viable colony needs lots of skilled people. A single person might have all the skills four dozen have, but they don't have the production capability of four dozen lesser skilled people. I propose just one lander with parts for two tractors to support the first dozen colonists. After that, yes, it's all ISRU although the earth may be more generous than I am. I think those first dozen are capable of taking it from there, but absolutely they should be (if we send people with the correct skills) after the second mission which I will explain more in the following replies...

But... you mention skilled machinists making parts in seconds. Sorry, but I think you're way off on the timescale. Okay, try this (It caused me a rude awakening once); go to a machinist and ask if he can make you a new cylinder head, or for a Mars tractor, I'm thinking the electric motors, suspension, steering, etc Sure, he can make leaf springs for the suspension, but he can't make the shock absorbers. So, do without those, but what about the motors? 

I've worked with machinists and it is amazing watching them do their thing. When I said seconds, I meant seconds. But that does not include the time to get to that point. I gave the example of washers which is a very simple part that makes up about 30% of the bill of materials for making the example tractor which would have to be adapted to a martian design but makes a good reference. They might start by pouring some iron into a dirt mold to make a rod. They would turn that rod to make a cylinder. Then they would slice that cylinder into shorter rods they could drill (not a hand drill but in a pinch they could use that.) Then they slice that short drilled rod into washers. That's the part that takes seconds. That's for a very simple part, so yes I was a bit misleading, but more complicated parts are done the same way... a series of simpler steps (not perhaps the ones I would come up with, machinists are smarter than me in this area) except more of them of course.

There's always setup and preparation, but once that's done (and perhaps takes a bit longer if they lack coffee) they can crank out a lot of identical parts in a day. (Clarification: a single part often requires several steps all of which require setup before production.) As a matter of fact, those jobs (prep and cranking out parts) are usually assigned to different machinists because they are two different personalities but they could be done by the same person. Sure, if you ask a machinist to do just one complicated part they will take time (and more coffee) but it will get done. I had friends with a company in a very small town (by small I mean a few thousand people hundreds of miles from anyplace bigger) that made electric motors and it is simply amazing watching them work. But ultimately you are right, making parts takes time. Almost anything can be made in a day or two however (in most cases you're talking about hundreds if not thousands of identical parts in a single day.) Keep in mind the parts you referenced are themselves actually made from multiple parts. So let's say on average it takes a day per part (and from seeing it being done I know that's generous.) In that case it would take them 1000 days to make the parts for a single tractor which is not bad since 8 hrs later it's assembled and added to the colonies assets (which is to say one colonist ordered and payed for it from those that had the skills to make it.) But they wouldn't do that.

They would never spend that time to only make parts for one tractor. Making multiple parts takes less time per part than making single parts. So in that thirty-four months they would make parts for perhaps a dozen tractors instead. Partly by having that one prep machinist work with a number of line machinists. More hands make lighter work. That electric motor company I mentioned only had about five employees and cranked out several motors of different models per day. Only the owner was the really skilled person and spent some of his time on administrative duties. However, they didn't make their own castings, rotors, coated wires and magnets. That would come from a different group but they also could work faster than you might imagine. Making wire is a simple extrusion process, dipped in a liquid insulator before being wound on a spool all in a continuous process. That process itself requires setup but production is much faster. As a matter of fact, setup may be all that requires a skilled person since production could be highly automated with a non machinist doing loading and unloading. That setup would be something repetitive itself, not requiring as much skill as coming up with the process in the first place. Everything complicated is made up of simple steps.

Designing the tractor to be easy to build would obviate most of the issues, but far from all. Forging isn't easy (ever watched it being done?) and even making steel requires a smelter and factory (plus a lot of O2). Also, ask a machinist if he can make a plain old nut and bolt that's interchangeable with others; yes, he can, if he has the right equipment, but it's going to take a huge amount of time and work, every time, and the machinery to do it en mass would fill several landers. 

Industrial forging I haven't personally seen (other than those TV channels that will occasionally touch upon it) but I have done it myself in shop class as a kid almost four decades ago. The martians will build their capabilities over time and will specialize like any industrial society. They certainly will not start at a high level at first and none of the machinery will come from earth. Keep in mind a single blacksmith is a forger. From there you scale up. You are absolutely right about the importance of design and that will be the thing martians will be skilled at because of necessity. They will also be supported by millions of designers on earth that will do it for free (including transmission of their designs to the martians) just to be a part of such an adventure.

Bolts you might just stamp with some post production. Nuts, you would probably stamp and then tap (many at a time with a rig set up to do that.) BTW, coming up with the machines and rigs to make parts is a major part of what a top machinist does.

For another example, try asking a machinist to make a car transmission. He won't be able to. Same with a new engine, or even a master brake cylinder (as many a classic car buss has learned to their dismay). You can do a lot in a machine shop, but that's cutting, not casting, and some shapes just can't be made via cutting alone. 

A machine shop is not just cutting. It's slicing, pounding, bending, turning, milling, grinding, pouring, compressing (which includes stamping and other variations) etc. I agree that casting often precedes machining if required at all after casting.

No a machinist does not make a transmission, but he will be able to make all the parts which a skilled transmission mechanic will then assemble (other than parts that don't require his/her skills such as casting.) (S)He doesn't even have to know what the parts being made are for. Again, this is where design becomes important. That tractor doesn't have a typical transmission, it's completely hydraulic. Yes, they can make all the hydraulic parts (the fittings anyway, hoses are made by somebody else.)

For small, simple parts like nuts, bolts, joints, sockets, etc, 3d printing would IMHO be far easier. (for washers, stamping is easier, but only if you need a lot) 

3D printing has the advantage of flexibility but almost always loses the time of production race compared to other industrial processes some of which go back to the stone age.

Or what about small plastic parts, such as the cooling fan (just the blades) for a computer, or a space suit? Think about the infrastructure needed to make a new one; it's a lot. Or, you have to take along huge parts inventories. Far easier to print what you need.

You could but actually, I think that's where 3D printing really finds it's niche. Not in making the parts themselves but making the molds for an injection molding process which makes the parts magnitudes faster than 3D printing. 3D printing is more likely to be used when you just need that one missing part rather than a production line of them. As an example I read about a lady using 3D printing to make cookie cutters of her own design. She was a small operation but still needed five printers to keep up with orders. If her company gets any bigger, I guarantee she would have been smarter to buy just one printer and do production with injection molding. That's where she'll end up in any case (actually, probably using another injection molding company to provide fulfillment services.)

I don't see 3d printing as a show stopper (You can do it without it) but I think viable 3d printing could make the bootstrapping process far, far easier, as well as being far easier on the upmass side. 


There are other showstoppers for Mars colonization, but even I don't think lack of 3d is one of them. I just think it would make it a lot easier, especially in a colony's early days, and especially if its on a tight upmass budget. 

Absolutely right.

Now, what very well be a true showstopper regarding Mars colonization is an issue I've yet to see addressed; proper food preparation. Specifically, how do you design a smoking grill for Mars? You need hardwood or mesquite wood for it, and growing it would take years, and there's the smoke to consider, etc. After all, without real BBq ribs, human life cannot exist. :-)

Ya got me there. But even that will be accomplished in a shorter space of time than most imagine. Same goes for livestock.

Secondly, coffee; good coffee hasn't been successfully grown in greenhouses here on earth, so have we even researched how this can be done on Mars? This should be a primary research goal, placed well ahead of other, less critical colony necessities such as air and water. 

I see your point. You've been absolutely great CJ. Thank you and keep it up please.

Finally I should say, very early they would not dedicate themselves to making parts for one product. They would simply make parts in volume related to orders not even knowing what those parts are going to be used for. You don't need a central plan.

Also, it's not just metal or plastic parts. I worked for a company that worked with beryllium oxide ceramics. Part of their manufacturing was hydraulically stamped from powder and those parts (thousands of them) took less than a second per part (granted martians would have a less capable press to start, but there's nothing preventing them from scaling up if they have the need.)

When I say "none of the machinery will come from earth" I do not mean it as an absolute statement. Where it makes sense they will import things from earth but even then probably only as part of the new incoming colonists mass allowment. Material for all the massive things they need are already on mars. They would not import those things. Yes, earth could make fancier things than they could make for themselves until they develop more. They will never need those things until they are capable of making those themselves. About the only thing I can think of is advanced microprocessors. Most other electronics will be completely within their own capabilities to produce. They will not even have to go through the brick cell phone stage. The entire core cell phone electronics are a single chip or two they can import. A single satellite sent from earth will take care of all their phone and internet needs for quite some time (allowing them to roam half the planet.) I can see all colonists having something like an Ubuntu phone which only requires a keyboard and monitor to be a desktop computer. The monitors would be an import but the keyboards they could certainly make themselves. Yes, I know the Ubuntu Edge Kickstarter project failed, but I'm talking capabilities here.

outrage or outrageous?

The president is outraged, "No one is madder than me."

Somebody smack that moron.

The good news

Potential enemies are as screwed up as we are.

Are missiles cheaper than artillery shells?

Monday, November 11, 2013

The name you know

Remember that Eddie Murphy movie? Real life.


"Putting things in perspective: March 21st 2010 to October 1 2013 is 3 years, 6 months, 10 days. December 7, 1941 to May 8, 1945 is 3 years, 5 months, 1 day. What this means is that in the time we were attacked at Pearl Harbor to the day Germany surrendered is not enough time for this progressive federal government to build a working webpage.”

The gbaikie prize

I would favor a Mars prize ... say 5 billion to land dozen people. Payable upon safe landing. Up to dozen and so 416.6 million per surviving crew. And another 416.6 million per crew surviving after 5 years on the surface. Prize expires 2033. Total amount possible 10 billion dollars.
Ok, this is how I see it happening once this prize was announced.

Mars One contacts all their potential vendors into a room and says, "Let's go for it." They haggle the details revising the current plan. A little known blogger suggests they do it with two upgraded sundancers and hands each of the potential astronauts a copy of his settlement charter emphasizing the point that if a transportation company doesn't sign on to it only they would own martian real estate.

The moon is not Antarctica

Analogy are sometimes useful to communicate ideas. However, A is not ever B. Trying to force an analogy to reflect reality indicates a loose grasp of reality. Used correctly and without that confusion they are useful AS A MEANS OF CONVEYING THOUGHT.

But when it leads to confusion it's best to avoid their usage.

Rand is has me reading two long articles here and here.

Dr. Spudis can be relied on to provide solid (if sometimes biased) analysis, but this Veronique Greenwood seems to be one of those that doesn't know anyone that voted for Nixon (you know, the guy that carried 49 of the 57* states.)

* 57 was what Obama said, Palin was mocking him (not that useful idiots get clarifications.)

But even looney tunes can sometimes get things right...
These decisions are important because they won’t affect just the moon.
Even now control freaks are writing rules to take away liberty. Yes, yes, I know that refers to all aspects of life, but I'm being more specifically on this topic. It will happen if we allow it.

How do I know? Because we reelected our present president. Everybody over 50 that wasn't drinking the kool aid was stunned into reality with that event. Fascism is here. Don't go into the showers.

Def: Fascism - the negation of equal justice by means of wavers. This is not rule of law. This is rule by decree. Thousands of pages that nobody reads is usurpation (the wrongful seizure of royal sovereignty) of power especially when you can change the details without representative debate.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Search this blog

That tool on the right doesn't work right. I'm debating removing it. Better to use google with the filter.

The affirmative defense

Via Ace is apparently what lawyers call lying and Obama does it constantly.

Shouldn't the media have been telling us this... constantly. It's not like it's difficult to spot once you know what to look for.

President Scam Artist.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A question of value

Heinrich Monroe asks on October 29, 2013 - 15:16
What, precisely, is the value of the Moon? Mars?
Precisely? Already we discern a misunderstanding of value. Value is not intrinsic so can never be precise.



So, to be as precise as is possible: The moon/mars is worth the total of what all people owning its parts are willing to sell their parts for. It has no value until people own it. No wealth is created until people trade it. This is why nothing needs to be transported from one planet to another to create wealth. Ownership can be transferred electronically. This means mars can increase the wealth of people on earth without a single gram of matter being transferred.

What about mining?


Here and here.
The goal of keeping people alive in an enclosed, self-contained environment whisking through space may be beyond human capabilities for many centuries.
I believe this is a very true statement although predicting anything centuries out is a bit dicey.

But note this really has nothing to do with putting a colony on mars. We can certainly get people to mars orbit. SpaceX is even confident enough to put numbers to landing. $150m to $195m to put a lander in mars orbit. This lander will put 2500kg on the surface including four passengers.

There is no question we are up to the challenge of getting people to the martian surface. Can they live there?

A self contained environment works for perhaps a long time but will ultimately fail. Recycling is not going to be 100% so you need to provide for the losses. More important is that it is not growth. People don't want to live forever in tuna cans. You've got to go into the harsh environment to get resources. The biggest resource being more living space. Your sealed environment is going to be contaminated. So it's not really a sealed environment you need but an environment you can clean.

Which is funny since people now claim we can't do it because of dust. They talk of it as if they've forgotten that going around the earth at some places and times can kill the unprepared just as well.

Air filtration is a known technology. We can handle it. We just need to prepare for it. It is not a show stopper except in the minds of those that aren't going to be a part of this next age of humankind. Well a few will later claim they knew it all along.

Update from CJ: [To build tractors on mars] they will need to have either 3-printing, or it's going to be a very long time until they can do this.

Not you too CJ? Why does 3D printing cause us to forget how we do things without 3D Printing? To make a tractor you need the parts and the labor of two people for about 8 hrs. (in the example I'm using.) Enough parts to build two tractors can fit on one lander (2500kg.)

To build the parts you need material and a machinist. Of the 1000 or so parts required, hundreds of them can be made in seconds (3/4" washer x 238) by a skilled machinist. All of them could be produced in a month or so. The raw materials are everywhere in martian dirt (15% iron which is easily made into steel using the carbon in the martian atmosphere.)

It's not just the initial tractor parts we should send. Along with the machinists personal tools we should send parts for the tools like metal extruders. They can make the dies themselves. This quickly gives them a leg up on industrial capabilities. Otherwise they'd have to start as blacksmiths but that works as well until they move beyond that.

That's not to say that 3D printing isn't useful, but it is not required; they will have it anyway.

Something else I'd like to add... some things are not visible to many people. In any city you will find machine shops because they are essential as a foundation for everything else. Alvin Toffler talked about transitions as if they were clearly delineated. They aren't. TV didn't eliminate radio. Radio didn't eliminate reading. ...and so on. We may live in a disposable society where everything is made on the other side of the world, but that's just circumstance, not the only way things can be. Mars will be different because the circumstances are different, but the underlying reality doesn't change.

Another something... what's the difference between big industry and garage industry? Scale. 3D printing is not the only way to get self replicating. The key ingredient is the design. Designs can be scaled, but you have to have one first. 3D printing is just another tool in the toolbox.

Friday, November 8, 2013

You Lie!

The title is evergreen regarding Obama and his mouthpieces. Now they're trying to blame insurance companies for ObamaCare issues.

Ev. Er. Green.

3D printed metal gun

Did they ever hear of counter sunk screws?

You just know it's a false flag operation

Why? Because we want people to know what ObamaCare means to them personally. DOS attacks are limited to the time when people bother and are usually short lived. DOS attacks are not free and conform to economic laws.

Ask yourself, why now is DOS being talked about rather then at the time?
The website debacle -- which is actually saving Obama's ass right now, by disguising all the other more fundamental and less fixable problems with Obamacare...
Ace nails it.