Sunday, November 24, 2013

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.

1 comment:

C J said...

Personally, I've long been of the view that it's not an either/or proposition. I think asteroid mining (and thus space bases) is essential to space growth, but the asteroids are poor in many metals. Mars isn't.

So, I think you need the belt, and Mars, and I think you need the Moon, too. Frankly, I'd favor the moon over Mars if not for the fact that, so far as we know, water exists on the moon only in low concentrations. Other than that, the Moon makes a great first colony site, but water is everything.

I don't think we need to do them all at once, and so IMHO MArs makes sense as the first step, because getting set up there gives us the transportation infrastructure to easily do the Belt and the Moon. Doing the Moon first does not.