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#1 2017-02-15 15:14:52

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 4,710

Growing the Mars Economy

Some thoughts on the outlines of a Mars economy and how a Mars Consortium might develop profitable activities which generate revenue that can then be ploughed back into colony development. 

MARS ECONOMIC ACTIVITY

Basing my analysis on a figure of $20,000 per kg for transit from Mars to Earth, I think the following revenue earners could be pursued by early colonists.


1.    Sale of regolith- I think a figure of $100,000 per kg will be quite reasonable. Even ordinary Mars dust will be a very valuable commodity (as is ordinary lunar dust).  The demand will come from universities and research institutes on Earth.   

2.     Sale of meteorites. 

Meteorites on Earth are collected by both scientists and private collectors. Rare meteorites can be worth millions of dollars. Mars meteorites will be rare almost by definition.  I think we could be talking about $500,000 per kg for the right meteorites. Geology.com offers advice over the web on the pricing of meteorites. At the cheap end these can start at around 50 cents per gram. But rare Mars and lunar meteorites may sell for $1,000 per gram or more – much more in some cases.  So a kilogram meteorite could cost around a $1million or more.

3.     Export of gold, platinum, diamonds and other precious metals and stones.  With gold currently trading at over 50,000 dollars a Kg, this could be a major source of revenue. Of course it does depend on the colonists discovering exposed gold sources on the surface – no reason why not as no one else is prospecting for gold. Similarly other precious metals and stones could produce huge amounts of revenue. 

4.     General commercial sponsorship. The sponsorship available for the initial landings should be on a par with the Olympics. But there will be opportunities for ongoing sponsorship e.g. of exploration missions to Olympus Mons or the Grand Canyon of Mars or to the polar region.  Commercial sponsorship of the Olympics amounts to about $1000 million in the Olympic year. I think we could assume the initial landing could attract sponsorship of about $500million at least.  Subsequent explorations should be able to clear at least $200million a time I would say. The first mission to Mars would generate huge interest on Earth with frequent bulletins on news programmes around the planet. This is what really attracts big sponsorship.

5.    Sponsored colonists.  The “gap year” student.   There will be no shortage of young suitably qualified personnel who would wish to be part of the experience of building the Mars colony as part of an interval between education and work. And, who can doubt that employees back on earth would be keen to employ young enterprising people who take part in this way and show determination, fortitude and a high level of skill acquisition?  Of course the gap year concept will be extended somewhat – it may be a round trip of 2.5 years, with perhaps 1.5 actually spent on Mars.

4.  University of Mars franchise - establishment of a University on Mars. This could be the subject of competition between the best endowed seats of learning on Earth. Those with a strong planetary science and astronomy bias might be tempted to sink a lot of money into such a project, especially if they were being guaranteed a head start over their rivals. Mars University of Harvard?  Sorbonne Mars? Kyoto Mars University?  It might begin as a small postgraduate teaching and research facility.  A University, possibly with a benefactor’s backing might be prepared to sink several hundred million dollars into such a foundation and continue to fund at a significant rate. The University franchise would then be biying life support, transit facilities and so on from the Mars Consortium. 

5.    Sale of Mars TV rights. Clearly exclusive TV rights to the initial Mars landings would have huge value.  I think we could be talking about $200-500 million – with the globe parcelled up into about 10 lots.

6.    But later exploration missions TV rights will also command high prices.

7.    Once agriculture is up and running, there will be a significant market across Earth for luxury foods and wine from Mars. How about a bottle  of “Mars Champagne” at $200,000?  Any takers?  There will be.

8.     Luxury goods – e.g. a Mars Rolex.  The mechanism might be made on Earth, but the watch is finished on Mars with Mars gold. 

9.    Sale of “real time” interactive experience on Mars. If we can beam back 3D data from Mars, there would be scope I think for interactive facilities on Earth.  Eg. on Earth you get to move replica rocks around with an automated digger, but the automated digger on Mars performs the same action.  And perhaps drills into the rock to analyse it. Lovers and individuals might pay to drill their names into Mars rock.

11.    Mars tourism.  If we can develop direct shot rocket technology, I think there will be scope for development of Mars tourism – people coming to Mars for perhaps 2 month stays and going on treks to the major tourist sites (e.g. Olympus Mons).  Of course, initially, this will be the province of the super-rich but if the colonists can master home grown

12.  Leasing of land and bonds. This is more speculative - as the economic potential of Mars becomes clear, so will the urge to invest.  If there is a legal framework backed by a group of Earth nations or the UN, this will allow the sale of land (perhaps on long leases) and also investment bonds.  If a million square kilometres was sold off at $10,000 a square kilometre, that would raise $10 billion. People would likely view these as very long term investments.

MAIN POPULATION CENTRES

Firstly, as on Earth, location next to a convenient water supply will be a vital settlement factor. Therefore we can expect settlements to be located in those parts of the planets where we get good readings for water vapour and/or where there are large glaciers.

Secondly, as on Earth settlements will probably avoid the coldest parts of the planet (although, as on Earth, there might be scientific outposts in the polar regions).

Next, we have to have regard to the energy source which is most likely to be solar. That means that areas in shade for a long part of the day will be avoided and equatorial regions will be favoured.

Ease and safety of the landing area will be another factor. That will tend to favour the Northern plains.

Tourism will in due course become an important part of the Mars economy, both internally and in terms of attracting visitors. We can imagine that both Olympus Mons, which enjoys an elevation of over 21,000 metres and Valles Marineris will be rival or complementary attractions.  So we can expect settlements to grow up at both those locations to serve visitors.

The other main influences on settlement location will be: scientific interest and mineral deposits. We will certainly be looking to site one or more settlements close to high quality iron ore and aluminium deposits in order that they can become metal making and metal working centres. In connection with steel production we might also favour those areas with rare deposits of calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate (in the form of limestone) has an important role to play in steel production on Earth as a material that draws off impurities from the molten ore, thus facilitating the production of pure iron. Carbon has a vital role to play in iron and steel manufacture. Depending on the quantities of carbon introduced into the mix, the metal has different properties. The right amount of carbon is essential to produced a good hard steel.  Of course carbon can be extracted from the atmosphere on Mars via carbon dioxide, which will available everywhere.

The presence of high grade gold and diamonds could be another very important factor, given that their high value to low mass ratio make them candidates for Mars exports to Earth. We don't yet know whether these will be present and accesssible on MArs.

Taking all the above factors into account, the likelihood is that there will be a bias towards settlements being located in the Northern Hemisphere, but close to the equator, possibly close to glaciers (if permafrost deposits of water ice are not available). Proximity to iron and aluminium deposits will be of great importance.

We must remember that human beings always bring an economy with them.  It is really the presence and activity of human beings on Mars which will generate economic output.  People use energy, need habitats, require food, wish to visit each other – so on and so on. It is the activity of meeting needs that will create the real Mars economy. Although we will start with a picture of isolated self-sufficient bases, soon inter-base trade routes will spring up.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#2 2017-03-13 10:27:42

JohnX
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From: Thunder Bay
Registered: 2017-03-10
Posts: 73
Website

Re: Growing the Mars Economy

Wow, you're the ideas factory.
What about the clash between scientific research on the surface and building an economy? For example, this paper -

https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1511/1511.05615.pdf

- proposes to make important sites on Mars off-limits to development in order to preserve them. This would almost certainly include a lot of the tourist must-sees. So perhaps the visitor centre would be built at some distance from the edge of Marineris and they drive in.

It's already sounding like the Red Mars / Green Mars dichotomy in KS Robinson's novels, don't you think? How can there be an agreed balance?


-- Because it's there! --

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#3 2017-03-13 11:37:48

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 4,710

Re: Growing the Mars Economy

I've never read Robinson's novels, although they sound interesting. What is the dichotomy?

The idea of declaring planetary parks is a good one and yes, one would hope visitor centres were located outside those parks. I would prefer to see the parks established by a Mars Consortium rather than the UN. These are big issues for how Mars will develop in the fuure. I think it is likely to be much more successful and interesting if a Mars Consortium dominated by Space X has control, rather than UN appointed officials.






JohnX wrote:

Wow, you're the ideas factory.
What about the clash between scientific research on the surface and building an economy? For example, this paper -

https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1511/1511.05615.pdf

- proposes to make important sites on Mars off-limits to development in order to preserve them. This would almost certainly include a lot of the tourist must-sees. So perhaps the visitor centre would be built at some distance from the edge of Marineris and they drive in.

It's already sounding like the Red Mars / Green Mars dichotomy in KS Robinson's novels, don't you think? How can there be an agreed balance?


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#4 2017-03-13 14:08:22

JohnX
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From: Thunder Bay
Registered: 2017-03-10
Posts: 73
Website

Re: Growing the Mars Economy

Everyone loves SpaceX! - except for competitors such as ULA.

I've never read Robinson's novels, although they sound interesting. What is the dichotomy?

The first book tracks (among other things) a running debate, then a kind of civil war, between various people and factions who want Mars to stay as it is, un-terraformed, pristine, mainly so they can do science, find life, etc - ecological-type concerns - and the others who to varying degrees are keen to change Mars to suit humankind. Loosely labelled 'Reds' and 'Greens', except the Greens are not the ecological ones on Mars!

I'd recommend reading all 3 asap! Written in the '90s I think but still ahead of their times in many ways.


-- Because it's there! --

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#5 2017-03-13 16:08:02

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 4,710

Re: Growing the Mars Economy

We have already seen some people on Earth argue that we should leave Mars in pristine condition and explore only by robot, given the possibility of existing or now extinct life on Mars (even though it is very likely some Earth DNA has already found its way to Mars hitching a ride on Mars-bound spacecraft).


JohnX wrote:

Everyone loves SpaceX! - except for competitors such as ULA.

I've never read Robinson's novels, although they sound interesting. What is the dichotomy?

The first book tracks (among other things) a running debate, then a kind of civil war, between various people and factions who want Mars to stay as it is, un-terraformed, pristine, mainly so they can do science, find life, etc - ecological-type concerns - and the others who to varying degrees are keen to change Mars to suit humankind. Loosely labelled 'Reds' and 'Greens', except the Greens are not the ecological ones on Mars!

I'd recommend reading all 3 asap! Written in the '90s I think but still ahead of their times in many ways.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#6 2017-03-13 17:42:05

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 15,823

Re: Growing the Mars Economy

louis, the inital post is like several other closely related topics of economic of Mars as it relates to exports of mars but we will be waiting decades it would seem to get to that place in which men can go to mars and build empirers off from what is naturally there.

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#7 2017-03-13 17:50:39

RobertDyck
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From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 5,748
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Re: Growing the Mars Economy

louis wrote:

The idea of declaring planetary parks is a good one

Very very bad idea. At the Mars Society convention of 2004 in Chicago, one individual claimed we have to act fast before it's too late, to declare vast tracts of Mars as preserves that cannot be touched. I stood up to argue against him. My political views are generally moderate, but this time I sounded like a red-neck conservative. I said if we did that then why would anyone want to go to Mars? There are people today willing to sell their house, sell their car, liquidate their life insurance, liquidate their retirement savings and pension plan, all for a ticket to go to Mars. The reason is specifically to get away from the unreasonable overbearing excessive regulation that exists on Earth today. If we duplicate all that unreasonable overbearing excessive regulation on Mars, before anyone has even set foot on the Red Planet, then why would anyone want to go? This individual proposed regulation treating Mars like Antarctica. I pointed out from a business standpoint, Antarctica is an abject failure. Several resources have been identified: iron ore, coal, oil, gold, and other resources. None have been commercially utilized. So from an industry or economic standpoint, Antarctica is an abject failure. The fact we can reserve one of the seven continents of our planet for the scientists to go play in, demonstrates just how rich we've become. But if we do that to the entire planet Mars, who's going to pay the bills? Or, you could look at it in terms of resources instead of money. After all, money is an artificial construct. On Mars we need materials to build pressurized habitats and life support systems. Opportunity discovered something that a grad student working for Dr. Carol Stoker called "blueberries". Those "blueberries" turned out to be hematite concretions. They're rich iron ore. And we can use the Direct Iron method to smelt them. The Direct Iron method uses less coal and produces fewer carbon emissions than any other method of smelting. And it costs less, which is why industry on Earth uses it. However, it only works with very high grade ore. Luckily the hematite concretions are that high grade ore. This is important for Mars because it operates at lower temperature; still +900°C (or a little higher) but low enough that you can directly use the heat from a nuclear reactor. You don't have to convert to electricity, then convert the electricity to heat. Using the heat directly is far more efficient. (The speaker who proposed the preserves cringed when I mentioned nuclear reactors.) And there is anorthite and bytownite which can be smelted to produce aluminum. (I first gave my presentation about smelting aluminum at that convention, earlier that same day.) Then I said, but realize what we're talking about. Harvesting hematite concretions means open pit strip mining. Are you going to ban open pit strip mining on Mars? (He made a cough of exasperation when I mentioned "open pit strip mining".)

Do not pander to the "Planetary Protection" people. If they had their way, humans would never leave Earth. The whole point of Mars is a new place to live, a place start over without all the ridiculous over-regulation and taxes that exist here. If you pander to them, they'll argue against MCP spacesuits due to the danger of DNA from human dead skin leaking through the fabric onto the surface of Mars. Of course high UV-B and UV-C together with perchlorates in soil will sterilize anything that gets out, but those who are irrational just don't care. If Mars is going to have any parks at all, that's a decision for people who live there. Not for people on Earth to decide. So until we permanently settle Mars, no parks, no preserves, no nuthin' (double negative and misspelling on purpose).

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#8 2019-08-10 15:15:58

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 15,823

Re: Growing the Mars Economy

One thing for sure is that mining and processing of mars will lead to a successful mars in the future.
http://www.marspapers.org/paper/Dyck_2004.pdf
Aluminum processing

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#9 2019-08-11 16:56:43

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 4,710

Re: Growing the Mars Economy

I think I would add to my list at least one other category:

The First Phenomenon.

There will be a lot of organisations on Earth wishing to get a toehold on Mars to, as it were, "plant their flag" there. What better way than to organise something that can claim to be the "first" on Mars? 

So for any activity you can think of, which has a world organisation, there will be a potential source of money.

Why wouldn't various sports federations not want to sponsor export of their sport to Mars?  FIFA might well be prepared to fund a competition on Mars for instance. Same will got for lots of other sports: golf, tennis, and so on. They plant their flag on Mars and they get a lot of free publicity back on Earth.

It's not just sport though. Some bank will want to have the first ATM machine on Mars, or open a first branch there. McDonalds may want to establish the first burger outlet on Mars...

On and on it will go...


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#10 2019-08-11 17:18:13

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 15,823

Re: Growing the Mars Economy

You are suggesting a Mars product brand recognition not only for providing it for mars but also for once man can build it on mars....

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#11 2019-09-02 07:58:53

tahanson43206
Member
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 914

Re: Growing the Mars Economy

For Louis re topic and settlement of Mars in general...

The Space Show has scheduled a provocative speaker, who has (apparently) written an article which is negative about Mars.

This should be just the sort of thing that would stimulate discussion here.

4. Thursday, Sept. 5 , 2019: 7-8:30 PM PDT (9-10:30 pm CDT; 10-11:30 PM EDT): We welcome GEORGE DVORSKY, Senior Staff Writer for Gizmodo, regarding his recent article "Humans Will Never Colonize Mars." .

I have found references to The Space Show in the NewMars archive, so I know that more than one person knows about this resource.

(th)

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