Monday, April 21, 2014

The time when colonization of Mars becomes practical

That time has arrived. Several things have to happen in concert but they all can and are being worked on right now. The weak leg is funding which will be addressed herein. That funding can be accumulated now. We can do so by using a trust which addresses the issue of fraud and also mitigates other potential pitfalls.

Billions of dollars in technology is being designed, built, and tested by government and private industry for the purpose of getting humans to mars right now. We know how to get to orbit. We know how to build ships to go beyond orbit. We need better ways of landing on mars, but we have successfully landed on mars already.

SpaceX has been leading the way because of Elon Musk's vision and drive, but he is not alone. Elon now has a record of making things happen (congrats on the soft sea landing) so I'm betting the MCT becomes a reality but not even it is required. What they first called a Red Dragon has become a wider Mars One lander that Mars One feels confident enough in to put on their critical path. NASA is working on concepts to land 10 to 100 times the mass they've already successfully put on the surface of mars. Having the vehicles to land humans safely on the surface of mars are only a few years of funding away. The MCT itself is just scaling up of what SpaceX has been doing for it's entire eleven years existence. Funding is the key. SpaceX would love to sell you tickets. They claim they will eventually do it for $500k per person. I believe we need $250m per person ($4b for a dozen at a time) to do it with technology that will be available in the Mars One time frame. To meet that schedule, accumulating funding should start ASAP although we really do not have to meet that schedule as long as we make reasonable progress.

Zubrin and the Mars Society have researched living on mars. We know we could put people in a can with life support but living on mars will required ISRU industry. Freedom is also a requirement that is oddly missing in most settlement plans. Top down design only works for a small base. Settling a world requires individuals with assets and freedom to pursue each of their own individual dreams.

The foundational requirement for living on mars is simple chemistry and power. Jerry Pournelle in the 70s pointed out how fundamental energy is to living in style in space. We should be cautious that we provide them enough power for industry beyond just that required for living. Zubrin's Mars Society has shown how they can develop more on their own. Ultimately t\he colonists themselves will be responsible for what they bring which will be their own property (also solving the issue of how mars gets the things they can't produce themselves while incentivizing them to learn how.)

During the time that the technology matures we need to accumulate funding to buy the tickets for those willing to go. Mars One has identified 200,000+ of them.

I believe a trust is one of two keys required to accumulate and disburse the funding required. A trust holds money and property for the benefit of others. It is a contract managed by trustees. It's not a new concept having been used since at least the 1600s.

I believe we could transport a person with one ton or several of supplies to the martian surface with soon to be existing technology for $150m per person from already published prices. But that might be too optimistic. So the plan is to be able to accumulate more than $250m per person so a dozen at a time could go to mars by offering $4b to the company that would do it. This is the same ballpark using similar technology as Mars One has written about although not exactly. We can send more at a time than they propose which by itself reduces cost. The trustees would determine if any proposal meets the requirements to do that. With multiple acceptable proposals a reverse auction could determine the vendor to choose. Competition brings costs down.

The trust agreement has to cover many contingencies and will have to be worked out with lawyers that specialize in such things. The asset that provides the reason for adding money to the trust is the 144,000,000,000,000 sq. meters of martian surface area. It currently has no value although worthless $20 deeds have been sold online for years. But even a small value of just some of that produces a large enough sum to pay for realistic proposals.

Nothing has intrinsic value. The only value a thing has is what somebody is willing to pay for it. Most people will only spend money on things they can legally own. Can the martian surface legally be sold as real estate? Does it require the state to give it's blessings?

Historically right up to today real estate ownership is determined by chain of title. All chain of title begins with a claim. Without a claim, nothing is owned. Ownership itself is a moral imperative. Civilization outside utopian marxist fantasy is based on it. If only it was just fantasy because millions have died because of this false reasoning and millions more probably will. It's time to face up to the reality that if civilization is to exist on mars it will require private real estate ownership.

Recently I came across an expression of that utopian fantasy...
One can only hope that by the time colonization of Mars becomes practical that we will be beyond ownership of material things...
I am so thankful this thought was so well expressed because it has really fired me up. We might thank Star Trek for giving people this delusional fantasy but they are not alone. The U.N. is fully behind this idea and a broad range of lawyers are currently working to prevent others from owning space real estate. They'd rather it be owned by everyone meaning owned by no one and controlled by them. We can't let that happen. This will prevent us from becoming a spacefaring civilization. It will almost completely stunt any progress. It already has.

So how does ownership get worked out? It doesn't require the blessings of government. That is a trap. Governments have often recognized ownership after the fact and that is required here. The difficulty with getting to mars and the communications delay are actually a major advantage. A major reason for using a trust is to avoid the pitfalls required to claim ownership. The historical method of claiming property is by possession. Anyone can do this. The trick is defending that claim. Colonists privately funding transport to the martian surface will be able to use the strongest legal claim of ownership which is by possession. The trust makes it possible to do this with the right timing to prevent others from throwing a wrench into the works because the property is held in trust for the benefit of others but no claim is made before actual possession. But even before possession the trust provides contractual ownership of the land which others can not sue for because it has not yet been conveyed. Should land ownership for a particular plot be contested the most expedient thing to do would exchange it for another uncontested plot. Mars has a lot of potential real estate.

Who gets an account in this trust? Those that have proven their willingness to go one way to mars such as the 200,000+. They will risk their lives for the benefit of mankind. They need a plan that rewards their risks. They do not have to pay a cent and will arrive on mars with all the assets needed for a lifetime of freedom to pursue their dreams. Mars One will take 100,000 years to send everyone at a rate of 2 per year. We can do better. They selected over a thousand from the 200k in the current round of selections. So we start by randomly selecting four dozen from those. Once the first dozen have reached a certain level of funding we randomly select another thousand at a time (based on further criteria) until 10s to 100s of thousands have had a chance to participate. Each person will be assigned 1000 sq. km. (one billion sq. m.) in an account that accumulates 25 cents per sq. meter. This money comes from those that believe enough in the plan to contribute for the potential of owning mars real estate. Would you want a $50 government bond or 200m2 of mars real estate? Tell me again after hyperinflation. At 25 cents per m2 I would and so would many others if marketed correctly by people that know how. A 2000m2 homestead would cost $500. Putting it into a trust is how you prevent fraud and give the money time to accumulate. I'll let you know what the trust lawyers say but basically it's just a contract.

Letting it accumulate in trust means whatever the cost of the first landing it will be covered. The second landing will cost half as much since supplies will not need to be prepositioned for them. Elon see's 80k going but in a very hard sell. My plan will send 100s of thousands all arriving with a lifetime of assets so they can individually pursue their own dreams. Some will die. They will be doing it for humanity to produce a true spacefaring civilization because make no mistake, this will not be the only world we settle, just the easiest.

I can't really go into all the details here but please feel free to add your own thoughts in comments. An earlier post.

I am looking for lawyers specializing in trusts. Send them my way if you know any.


ken_anthony said...

Suppose we have Star Trek's replicator? It still requires energy to convert to matter. Will abundant energy (too cheap to meter) bring about utopia?

Even then civilization required control of assets. That's known as ownership.

ken_anthony said...

Just sold my Leprechaun and got a call from a trust attorney. They gave me a referal to a website. Finding the right lawyer is going to take a while.

C J said...

I'm in full agreement with you regarding ownership.

Without ownership, you get the tragedy of the commons on a planetary scale.

I'll also cite the Jamestown colony as a prime example; initially, they practiced communal ownership of everything, including food. This is why they starved. Once they switched to ownership (such as the producer owning most of what they produce)yields went up by a lot. HAd they not abandoned their misguided attempt at communism, they'd have all starved to death.