Sunday, November 24, 2013

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.


C J said...

I like it! Especially your inclusion of the Tragedy of the Commons, which has been the single greatest cause of colony failure and near failure throughout history.

It's worth bearing in mind that many of the land rushes were exactly that; a quest for land. For remote inland places, there was no way to ship produce for trade, so trade was not the initial motive. It was land. I'll also note that land is how the long distance railroads were built; the government gave them land in return.

The economic model Ken proposes has been used before, and it works.

One thing though, don't forget other aspects of the railroad analogy; once the railroad arrived (thus providing economic transportation) that land skyrocketed in value, because you now had export potential. My guess is that Mars will have this sooner than we think; those ships heading back empty are basically a free ride. It's also worth bearing in mind that it costs a hell of a lot less Delta/v to get to LEO from Mars than from here, and by that, I mean Low EARTH orbit. Mars is thus a far better choice for material supply for LEO and GEO, and later, satellite manufacture.

I gotta ask... "The canary has landed"????

ken_anthony said...

Think cole miners. Those first four determine if the eight remaining in orbit land or return to earth.

ken_anthony said...

Coal... fingers didn't engage the brain again.