Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mars myopia

Many people can't see living on mars. "It's too cold." "It's too toxic." "It's too barren." "It's too..."

They have the exact same problem as those described in "Where are the bicycles?"

People live a certain life and can't imagine another.

"It's too cold." Not in any mars home that has enough energy. People freeze on earth in some places when the power goes out and they are not prepared.

"It's toxic." Everything is toxic in the wrong proportions. You fix the proportions.

"It's too barren." Not in a Zubrin hobby farm. Martians will have shirtsleeve gardens. Seeds are perfectly designed for space travel. There will be no shortage of variety on mars.

"It's too..." I don't know. What? Expensive? To get there, yes. That's why you need a plan (see the motivations page above.) But once on mars, most things could be very inexpensive. Because mars has natural resources in abundance. Those could be easy or hard to get. The difference will be how well prepared the martians are. They need industry. Industry isn't magic. It's knowledge. Smart martians will take that knowledge to their new home. Capitalism is about creating machine capital and knowledge capital which makes everything cost less. Martians will not forget to have heavy equipment and other machinery... and machinists to make things. I know a printing operation that never buys any replacement parts (things always break.) Instead, when something breaks, they have machinists that immediately make a better than new replacement part.

People on mars will think differently because they will have to. We need them so WE can see.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Revised Settlement Charter

This is a revision of an earlier post. Update: Final Charter.

Space Settlement Charter
To expand the human community economic sphere.

Settlement of the solar system will only happen when the economic motivations encourage it which is the purpose of this document. Members of this charter include any that agree to its terms and join in defending it and its members. You do not need to make a claim to be a member.

Some fundamental principles:
  • This charter will be a legally binding contract on it's members.
  • The only justification required for colonization is that people want to go, assuming they do not force other people to pay for it.
  • The chain of ownership of all property begins as part of a claim. Chain of title starts with a claim and determines ownership.
  • The universe is currently full of unclaimed property and legally binding claims may be made by members according to the terms of this charter.
  • Individual members of this charter shall each make one reasonable claim.
  • This charter defines a reasonable claim to be one square kilometer surface area, surrounded by a perimeter road, including all rights of ownership to a reasonable depth (to be determined by members.)
  • People are not the property of their governments. They do not require the blessings of their governments to assert their rights.
  • Freedom requires consent. Consent must be true and not a fiction imposed by others. Absolute property rights means that no others may impose a tax (by any name) on a property owner without their true consent or by threat or by force.
  • The 'public' does not have superior rights to the individual. Anything the 'public' needs can be accomplished by contract between people. Using force beyond freely agreed terms is tyranny.
  • There is no such thing as intrinsic value. Value is determined by each individual person which is the basis of all free trade.
  • Wealth is created from nothing by free trade.
  • Colonization is not likely to be economically feasible for most individuals now or anytime in the foreseeable future. This charter will provide economic motivation for transportation companies to provide both free passage and supplies/equipment to create a positive reinforcement to encourage settlement.
  • Colonists are risking their lives. They should not arrive on a new world as slaves or in poverty.
A registry will be established to record claims and chain of title. A member is entitled to only make a single claim (one sq. km.) by possession (a boot print on the claim witnessed) after intent to a claim is established in the registry in an orderly manner. The new owner may sell or lease it in whole or in parts, developed or undeveloped, as soon as the claim is registered and possessed with the condition that any subsection sold must have access to the perimeter road. A member may of course purchase other land from other members that have title by the terms of this charter by agreement without further restrictions.

A transportation company may make thousand(s) of one sq. km. claims, according to the following terms:

To qualify for claims a company must transport colonists free of charge alive to the martian surface with a working space suit and supplies. Supplies for the trip shall be provided by the transportation company free of charge. The space suit becomes the property of the individual colonists and is part of their mass allotment to the surface. Supplies for the surface, other than the space suit, will be purchased before the trip at the colonists expense and discretion. Total mass shall be one metric ton per colonist to the surface which includes the mass of the colonist and all his or her provisions. Each of the company claims, up to 1000 per colonist, must identify the unique individual claim that authorizes the company claim. The transportation company must wait at least one hour between registering each claim.

To be explicit: If a company transports a dozen people, they are entitled to 12,000 sq. km. after all of those colonists make their single claims. It would take at least 17 months for the company to register all those claims; however, they could begin selling plots from claims already made within an hour.

The transportation company may use subcontractors during different phases of transportation, but on their own terms which do not change the terms of this charter. This means only the transportation company can make company claims, but they could then transfer title to subcontractors on whatever terms are agreeable between them.

No claim will be made by any member (this includes any transportation company) that is not in the registry. To do so nullifies their membership and any legal protection by this charter or by other members. The registry will do all it can to avoid this situation.

It is understood that the economic motivation for transportation companies goes up as it's costs go down. This is why competition from many transportation companies is encouraged.

It is also understood that land value goes up with population. This means that in time the economic motivation will only get better and better. Let the land rush begin.


Using mars as an example; Elon Musk and Robert Zubrin have independently determined that the cost per person of transportation to mars in a few decades should be about $500k per person. We have determined that even at 100 times that cost a transportation company would make a profit selling half acre plots to people on earth for around $100 each. Which means only $1 per plot if Musk or Zubrin are correct. We need look no further for an economic incentive that opens up the solar system.


Can colonist live on mars? Yes, but to avoid a suicide mission they must have the skills for a complete ISRU industrial ecology. This means they must be able to produce on mars the few dozen items required for their own life support and have the capability of making almost anything else. This requires a minimum of about four dozen colonists. Until then, supplies from earth could provide a supplement to the colonists resources. An estimate is that four tons of supplies could be sent to the surface of mars using a Dragon 2 lander for about $150m.

Update: The proposed Mars One lander should deliver 2500 kg to the martian surface for about $190m (including up to four crew.)

Update: Possible modification. When ten percent of the land on a body has been claimed (14.4 million sq. km. in the case of mars) the transportation companies total claims are reduced by 10% to 900 sq. km. per colonist claim. When the second 10% has been claimed, the transportation company may only claim 800 and so forth. Finally when 90% has been claimed, the transportation company may only claim 100 sq. km. per colonist claim.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Space profits

If you ignore the billions of dollars companies are already making in space, "nobody can make a profit and it's a complete waste of time" seems to be the reasoning of many when confronted by two space mining companies who's future is unknown.

For those companies to profit they need customers for their product willing to pay more than the cost of producing that product. They can, but not by bringing material to earth. Asteroids provide all the materials found on earth, but the market for that material is in space. They only need to mine one thing to be profitable, water, the rest is gravy.

What's the market for that water? It's not the water itself although that's worth thousands of dollars per pound in orbit; It's the oxygen in water that combines with rocket fuel to provide deltaV. Today that market is small (satellite refueling) but one thing alone would make that market huge... settlement.

Settlement will create a huge demand for mined materials but only if settlement itself is profitable.

It will never happen if colonists have to pay their own way. Even if the ticket were free they would still have to pay for a spacesuit which alone make it prohibitive. So we need a plan that makes transporting those colonists (provided with a spacesuit and supplies) profitable for the transportation company without charging the colonists at all. We do that by providing the space transportation company with a legal asset worth more than the cost of transportation. Legal claim to 1000 sq. km. of land per colonist transported will do that.

Assume it costs $50m per colonist (only by doing it in bulk) to transport them to mars (which has 144,000,000 sq. km. of unclaimed real estate.) That cost is 100 times greater than Elon's claims it will be in the near future. The settlement charter would provide 400,000 quarter hectare (more than half an acre each) unimproved plots for sale by the transportation companies (per colonist transported) to recover their costs. Could they sell a half acre plot in a growing mars community to people on earth for $125 each? I'd buy one or more, so I'm guessing a lot of other people would too.

The value of that land goes up as more people settle on mars. Mars can be settled by millions of people in the near future. All for profit.

The colonists don't arrive broke. They each have legal title on arrival to a 400 quarter hectare claim which over their lifetime can be developed into millions of dollars of improved property. They roll over the cost of development of each half acre plot sold to new colonists (each would otherwise have to develop their own homestead after arriving for about the same cost so it's a no brainer to buy instead) making just a few percent profit over cost of development to each become millionaires.

If that still doesn't sound doable remember we base these calculations on 100 times what Elon and Zubrin calculate to be the ultimate transportation costs. If Elon and Zubrin are right, break even for the transportation companies becomes $1.25 per quarter hectare. They could sell that in an afternoon.

We are not even scratching the surface of profits to be made by all involved. It is going to happen.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Boeing to mars?

Replace SLS with FH and it looks like they've been reading my blog. Bigelow modules and ion drives to return the vehicle to earth (they've got them prepositioning the vehicle at EML1) have been discussed not just here but on my previous blogs (one paid for and now gone forever.)

They're describing construction of the I.S.S. as an example for constructing their Mars Transfer Vehicle (M.T.V.) which I call a General Purpose Spaceship (it's just a matter of delta-V and provisions.) Funny how my GPS and their MTV both have more popular uses for those TLAs. But I cringe at the thought of I.S.S. being a construction example.

More from my blog, they would “teleoperate Mars surface assets in real time.”

Call me extreme

The Canadian Free Press asks the question, "Was Jesus a libertarian?"

Then it characterizes libertarian as doing only those necessary things which individuals cannot reasonably do themselves—like building an interstate highway system or fielding an army.

I don't see why federal government should be building interstates. This is the camel's nose. It's how the argument is lost... incrementally. There's a small thing ignored here.  It's not just the federal government vs. individuals. That's a false choice. States should build interstates. It just requires them to cooperate.

What about funding? It doesn't come from federal government; it comes from taxpayers.

What if a state can't afford their section of the interstate? If two states want to link up through a state that can't do their part, those two states better work it out. If they bypass that poor state, that poor state can decide if they want to be a part of an interstate system.

None of this requires the involvement of the federal government. But I wouldn't object to them being part of the planning; just don't let them control any state money. Camels should be kept outside the tent where they belong.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Injection molding

3D printers are great and I've got my eye on a $600 machine but they have drawbacks. Mainly speed if you want to produce something to sell. Let's not forget injection molding which is extremely fast once you make molds which 3D printers are ideal for.

Home models here and here.

Another option.

I like it

Randy fights for us. Via Rand.

Another rant of mine.

What kind of settlement? All I can afford is to be cheerleader. I can only lead a horse to water. If I had the money I'd own a BA330 w/Merlin and have it in orbit. Space tourists welcome.