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#1 2012-12-16 03:09:12

JoshNH4H
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From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,526
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The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

I find that the hardest question for us to answer as space advocates, both to ourselves and to others is: Why space?  Why now?  Whether we like it or not, these are hard questions that we need to answer before we see widespread investment in space.  We need to show that space is worth it.  This means that it has to be either profitable to private enterprise or it has to generate clear benefits to people that make a government or governments pay for it.  Keep in mind that the US government at this time doesn't even seem to be willing to pay for proper upkeep of national infrastructure (and I do believe that Europe is in a similar, if not worse situation).  bujt really it has to be more than worth it; We have to show that a dollar spent on space will generate more money than a dollar invested in Google or Organic Monkey Farms in Central America (Don't laugh- or laugh harder that someone actually thought that it was a good idea to train monkeys to harvest food from the rainforest) or do more good than a dollar spent providing housing for the poor, spying on computer users in eastern Europe, or keeping Social Security solvent.

So we need to ask ourselves: What can Space do for Earth?

Beyond specifics, it is possible to use extensive automation and high resource availability to make manufactured goods land on Earth after raining down from the sky.  Essentially, further scope for exponential growth on Earth is limited; In space, or even in our solar system the limits are very far from where we are now.  So basically, the goal is to create a space-based economy capable of producing material goods of any and all kinds and sending them down to Earth.  In the short term this would result in massive economic dislocations, but in the long term it would lead to a situation of unprecedentedly high standards of living and all sorts of other good things that have been on humanity's wish list for possibly thousands of years.

There is no doubt that this is something that would be worth the investment, no matter how much that investment was.  Therefore we as space advocates and, generally speaking engineers (or at least people of an engineering mindset) need to ask ourselves what the best way to make this happen is.

When it comes to resources (meaning any object with mass that could conceivably contain something of value) that are in the general vicinity of Earth, there are NEOs, the Moon, and at least in a delta-V sense, Phobos, Deimos, and Mars.

So we need to ask ourselves:  How can we use the resources available to us to produce all the goods needed to create a high standard of living for all people on planet Earth, with a minimal initial investment?

The answer will be familiar to any person who's studied biology, economics, or that which is even more dismal than the dismal science, the works of Ray Kurzweil (Who is one of my least favorite intellectuals of all time- though that is very much unrelated to the content of this post).  Exponential growth.  If the infrastructure in space can be made to double every 5 years through heavy mechanization, computerization, and automation (40% growth in capacity each year), it's little more than a matter of time until space-based manufacturing becomes dominant.

I envision a system in which, following initial sortie missions to various locations, a fuel production plant is established at the lunar north pole.  In my opinion, the ideal fuel for production there would be methane and liquid oxygen which are storeable at the same temperature at pressures elevated even slightly above 1 bar (Two bar is more than enough and you get the density advantage of a cooler fuel).  This is assuming that carbon in some form is found on the lunar poles, an assumption that is not really unmerited given recent discoveries.  Failing that one tends towards an assumption of H2/LOX propellant.  This propellant will be stored in various depots, where practical (LEO and perhaps GEO stand out).

In the first stage of the development of space, enterprises will generally have low profit margins and long maturation times.  Essentially, the colonization of space has to begin with basic infrastructure investments: The fuel depot on the Moon, a colony on Mars (whose purpose I will elaborate on later in this post) and the beginning of in-space profitable ventures.  I'm not talking about tourism or souveneirs, by the way; While that may under some circumstances be an effective revenue source, they are small in comparison to manufacturing and are not reliable revenue sources in the long term.  Space is not The World's Largest Potato, and it's not Atlantic City (and/or Vegas).

I believe that, presented with a well thought-out plan for the development of space, it would be possible to get a government or an agency thereof to contribute money towards these infrastructure developments, either in the form of low interest loans or a subsidy, or both.

Once the colony on Mars is established, it will have two primary goals:  First to expand its manufacturing capabilities (through general expansion of the colony), and second to create a means to transfer the products of these to where they will do good, namely Earth's hill sphere.  This is where we get into the discussions that often happen in Life Support with regards to specific technologies to establish a Mars base and support its growth.  My typical baseline for the economic growth of a Martian colony is 10% population growth per year and 15% economic growth per year (where economic growth is roughly the same thing as industrial capacity). 

Within the earth's hill sphere, I see orbital manufacturing replacing terrestrial services one industry at a time; Perhaps at first it will be small, high margin activities such as collecting PGMs (Platinum Group Metals) from asteroids on the surface of the Moon.  Maybe, next, in-space power generation at GEO.  Later, maybe the production of high-quality semiconductors, cars, appliances, even food. 

The Mars colony will supply the seed industrial investment for all of these.  Perhaps at first, the machinery needed to do a certain activity will simply be imported from Mars to the EHS (Earth Hill Sphere; This is a nonstandard acronym but I think that it is quite useful).  Soonafter, infrastructure to mine Lunar ores for use in manufacturing will be sent.  Later, the Martians will send over the seed for an EHS industrial capacity, which will be expanded through what is essentially self-replication as necessary.  I would expect a significant proportion of manufacturing to occur at EML-4 and EML-5, due to their stability and proximity to the resources on the Moon.  Presumably they are also relatively easy targets for any incoming material from NEOs, which can be mined for materials that the Moon lacks, though it is possible that it will be more economical to import from Mars for some things.

The primary means by which the Martians will send things to the EHS will be from a space elevator.  A space elevator on Mars is much simpler than one on Earth and could be built with basalt fiber; it is entirely conceivable that Deimos could be used as the feed material for one (pending more information on the composition of Deimos; Failing that, a technique essentially the same as that proposed for Earth could be used, where a very small cable mass is sent up and then used to lift a larger cable that is actually capable of lifting useful cargo.  A space elevator would reduce the costs of sending cargo from Mars to the EHS down to near zero. 

Eventually, the infrastructure in the EHS will be self-replicating without significant inputs from Mars.  At this point, or soon after, there are several developments.  Firstly, hunger, poverty, and most crime is ended for every human living on Earth.  Undemocratic regimes of all types fall as people can no longer be bought with subsidized food or housing.  Even liberal democracies are extensively modified as both socialism and capitalism are forced to change beyond recognition.

Science becomes the dominant engine of economic growth; as the entire Earth becomes a rust belt, the primary challenge is how to get everyone a high level education so that they can contribute to technological developments that are the only thing that can be sold.  Mars, now with a relatively high population, becomes a society of engineers, spreading throughout the solar system and implementing the science that Earth is now discovering.  At some point, mass immigration from Earth to the rest of the Solar system will inevitably ensue.  Meanwhile, our digital consciousness will have been growing in scope and content through this phase, enabled partially by the economic revolution brought by the plan previously set forward.  At this point, I choose to stop my prognostication because I have clearly gone beyond what evidence can suggest.

One technological development that is a "must have" for this is cheap and simple aeroentry from Earth Orbit.  I don't care to speculate on future technological developments, specifically with regards to materials science, but looking at current technology I have a couple suggestions.  Firstly, inflatable heat shields made from basalt fiber to shed speed in the upper atmosphere.  Secondly, a lifting body or delta wing shape would seem to be a good idea in the context of shedding further speed in the lower atmosphere.  Finally, parachutes seem to be in order for the final stage of the descent.  The specific technologies will have to be worked out but I have little doubt that a relatively "dumb" and simple re-entry technique can be developed.

I will post soon about my estimates for the investment required for this massive venture.


-Josh

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#2 2012-12-27 22:44:48

Void
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Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 3,561

Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

I find that the hardest question for us to answer as space advocates, both to ourselves and to others is: Why space?  Why now?

Why? Because it's there and you can.  The baby boom generation (Which I belong to).  Was apparently raised to be the GI generations vision of a brilliant future, perfect in every way, the Jetsons.  (See the book "The fourth turning").

We were tought really to be just the opposite of them.  I suppose they wanted to live through us and so be able to live the methods of life that they had not.  We followed the script to a degree, but also because of our extreem individuality, really hippies became yuppies, and also we had a tendency to feel that we were required to challenge what the GI generation had built.  So, a large degree of non purpose was the result.  If you do choose to read that book and don't choose to dismiss it, you will find that this process has happened many times, and that what comes next after this current period could be another generation like the GI generation, where they will band together for a great purpose.  That should not be squandered.

Why space? Why now?  Why get up in the morning?  Why exist?  It is just the same as it ever was.  Our bodies are made of material, and there is a lot of material in space.  The other choice is to do battle with competitors to see who gets the materials here on Earth.  And with the weapons that are availible, that could spell a civilizational failure.

Our culture/s are too big now for one planet.  Separation allowed for some developement of human liberty in the case of America (I know that there are very good counter arguments).  But the point is that Europe gave birth to us, but was also a canibal parent.  Given the means, the higher powers in Europe which was more established would have turned us completely into plantations, for a quick coin, and would have destroyed any of the sub cultures that moved here that stood in the way.  This would have corrupted both Europe and America further than is the case.

The compulsion for domination which many people carry, and the compulsion for efficiency are contrary to the needs of the human soul.  (Which strangely the baby boomers are well equipped to comment on as they are the prophets).

The generation to come will need a task which involves great organization, self sacrifice, and hopefully a great gain for that.

The off Earth locations will allow that to take place without bumping into established cultures on this planet, and so can diffuse and manage the asperations of that generation to come, perhaps without shattering the Earth.

Last edited by Void (2012-12-27 22:48:04)


I like people who criticize angels dancing on a pinhead.  I also like it when angels dance on my pinhead.

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#3 2012-12-28 09:38:57

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,875

Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

I think Virgin Galactic and Space X are giving you the correct answers: because there are huge profits to be made. Space is going to be one big Klondyke within ten years. We will never have seen anything like it! Orbital and lunar tourism will both soon be here.  It would be sooner but I think Musk is a "Mars First" man and wants to crack Mars first.


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

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#4 2012-12-28 11:53:50

Void
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Registered: 2011-12-29
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

It does look good. smile


I like people who criticize angels dancing on a pinhead.  I also like it when angels dance on my pinhead.

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#5 2012-12-28 15:30:40

Terraformer
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From: Lancashire
Registered: 2007-08-27
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Why space? Because I want to go there, and will devote considerable effort towards that goal. Even if I have to take a one or two decade detour to build up a technological empire to finance it and make what I need.

I'm sure I'm not the only one like this as well. Even if a few hundred people end up as multi millionaires and none of them reach the billionaire stage, it's still a significant pool. Though, from the looks of things many of them *have* ended up as billionaires...

Maybe we should focus on developing technology that will have benefit to space but which can be commercialised here on Terra, and use the profits from them to fund our space dreams?


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

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#6 2012-12-29 11:47:28

Void
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

What sort of Earth type things interest you that would also be benificial in space?


I like people who criticize angels dancing on a pinhead.  I also like it when angels dance on my pinhead.

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#7 2012-12-30 06:45:55

JoshNH4H
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From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,526
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

If you all would, I would like to summarize the preceding comments.  Void, Louis, and Terraformer all proffered three different criticisms of both my proposal and my paradigm.

Void's response suggested this: No economic reason is necessary to establish a colony in space.  The reason?  My generation will "Do great things."  He posits a generational theory of society to explain this.  Details are not forthcoming and I take extreme issue with this method of thinking.

Louis, on the other hand says that instead of my proposal- which I will be the first to admit is grandiose- is not necessary because space is already proving profitable on a large scale.  He points to SpaceX and Virgin Galactic as examples and suggests space tourism as an economic sector where space would prove economically viable.  I disagree with this both in terms of the profitability of tourism-centered industries and in terms of the long term sustainability and development coming from these activities.

Finally, the simplest of the responses, far fetched though it may be.  Terraformer suggested that my proposal is irrelevant because he plans to get rich and do it himself, in company of those with similar views.

I will address these in reverse order.

Terraformer's proposal is perhaps the most realistic of the three.  He will simply amass a huge fortune, and in the company of other rich people, simply plow money into the development of space until it becomes a sustainable society.  Profitability isn't an issue; with enough money and enough resources in space, it has to become sustainable and self-expanding eventually.  The obvious problem is that he is not at the present time a millionaire or billionaire, and I would be willing to bet that he does not have million- or billionaire relatives, either.  Therefore my issue with this proposal is simply that it's difficult to get one's hands on that much money.

Of course I wish you well but I'm sure you will understand my basic skepticism on this topic.

Louis- We have discussed this at length previously.  While I stand by my position there for the short term, I think you'll find that my arguments here are of a different nature.  To bullet out a few objections:

-Tourism frequently does not result in large scale economic development; Examples abound.  Many of the Caribbean islands, Central and parts of South America, Dubai (That's oil money, not tourism money; and they're not doing all that well financially last I checked) end up with dual economies, where industries related to tourism provide jobs and incomes near those of the first world, and no benefit whatsoever comes to the rest of the population.  How many hotels are there where a walk of just a few blocks will take you into dangerous and extremely impoverished areas?

-Much of "Alt.Space" is ultimately funded by governments.  What position would SpaceX be in without its multibillion dollar launch contract from the government?  The contract they have is $1.6 billion for 12 Falcon 9 launches, which they would normally charge $54 million per launch for, or $650 million total.  That amounts to a government subsidy of almost $1 billion to SpaceX beyond what they're asking for.  Expounding on this, Virgin Galactic's spaceport in New Mexico received significant public funding, and Virgin Galactic wouldn't exist at all without money that people just gave away to the X-prize.  I don't know about you guys, but if I had millions of dollars I would not just give them away.  I suspect you'll find that the majority of people with that kind of money would agree with me.

-Tourism cannot in the long term provide the impetus for the development of a real civilization in space.  Tourism can, perhaps, create small outposts of towelboys and tour guides, but that's not much of a civilization.  I'm looking long term; Hundreds of years and new homes for Humanity.  Would America be where it was today if John Smith and all who followed sought only to create resorts for the British Aristocracy?  In fact, I believe that the events in the Jamestown settlement in Virginia indicate that that approach is probably not viable.

-Time and time again you have proven your accounting methods to be unrealistically optimistic.  I know you disagree;  You're still wrong.  I'd prefer not to discuss it here but if you want to bring it up in another thread to go at it I'll argue specifics.

My take on tourism is this: While it may play a small role in providing cash on hand at the beginning, on the whole it will never be the main focus of the Extraterrestrial Economy.  A successful economy creates real goods for internal consumption and export.  Tourism can fluctuate to nothing in a second with an economic downturn but if you have space-based sectors of an economy that provide necessary goods and services in a competitive way there is very little that can damage the long term viability of the Extraterrestrial Economy.

The world economy is $80 trillion dollars per year.  I want to see the Extraterrestrial Economy approach and eventually surpass that.  Tourism won't do it.  I look at tourism as a small bonus on top of the money that will come in from real economic activity in space.

Finally, Void:

I mean no offense to you personally, but that argument is among the craziest I have seen at Newmars coming from a sane poster*.

I feel as if I don't even need to reply to that post; having summarized it, the flaws present themselves.  My generation will just do it?  Why?  Does it look like were doing it now?  How do you know that?

You contend that we are rich enough and motivated enough that we will spend billions upon billions of dollars on achieving things with no tangible benefit to us or the human race as a whole.  8% unemployment in the richest and most space oriented country in the world?  No problem.  Over 80% of humanity makes less than ten dollars (PPP; 2005 dollars) per day.  That's $3,650 per person per year for the 80th percentile of humanity.  Most people make much less.  Are you going to tell them that we have enough money to throw away on something with no economic return and something that does not help them in the slightest?

You base this on a sociological theory of generations.  Firstly, I would like to know if you are aware of the ability of sociology to predict anything.  Care to guess?  The answer is that it's near zero because it's not quantifiable and not statistically study-able.  Did you know that people are born every year and there's no such thing as generations, really?  My mom and dad are only four years apart in age, but one is considered a baby boomer and the other isn't.  I'm considered to be a different generation from my younger sister who is three years younger than I.  Further, the diversity with a "generation" is far greater than the diversity between generations.  I was born in 1993 at a hospital in Manhattan to middle class parents.  I think I have a lot more in common with my parents and the children I hope to raise someday than with a person born on the same day in very different circumstances and with a very different background.  History isn't quantifiable into generations and frankly the whole idea sounds like a thinly veiled variation of a story that starts with "In my day..."

Basically, your argument boils down to a statement that we will colonize space because it's inevitable, and that's why we should go to space.  I challenge you: Go to Congress, to Wall Street, or your local bank.  Try to get them to invest money in Space because you say it's inevitable.  You won't get a single dollar.

Only about half of your post deals directly with the question you set out to answer:  "Why space?".  Your answer:

Our culture/s [sic] are too big now for one planet.

You go on to suggest that separation of "cultures" is necessary.  But let me ask you: If I gave you 1 trillion dollars, would you do more good separating the world's cultures, or investing in the economic development of indolent areas?  What if I gave you another trillion after that?  We as a species have bigger things to worry about than separating the world's cultures.

The following is a general reply to all three of your posts as well as a more general explanation of the motivation for the topic of this thread.

The logic behind my original post is as follows:

  • Creating an extraterrestrial civilization will cost money

  • Money can come from private investment or government investment

  • To tap into this money, we need to be able to show that the development of space is either good for terrestrial humanity or will turn a profit

In effect, I am trying to suggest the outlines of a business plan for the development of the inner solar system.  If you believe as I do that the future of humanity lies somewhere other than Earth, surely this shouldn't be too difficult.

*Because we, like the rest of the Internet, have a tendency to see our share of Alien Conspiracy crazies and all the rest.  Where you see things that say "No Image Artifact Discussion" that refers to them.  As strenuously as I disagree with the content of your post I do respect you as a thinking person.

Last edited by JoshNH4H (2012-12-30 07:37:21)


-Josh

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#8 2012-12-30 09:28:54

Terraformer
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From: Lancashire
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,312
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Josh,

I actually envision the initial development of the space economy to proceed much as you suggest, though I don't expect a Mars colony to be founded that soon. In fact, I'm fairly certain I laid out something similar in another thread...

The trouble is, who is going to put up the initial funds? This is a very high risk, high payoff scheme. The initial funding is on the order of 10 billion current dollars. Hence my point about the need for people who are going to be willing to put that money in. We might be at that stage now - a consortium of the New Space companies, perhaps. The New Space companies themselves are examples of people who made their billions elsewhere and then decided to invest in space.

I do wonder if 1000 space advocates who can build up companies with valuations on the order of $100 million would be another possible route...


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

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#9 2012-12-30 14:27:14

Void
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Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 3,561

Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Settle down friend.

I appologize, but it should be noted that your post was somewhat lonely before I uglied it up.

Yes, that book is only a book and the contents not proven.  However, if it has some truth, then the ones who will do the hero work are in grade school, nurseries, and not out of the womb yet.

As for me, according to that book, I belong to the "Prophet" generation.  That does not mean that I am a good one, or that I will be right.  But I breath air, I move, and perhaps it will turn out that it would be better that I could not keyboard.  But it is my responsibility to try to be helpful.  I am not likely to do it the same way the younger generations do it.  Nor do expect to own it.

But your crew will just have to notify me if you think I am not helpful here.  In reality, I was only making a short visit, and these follow-ups are just because it would be unfair not to allow you to dispute what I say.

The wheels of time continue to turn, and the ones who actually might go to these imagined futures will be as different from you as you are from me.

If that author knows what he is saying then they will be very team orientated, and will not tollerate dishonesty.  They will be for big corporations and unions.  They will be very materialistic.  Completely the opposite of the baby boomers, and incedently our mirror twins.

But then maybe it is just another silly book.

The process of moving into space will occur quickly or slowly or not at all.  I can't mandate anything.  But as technological capabilitys advance, at some point it is likely that there will be a generation like the GI generation, I just happen to think that they will behave much like the people who put us on the Moon.

If I have missed your point I am sorry.  I just don't see any harm in looking at the positive and patiently waiting with hope, and trying to make suggestions when it seems possible that I might add something.

If you find that this is harmful to the purposes of this web site, then tell me, and I will respond in a different and mush less disruptive manner.


I like people who criticize angels dancing on a pinhead.  I also like it when angels dance on my pinhead.

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#10 2012-12-30 15:02:01

Void
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Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 3,561

Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

I am always going to try to invent or improve and idea, in order to benefit economics.  If that is accomplished, then the economic justification is improved.

Just today I was thinking about the skyhook idea.  That is a relative of the space elevator you mentioned.

However personally I do not favor the space elevator or a skyhook that drops through the deep atmosphere to the ground.  It is too much of a reach.

I was planning to go off and think about it for some time, what I am thinking of is not very well developed, and if I had time to think of it more, I might just drop it and not mention it.

Still, I will take the leap.  The worst that can happen is you will just say some things I don't like, and we will part company.  You can rest assured I have no reputation to be concerned about.

A large flywheel in orbit, perhaps interacting with the magnetic field.  Perhaps the flywheel is partially made of the super strong materials that a space elevator tether would be.

A yoke with a tether connected to the axis of the flywheel with a "Interface Device" on the end (The hook).  That hook having small rockets on it for fine tuning a "Interface" with a sub-orbital payload.

The tether spinning prograde to orbit motion.

The flywheel spinning retrograde.  I am hoping that the flywheel could interact with the Earths magnetic field like a electic rotor in a motor where the Earth is the stator, but I havn't really thought that out very much at all yet.  The intention would be to gain orbital momentum to compensate for natural process losses of orbital speed.

The "Interface" dropping only down to "Altitudes" where atmospheric heating will not be excessive.

The use of the spinning flywheel, perhaps to allow the retrograde "Orbit" of the tether/hook assembly to change at different points in it's circular spin.  The desire would be to allow it to dwell longer as it dipped downward.

The dwelling would be accomplished by a magnetic clutch, to apply retrograde flywheel motion to the tether.

Of course there will be complications of motions and whiplash and that sort of thing, but if accomplished in some better variation, then I would hope that a payload would be delivered to it by a sub-orbital rocket.

I think the advantages would be that;
The suborbital rocket would have a gauranteed return to Earth (Whole or in pieces).
The heating problem should not be as severe as a return from full orbit I believe.

Intercept would be tricky.  The flywheel would maybe be able to make the hook dwell longer.  The intercept hook would have rocket engines to maneuver.  The rest would be up to the sub-orbital rocket, and co-operation, to exchange a payload, to abort, or to have a disastor.

Another alternative would be to dip the "Hook" into the atmosphere, and fill a tank with atmopheric gasses.  Of course the relative speeds have to be reasonable between the hook and the atmosphere, but actually a relative motion of 100, or 200 miles per hour could facilitate a compression process, but of course how to you dump the heat?  That requires radiators, which of course have mass.

I do not know at this time if a useable relative speed could be achieved.

As I said I have had all of 3 or 4 hours to have intermittant thoughts on it.  By the way I have a bit of dislexia, don't be surprised if my spin motions might be wrong.  But you should be able to get the idea.

As for finances?  This is all speculative.  So are the finances.

One day a spark will find enough fuel to ingnite a justifiable business process or it won't.

I may live 20 more years or I won't.

I don't have a firm plan for what I will try to do in the next 20 years, just some ideas, and no gaurantees.

Maybe you will hate this post the most of all.  If so, then I guess we are done talking.  I then have nothing to offer you and am just a disruption of what you want to accomplish.

Last edited by Void (2012-12-30 15:09:43)


I like people who criticize angels dancing on a pinhead.  I also like it when angels dance on my pinhead.

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#11 2012-12-30 17:43:30

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,875

Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Terraformer wrote:

Josh,

I actually envision the initial development of the space economy to proceed much as you suggest, though I don't expect a Mars colony to be founded that soon. In fact, I'm fairly certain I laid out something similar in another thread...

The trouble is, who is going to put up the initial funds? This is a very high risk, high payoff scheme. The initial funding is on the order of 10 billion current dollars. Hence my point about the need for people who are going to be willing to put that money in. We might be at that stage now - a consortium of the New Space companies, perhaps. The New Space companies themselves are examples of people who made their billions elsewhere and then decided to invest in space.

I do wonder if 1000 space advocates who can build up companies with valuations on the order of $100 million would be another possible route...

Just to get this in context, you could with 10 billion dollars launch 2000 tonnes to LEO at £5000 per kg.

I'm not even sure $10billion will be the real figure, remembering that a lot of the development work is being undertaken by Musk and Space X  as part of other projects e.g. the NASA orbital projects.


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

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#12 2012-12-30 18:49:34

Terraformer
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From: Lancashire
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,312
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

louis, assuming that the development costs take up half the budget, and the launch costs are at $2k/kg (seems reasonable with F9H), then we could put about 400 tonnes on the Lunar surface, or 200 tonnes and several hundred tonnes in both L1 and Terran orbit. Enough for a decent infrastructure? Considering the ISS comes in at about 500 tonnes (last time I looked), then perhaps. I've guessed around $5 billion before, spread out over a couple of years. But the continuing operating costs are quite nasty, if you want it to be crewed with a decent number of people (say 12 at Luna, and 6 at both depots. You're talking about rotating the crews at least every 6 months, so that's 8 Dragon launches every year. Perhaps clever positioning of the habitat modules at the depots will allow the radiation problem to be alleviated somewhat, so that 6 months is an acceptable time - they might even be able to rotate around a bit to get some gravity leave on Luna.

I can't see the cost coming in to much less than a couple of billion dollars each year, so you need something to cover that. Tourism won't. Neither will selling shiny Lunar rock for jewellery, though I do suspect it could be quite a significant revenue earner (albeit one that robots could do cheaper). Fuel won't be a significant earner either, for the time being - unless people get into the habit of sending crewed missions to explore every planet in the inner solar system, and several of the asteroids, each year. That leaves us with precious metals (unless you can think of another?). Adding in Platinum group metals in to the mix might allow us to cover operating costs and then some, though not in the first year. Probably not the second either, though maybe by the third we might have put a dent in it. When you factor in the operating costs, though, I think you are indeed looking at a figure on the order of $10 billion, though not all at once.

Eventually, I can see it getting to the point where a hotel will be economical, and then after that a research facility for a university (or university coalition). Maybe a decade or so after the hotel is opened, a retirement home for the super rich might become viable - at that point I expect there to be a decent hospital at Shackleton city. The price to orbit might be a few hundred thousand by this point, with cargo going at $500/kg, That could spur the development of private missions to other planets, especially since most of the technology required will be well developed. Well, it probably would actually, since a mission to Mars could be undertaken for perhaps a couple of hundred million dollars. At this point, then, renting/leasing an apartment on Luna might come within the reach of those who's annual earnings are on the order of a hundred thousand dollars... thus spurring the further development of the university there, and triggering the formation of the non-existent school system. When that happens, I'm fairly certain we can call this a colony, along with the other colonies that are being planted on other planets...


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

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#13 2012-12-30 18:52:31

Terraformer
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Anyway, I'm glad to see that there seems to be a general agreement that Luna is the gateway to the solar system... smile


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

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#14 2012-12-30 19:22:46

louis
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Terraformer wrote:

Anyway, I'm glad to see that there seems to be a general agreement that Luna is the gateway to the solar system... smile

In WW2 there was a debate in the USA about whether it should be Europe First or Pacific First - Europe was given the emphasis, the greater share of resources. But both objectives were pursued simultaneously.

I think this situation is analogous. Let's pursue both objectives.  I would personally probably put emphasis on the Moon First, in the sense that it provides the human lab for Mars - which is the real prize. But both can be pursued together, with shared development costs.


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

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#15 2012-12-30 19:37:43

louis
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From: UK
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

I think when I looked into the idea of a lunar development project I settled on something like 200 tonnes to surface (on the basis you were manufacturing rocket fuel there).  Once you have a ferry system going in lunar orbit, you don't need to take your fuel all the way from Earth.

If we are talking about the first ten years, I think there are huge revenues to be earned from TV and film rights....sponsorship (you're telling me Coca Cola won't pay $500million to be get its sign on the lunar surface, to have lunar pioneers on the surface with Coca Cola insignia on their suits? or to pay for the backdrops for news items from the Moon)... space agency involvement (would the Brazilian Space Agency not be interested in putting a Brazilian on the moon at say $200million? What about the Indian Space Agency? Or JAXA? And if Argentinians see a Brazilian on the moon, won't they want an Argentinian there - likewise with Pakistan...and how much would Taiwan pay to have the first Chinese person on the Moon, rather than the PRC?)...from tourism (rich billionaires and their sons and daughters)...from lunar rocks and meteorite sales. Soon after I think there are huge markets to be won for burial of ashes, for love token arrangements, for jewelry and many other things. Someone else came up with the moon and Mars as excellent ultra-safe storage depots for data. That's another avenue to be explored. Wouldn't the Library of Congress want to know that it could put all its digitalised data somewhere out of reach of terrorists - instantly replaceable in the event of disaster on Earth? How much is that worth? Maybe one billion over ten years wouldn't be an unreasonable starting point, and then the same applies to all the other national data locations on Earth.  We have our public records office in London.

There is much more I could write about th e revenue opportunities!

Metal mining sounds attractive but you have to remember that you have to get a relatively  huge tonnage to the surface in order to fully exploit such resources. So it's NOT a good early revenue earner.



Terraformer wrote:

louis, assuming that the development costs take up half the budget, and the launch costs are at $2k/kg (seems reasonable with F9H), then we could put about 400 tonnes on the Lunar surface, or 200 tonnes and several hundred tonnes in both L1 and Terran orbit. Enough for a decent infrastructure? Considering the ISS comes in at about 500 tonnes (last time I looked), then perhaps. I've guessed around $5 billion before, spread out over a couple of years. But the continuing operating costs are quite nasty, if you want it to be crewed with a decent number of people (say 12 at Luna, and 6 at both depots. You're talking about rotating the crews at least every 6 months, so that's 8 Dragon launches every year. Perhaps clever positioning of the habitat modules at the depots will allow the radiation problem to be alleviated somewhat, so that 6 months is an acceptable time - they might even be able to rotate around a bit to get some gravity leave on Luna.

I can't see the cost coming in to much less than a couple of billion dollars each year, so you need something to cover that. Tourism won't. Neither will selling shiny Lunar rock for jewellery, though I do suspect it could be quite a significant revenue earner (albeit one that robots could do cheaper). Fuel won't be a significant earner either, for the time being - unless people get into the habit of sending crewed missions to explore every planet in the inner solar system, and several of the asteroids, each year. That leaves us with precious metals (unless you can think of another?). Adding in Platinum group metals in to the mix might allow us to cover operating costs and then some, though not in the first year. Probably not the second either, though maybe by the third we might have put a dent in it. When you factor in the operating costs, though, I think you are indeed looking at a figure on the order of $10 billion, though not all at once.

Eventually, I can see it getting to the point where a hotel will be economical, and then after that a research facility for a university (or university coalition). Maybe a decade or so after the hotel is opened, a retirement home for the super rich might become viable - at that point I expect there to be a decent hospital at Shackleton city. The price to orbit might be a few hundred thousand by this point, with cargo going at $500/kg, That could spur the development of private missions to other planets, especially since most of the technology required will be well developed. Well, it probably would actually, since a mission to Mars could be undertaken for perhaps a couple of hundred million dollars. At this point, then, renting/leasing an apartment on Luna might come within the reach of those who's annual earnings are on the order of a hundred thousand dollars... thus spurring the further development of the university there, and triggering the formation of the non-existent school system. When that happens, I'm fairly certain we can call this a colony, along with the other colonies that are being planted on other planets...


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

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#16 2012-12-30 22:37:35

JoshNH4H
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Terraformer-  I'm sure I'm not the first to suggest something of this nature.  My goal is to collect up the ideas that are out there into a coherent whole with as many numbers attached to it as possible.  I recognize that some of what I'm saying now is different from things that I have said in the past.

My point with this thread is that with the right business plan you wouldn't have to start a company and then sell that company to finance a space venture-- the business plan should be convincing enough that it attracts investment dollars from people who simply want to make money.


-Josh

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#17 2012-12-31 06:22:42

Terraformer
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Josh,

As I said, this is a high risk, high payoff plan. It would represent a significant investment of wealth with no sure return, and one that most people with the means would not go for (they're in it to make money, not to colonise space). However, many of the new super-rich seem to be very interested in colonising space, so I could easily see a consortium being founded by them to exploit Lunar resources.

louis,

If Mars can't stand up on it's own without Luna support, it won't, and shouldn't be, pursued at the same time. Let the Luna base get going for a few years, and then go after Mars, now that we can get all our volatiles from Luna. Though I'd go for the moons first, if they have water, and add in another refuelling stop, so that we can execute a fast return as well as a fast (~3 months) Terra-Mars leg. Once we have Mars refuelling in the loop as well, we can send stuff to-and-from Terran orbit and Mars. The Terra-Orbit leg will probably always be the most expensive leg of any journey.

So, what can Mars provide that will make it economical when the cost to Mars is at, say, $1k/kg, and the cost from Mars to Terra is say $500/kg?


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

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#18 2012-12-31 06:56:12

louis
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From: UK
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Posts: 5,875

Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Terraformer wrote:

Josh,

As I said, this is a high risk, high payoff plan. It would represent a significant investment of wealth with no sure return, and one that most people with the means would not go for (they're in it to make money, not to colonise space). However, many of the new super-rich seem to be very interested in colonising space, so I could easily see a consortium being founded by them to exploit Lunar resources.

louis,

If Mars can't stand up on it's own without Luna support, it won't, and shouldn't be, pursued at the same time. Let the Luna base get going for a few years, and then go after Mars, now that we can get all our volatiles from Luna. Though I'd go for the moons first, if they have water, and add in another refuelling stop, so that we can execute a fast return as well as a fast (~3 months) Terra-Mars leg. Once we have Mars refuelling in the loop as well, we can send stuff to-and-from Terran orbit and Mars. The Terra-Orbit leg will probably always be the most expensive leg of any journey.

So, what can Mars provide that will make it economical when the cost to Mars is at, say, $1k/kg, and the cost from Mars to Terra is say $500/kg?


1. Space X is now in a position to generate hundreds of millions of dollars of profit per annum (does anyone know what their income is  now? Its revenue must be racing towards $1 billion a year I would think).   If it can generate a surplus of say $100 million per annum it can borrow probably $2 billion on the back of that.

2. A lot of the development work for Mars can be done as part of NASA contracts e.g. launch capsules for humans.

3.  I think Mars would provide a bigger initial income from sponsorship, meteorite and other sales, TV and film rights.  It would be hugely attractive to other space agencies and to research institutes around the world.  I don't think there would be any problem raising a couple of billion  to add to whatever Space X can raise.

4. Just don't underestimate Musk's determination to get to Mars. He's made it his life's goal. I can't see him going back on that.


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

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#19 2013-01-01 07:33:07

JoshNH4H
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From: Pullman, WA
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Firstly and most importantly, to Void:

If you will allow me to step out of the topic of conversation for just a moment, your contributions are absolutely valuable and welcome.  I realize that I come down hard on ideas that I disagree with but please don't let that stop you; Without discussion and even argument a forum like this is nothing.  So please, by all means no matter how much I may disagree if you feel that you have a point to make or something worthwhile to say, I encourage you to say it, no matter what anyone's response may be. 

Terraformer- If you look at the plan you outlined in your post, you will notice that my plan is much more high-powered and fast-paced.  There will be no sitting around for years waiting for prices to fall. 

I have a higher seed investment, true, but I'm also looking for development at a breakneck pace and a total transformation of human society. In my ideal situation, the growth rate would actually be higher than exponential though fast exponential growth will be a good approximation.  Any given industry will likely grow logistically with the sum of these logistic growth curves being at least exponential.

While lunar resources are important in my plan, it's really a Mars First plan: Lunar propellant depots are used to make the establishment of a Martian Colony less costly.  This Martian Colony will ultimately provide the resources in terms of machines and to some degree expertise that will make the Extraterrestrial Economy (ETE) take off.

Louis-

I have two quick responses:  The first is that you don't know Elon Musk; You have never met Elon Musk.  You are in no position to judge his personality, character, goals, aims, or the long term solvency of his non-publicly traded company.

Secondly, and more importantly:

citation-needed.jpg?w=136&h=121&crop=1

A number with no citations is worth the same as a number with no units: nothing.  Especially when you're talking about something that has never been done in the history of humanity.


-Josh

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#20 2013-01-01 11:54:44

Void
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Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 3,561

Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Happy New Year

Since I am not a part of the solution, and I don't wish to oppose you, I will get out of the way.

I hope you and Terraformer and others can do something clever and new, suited to your new generations, and I hope it works well.  Good Luck.


I like people who criticize angels dancing on a pinhead.  I also like it when angels dance on my pinhead.

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#21 2013-01-01 13:23:46

JoshNH4H
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From: Pullman, WA
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Void- Anyone can be part of the solution.  There's no need to back out if you have something relevant to say.


-Josh

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#22 2013-01-01 13:39:31

Terraformer
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From: Lancashire
Registered: 2007-08-27
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Josh,

Why will establishing a Mars colony give a quick return on investment? If it's not going to make money for the investors, then why are they going to do it, aside from the desire to settle space? Selling yourself fuel does not make you any money.

Your plan seems to call for manufacturing goods in space and using them to undercut the Terran market. However, the technology required could be more easily used to manufacture the goods on Terra, cutting out the transportation costs. Any resources that are needed which are cheaper in space (metals) can be imported.

Where the Extraterrestrial and Terran economies will interact, I think, for the foreseeable future will be metals from space for high tech goods from Terra.


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

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#23 2013-01-01 19:41:59

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,875

Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Josh,

I think there's a word for a comment like that. I won't use it (in honour of the forum rules) but I will say that is beneath contempt.

Anyone who is interested in Mars colonisation will have followed Musk's  pronouncements.

Here is a good summation of what Musk has been saying from just a few weeks ago.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/0 … 32435.html

Don't expect any quarter in future.




JoshNH4H wrote:

Firstly and most importantly, to Void:

If you will allow me to step out of the topic of conversation for just a moment, your contributions are absolutely valuable and welcome.  I realize that I come down hard on ideas that I disagree with but please don't let that stop you; Without discussion and even argument a forum like this is nothing.  So please, by all means no matter how much I may disagree if you feel that you have a point to make or something worthwhile to say, I encourage you to say it, no matter what anyone's response may be. 

Terraformer- If you look at the plan you outlined in your post, you will notice that my plan is much more high-powered and fast-paced.  There will be no sitting around for years waiting for prices to fall. 

I have a higher seed investment, true, but I'm also looking for development at a breakneck pace and a total transformation of human society. In my ideal situation, the growth rate would actually be higher than exponential though fast exponential growth will be a good approximation.  Any given industry will likely grow logistically with the sum of these logistic growth curves being at least exponential.

While lunar resources are important in my plan, it's really a Mars First plan: Lunar propellant depots are used to make the establishment of a Martian Colony less costly.  This Martian Colony will ultimately provide the resources in terms of machines and to some degree expertise that will make the Extraterrestrial Economy (ETE) take off.

Louis-

I have two quick responses:  The first is that you don't know Elon Musk; You have never met Elon Musk.  You are in no position to judge his personality, character, goals, aims, or the long term solvency of his non-publicly traded company.

Secondly, and more importantly:

http://nbchardballtalk.files.wordpress. … 121&crop=1

A number with no citations is worth the same as a number with no units: nothing.  Especially when you're talking about something that has never been done in the history of humanity.


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

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#24 2013-01-02 01:46:00

Void
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Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 3,561

Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Just in case I have somehow stimulated some bad energy, I want to state that it was my intention to visit only for the Holidays.  Of course I sense that this is probabbly not that much about me.

I have no intention to devote the psychic energy necessary to maintain here, and I actually have a very hard time relating, the communications are often odd.  Having a common mode of transfering thoughts.  A lot of lost in translation going on I think.

So, for my part, it's all for the better.  I just wish I could have snuk through just a little more gracefully.  But oh well.

Be peaceful.


I like people who criticize angels dancing on a pinhead.  I also like it when angels dance on my pinhead.

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#25 2013-01-02 14:23:33

JoshNH4H
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From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,526
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Re: The Interplanetary Economy- My Take

Louis-

The reason why I did not address your points specifically is that we've been in this argument before, at least a dozen times.  You know what my responses to what you've said are because we've done the whole thing before and come to no conclusion.  I'd rather not do that here, and as you are presumably aware my largest single grievance with your arguments is that instead of basing your conclusions on numerical analysis or established facts, you simply settle on a number that you like and repeat it like gospel.  When pressed you provide neither citations nor real justification, but instead simply appeal to a presumed (but not shared, thus the reason you're being pressed in the first place) rationality of the numbers provided, and claims to research (While I don't doubt that you do research that does not make your conclusions above challenge).  Rather than launch a long discussion on the matter (something I have tried in the past with unsatisfactory results) I chose to note my objection with a facetious "citation needed." 

While there are many other topics where I think you have valuable, interesting, and very relevant contributions to make in this one I chose not to respond where it wasn't worth my time.

With regards to Musk I don't disagree that Mars is one of his primary goals as the CEO of SpaceX.  To say he's made it his life goal, or as you have elsewhere that he's a philanthropist, or any number of other statements that you've made that involve phrases like "Elon thinks..." "Musk wants..." or glorifications of Mr. Musk are going rather far and, again, generally cannot be verified. 

Terraformer-

We've gotten down to the important questions, I see smile

In short, the Mars base will make a profit from supplying industrial machinery, expertise, and and resources that are available on Mars but not the Moon or easily accessible NEOs to the EHS (Earth Hill Sphere).  It is better to send this infrastructure to Mars than the Moon because even with the volatiles discovered on the Moon Mars is simply more amenable to human life, and for a base with an initially smaller investment (in both mass and technology) it can have a higher population and higher growth rates.  Transportation will be provided to the EHS by a space elevator.  My expectation is that most of the manufacturing will be taking place in EML-4/5, so a Martian space elevator (Also used to put cargo on a hohmann orbital transfer towards Earth) will actually be closer in a delta-V sense than the surface of the Moon.  In essence, investment within the EHS will often be turned into revenue for the Martian colony.  Eventually a self-sustaining infrastructure will be created within the EHS but I would say that it's more urgent to develop exportable commodities. 

Manufacturing in space will be less costly than manufacturing on Earth for a number of reasons.  Firstly, you don't need to worry about the environment-- Toxic chemicals, greenhouse gases, environmental statements, none of it is necessary unless you're releasing into space something that will be of value to you later.  Secondly, there's more room in space.  No cost for land and no neighbors to worry about.  I suspect that in the long run zero gravity manufacturing will be found to be simpler but lacking evidence I don't expect you to agree with me.  Anyway, to continue:  The absence of gravity and relative ease of obtaining high or low temperatures reduce the costs while increasing the quality of the products.  Lower gravity makes it easier to manipulate large objects, thus reducing equipment and labor costs.  The absence of ambient humidity improves the lifetime of everything.

The reasons vary from product to product but in general I would expect that space is a more favorable environment than Earth for maunfacturing and that the costs will therefore be lower.  For some things it might not make a difference and then for those things EHS manufacturing likely won't commence until a decisive economy of scale advantage is established.

Because the economy in the EHS will generally be focused on the big stuff for export to Earth, I would have the Martian economy focus on the smaller, high-tech stuff, at least in terms of trade.  Once they establish competency in a given product it will probably be cheaper to import from them than from Earth.  Earth's primary export will, in my view, be people and intellectual property.


-Josh

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