Mars Mission

Getting a colony on mars requires new thinking. Here's the first. It can be done incrementally for only 1% of NASA's current annual budget; Because any mars colony plan will happen in two phases:
  1. Get abundant supplies preposition at a martian colony site.
  2. Send crew only after more than enough supplies are waiting on mars.
Before 2017 ends, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy will be able to put over 13 tons in mars orbit, or 2 to 5 tons each launch to the surface of mars for a total cost of under $200m. So 1% of NASA's budget could be used, starting today, to continuously send supplies to mars on two FH launches every 26 month launch window. That's affordable.

It also gets the public involved and inspired because they will participate and see forward moving action. Students (and naysayers) can contribute reasons for including various supplies. Only after we are sure we've thought of everything (reasonable) do we send crew on whatever architecture has been developed by that time. Having a known inventory waiting on the surface of mars significantly reduces any crew architecture planning risk and lowers the budget barrier.

Coming back from mars requires an earth return vehicle. An ERV is a separate issue from getting supplies to mars. It may be included or not, having no impact on other aspects of a viable mars colony.

If nothing more capable is available when we are ready, the FH alone can launch crew in a scalable architecture using a single two crew lander and inflatable habitat. According to SpaceX, The FH is capable of putting 13,200 kg in mars orbit. Reuse, which will significantly lower costs, will not be considered here. Musk says the FH isn't big enough, but if it performs as claimed, it may be. The Dragon is certainly too small by itself for extended travel, but an added low mass, high volume inflatable makes it so. Multiple 2 crew FH launches sends as many crew as funding allows per window.

A 2 crew FH launch will consist of...
  • 6,500 kg Dragon Red lander.
  • 2,000 kg docking chamber (attached to Dragon at launch.) Mass may best be cut down from this element if required to stay within FH performance capabilities.
  • 3,500 kg of in transit consumables (enough that recycling is not required but could be included.) This will be stored in the docking chamber as radiation shielding (along with waste.)
  • 2 x 250 kg of personal property of each crew (this will not be touched until after landing.)
  • 500 kg for 2 suited crew with 2 weeks of consumables. Supplies for beyond 2 weeks will be less than 5 kilometers away. Much closer if Musk's claims of helicopter level landing performance are true. Rovers will already be available from previous cargo missions.
Total payload 13,000 kg. The docking chambers will have three docking ports and maximized volume. Docking chambers will be mated in transit (ion thrusters?) to mars and left in orbit as a modular space station.

Our total mission cost will be 1/3 of that published by Mars One. They propose $6b to get to first crew landing and $3b for every 26 month launch window. We expect more cargo before crew than Mars One proposes. After an over abundance of cargo is waiting, we propose $1b per window with crew on every launch (5 launches and 10 crew per mission, but scalable up or down.)

Docking chambers are not required for cargo missions which will preposition supplies for the following manned missions. Cargo missions will use the same lander as crewed missions so will fully test landings before risked by any crews. Prepositioned supplies will provide enough food to insure survival until the next launch window regardless of farming rates which in turn will determine if additional cargo resupply is required (emergency food should always be kept on hand although the need will relax with farming experience.) Cargo before crewed flights will include more than just food. A rover and trailer for unpressurized transport of 50+ kilometers (farther with included solar recharging or methane engine electric generators) could meet incoming colonists. Other equipment, such as a 1,000 kg tractor, could be assembled manually from parts (in less than a day by two crew.)

Each cargo lander will have a water tank filled from heated mars soil. Solar power and batteries will split water into tanks of oxygen and hydrogen which will produce methane and will land about 10 kilometers apart.

All landers are temporary shelters only.  From orbit the crew will dig trenches telerobotically and finish permanent habitats after reaching the surface. Power, food, water, oxygen and methane will be waiting at each site.

So getting crew to mars will require a $500m annual investment, but easily scalable up or down. In other words, 5% interest on $10b should fund colonization forever (even with unforeseen problems.)

Important factors to consider.

Free trade principles and ownership should be fundamental precepts of any colony. Planned economies simply do not work. This also insures not putting all eggs in one basket. Failures will happen. Things will break. The solution is to expect it and have the means to deal with it. Economic laws insure abundance and happiness. Including 250 kg of personal property with each colonist insures the individual wealth that guarantees liberty. How so?

The personal property brought from earth will compete with the cost of buying directly from earth (for those things mars can not produce.) Assuming 2,500 kg for $200m that would be an added mass surcharge of $80,000 per kg. Now multiply that by 250 kg. That's a maximum theoretical worth of $20m (wait time from earth bumps that up a tad.) Actual worth will be much less; what ever people over time are willing and able to pay. Whatever that is should be significant if the personal property is chosen wisely to hold value.

No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

We've already identified our goal, $10 billion. How do we get it? Mars has 144 million square kilometers of potential real estate. That's 14.4 billion hectares, so 10 billion hectares at $1 each would do it. So we set up a trust and trading system. Any stock trader should understand bid/ask limit and market orders. The trading system will begin with a 10 billion hectare $1.00 limit sell order. Anyone that adds cash to the trust could put in a market order for as many hectares as they choose (at $1 per hectare.) They could then add there own limit sell order for any dollar amount (which allows everyone to determine value individually... $2 or $2,000 or any dollar amount they choose.) This should give us a true market value.

Every month the trust will use interest earned above expenses to put in a market buy order. Our goal is to earn a conservative 5% or more annually on the money in the trust. Obviously, the lower limit sell orders will trade first. I will personally add my own market buy order from time to time (meaning I could never get it for less than $2 per hectare!) Why would I do this when others could buy the first 10 billion for a dollar each? Because the purpose is to fund colonization and liquidity is important for this to work. For example, $24,000 at 5% would create about a $100 per month buy order which I would personally add to. Even if you were not interested in martian real estate you can contribute to mars colonization with this system and perhaps make a profit as well.

The interest earned will not all go into buy orders. It's primary purpose is to pay the travel ticket costs for anyone going one way to mars. Martian colonists will claim land by possession into the trust. The hectares in the trust will be converted to a formal legal title when a martian purchases surveyed land on mars from the trust. This is an improvement to my original plan in that martians purchase at market rate rather than some arbitrary value.

Note that everyone that purchases a hectare for $1 will have the option of selling it for $2 but when is not guaranteed if others are ahead of you. A fully funded trust could buy back all hectares in just over 40 years (less than 2% annual return.) But the purpose of the trust is to support a mars colony for the benefit of all humanity. A person may sell their hectares over time rather than as a single transaction (order execution rules will make this more likely making things more fair for everyone.)

The more colonists that migrate the more the land will appreciate. Once living on mars is demonstrated and every colonist arrives a millionaire the pace of conversion of trust land to titled land should pick up.

As an example: There are published methods for making solar panels on mars, but let's assume they could not. Further, assume a new colonist brings 250 kg of solar panels as his personal items. When that colonist arrives, they might like to have a home waiting for them (rather than taking a year sitting in a tuna can while building it.) So they let the colony know a year or two in advance they'd like to buy that home. The colony let's him or her know they will trade for panels. That home (a mansion because, why not?) with labor and materials might be worth $250k. The new colonist knowing the mass surcharge value, trades 50 kg of panels for it. Everybody is happy. The new colonist contracts for another home to be built as an investment for another 50 kg of panels. They still have 150 kg to trade for other valuable things (perhaps brought by others in the same group they arrived with.)

I need a smart lawyer to set much of this up. I'm hitting the road soon to make it happen (AZ, CA & NV.) Contact me if you are a smart lawyer.

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