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#1 2014-10-14 17:28:26

SpaceGeek
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Registered: 2014-09-19
Posts: 6

Martian Exports

This is my first post on the thread so I'm kinda new.
Robert Zubrin in 1990 proposed a transportation system that could lift high value minerals/metals from the surface of Mars and return them back to earth for a profit.

"Consider for example a large unmanned NIMF, a cargo NIMF if you will, capable of lifting 45 tonnes to Low Mars Orbit (LMO). If a methane/oxygen stage is used to fire the payload from LMO to Earth (where it aero-enters and is picked up on the ground after a parachute landing), about 40% of this payload in LMO, or 18 tonnes, can be useful cargo sent to Earth. Now the 45-tonne object in LMO weighs about 17 tonnes in Mars gravity, so for a desireable stage thrust/weight of 3.4 or 7.5 klb of engine thrust. The typical T/W of a chemical engine is 40, so this means that for each 18 tonnes of useful cargo transported to Earth an engine weighing 85 kg is required. Let's say that the tanks, propellant and stage structure can all be manufactured on Mars but that the engine must be imported along with another 35 kg of space parts to repace high-tech items expended in the coarse of producing the cargo or launching the NIMF. Thus 18 tonnes of cargo can be transported to Earth at a cost of 120 kg of required imports. 18,000/120= 150 for this example. The Balance of trade ratio or B, which determines whether the Mars colony can produce any income is then given by:

B= UMP

where P is the ratio of the price per kg of the Mars produced cargo on Earth divided by the cost per kg (production plus transportation costs) of the Earth-produced items, and U is the fraction of total Martian imports can be extended to support the export operations (the rest being used to support the colony). To continue with the example, let's say that U=0.1 and that the cost of terrestrial imports is $10,000/kg (which is about what it would be if a 121-tonne to LEO class Ares with an NTR third stage costs $500 million per launch). Then if the Martian produced goods are worth $1,000/kg on Earth, we find: B=UMP=(0.1)(150)(0.1)=1.5, and the Mars colony is producing a 50% profit."

Dr Zubrin then goes on to mention some of the minerals potentially on Mars that would be economical to send back to Earth including Lanthenum, Geranium, Hafnium, Cerium, Rhenium, Gadolinium, Gallium, Samarian, Palladium, Iridium, Gold, Rubidium, Platinum, Rhodium, Europium, and really any metal or mineral as valuable or more so than Silver.

Zubrin mentions in the article that Mars has had ore-forming processes in the past over an extended period of geological time. Hence although such minerals haven't yet been discovered, there's every reason based on geologic science that they should be there and no reason to think they're not there. He also makes the point that Mars hasn't had 4,000 years of human civilization acting to use up all the easiest to discover and richest ore. Finally he makes the important point that this is using ultra-conservative late-twentieth century technology like Methane-Oxygen chemical stages, A Expendable Heavy Lift Vehicle and Nuclear Thermal Rockets (all developed in the 1960s as Chemical stages, the Saturn V and NERVA). If technology were to advance to using Magsails or Solar Sails, then the methane-oxygen stage wouldn't need to be imported and the transportation ratio M would increase from 150 to 514, further increasing profits for the colony and increasing the range of minerals/metals that could be profitably exported. Similar results would occure if low cost transport to LEO such as fully-reusable Scramjets, SSTOs were developed.

Sources:
Mars Direct A Proposal for the Rapid Colonization of the Red Planet
by Robert M. Zubrin and David A. Baker
[chapter 3 of Islands in the Sky]

What do you guys think? Could such a basis of a Martian export economy work? We already know Deuterium (currently valued at $10,000/kg) is five times more common on Mars than it is on Earth and may be a byproduct from the life-support systems. It's the critical fuel neccessary for Nuclear Fusion so when Fusion becomes viable the demand for it will rise and with it the price.

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#2 2014-10-14 20:30:54

SpaceNut
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Posts: 12,522

Re: Martian Exports

I have been trying to figure out how large the sample size was that gave the one deuterium for every 1284 hydrogens as measured by the Sample Analysis unit of Curiosity. Abundance and Isotopic Composition of Gases in the Martian Atmosphere from the Curiosity Rover

Global Map Reveals Mineral Distribution On Mars

There is also quite a bit of thorium on mars as well.

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#3 2014-10-14 23:04:30

SpaceGeek
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Registered: 2014-09-19
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Re: Martian Exports

What's the value of thorium in $ per kg value on Earth. Thorium is potentially a more-near term fuel for Fission power generation. I imagine just as with Deuterium if any Thorium power generation became commercially viable the demand for Thorium would rise and with it it's price. The same would be true with Deuterium when Fusion power generation comes online.

Also, that brings up something else. Fusion propulsion will likely be developed to meet the demands of a growing developing Martian colony/base. This could give the world Fusion electricity generation as a spinoff (the same happened with the Nuclear Bomb and Nuclear Submarine resulting in Nuclear Electricity as a spinoff) as generate a large market for Martian Deuterium. With the reduced cost of shipping to and from Mars thanks to Fusion, this only makes the whole trade more profitable and more practical.

I truely believe that Mars will develop a sizeable export economy (and must to support itself) even as it developes InSitu Mining, Manufacturing and Agriculture.

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#4 2014-10-15 16:25:00

Void
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Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 2,345

Re: Martian Exports

http://www.nbcnews.com/science/science- … ed-n226641

WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin Corp said Wednesday that it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion, and the first reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be ready for use in a decade. Tom McGuire, who heads the project, said a small team had been working on fusion energy at Lockheed's secretive Skunk Works for about four years, but were going public to find potential partners in industry and government.

Initial work demonstrated the feasibility of a 100-megawatt reactor seven feet by 10 feet, which is about 10 times smaller than current reactors, McGuire said. The company said it would build and test a compact fusion reactor in less than a year and build a prototype in five years. Success would mark a breakthrough in a promising field that has not yet yielded viable power systems. Compact nuclear fusion would produce far less waste than coal-powered plants since it would use deuterium-tritium fuel, which can generate nearly 10 million times more energy than the same amount of fossil fuels, the company said. Lockheed said future reactors could use a different fuel and eliminate radioactive waste completely.

That would change things.

If you can do that, then you can do a lot of things, no need for exposure to the outside environment with solar pannels.

Just have enclosures on the bottom of an ice covered body of water neer the poles, melt polar ice to keep you body of water inflated with water.  Buildings underwater with counter pressure to hold the air in.   Emit greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, and wait for the surface to warm up, then move more to the surface.

Have underwater lighting from it, make chemicals to dump into the water (Hydrogen & Oxygen)  pump in a limited amount of CO2, and you have a ecosystem.


Maybe you could export stuff, but actually, you might consider importing retired people.  Not many would go, but some would, and if they had pensions, SSI, nest eggs, then they bring capitol.

In the early days, you would not want that many children born anyway.  Retired people could often still do some type of work, monitor automated systems with computers, light duty things.
There would likely be a small subset which would want to do this.  But at first your colony would be small anyway so you would not want too many.


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 2014-10-15 16:49:57

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
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Posts: 12,522

Re: Martian Exports

The Fussion that we know is via Isotopic reaction through compression of the fuel and then by containment. The energy released is electrical and thermal in form. That said is there also cold fusion as in the E-Cat as this appears to be via isotopic reation as well.

That said the old periodic table does not really work out that well....
http://www.chemicalelements.com/show/mass.html

Then I finally remembered Martian Periodic Table?

Last edited by SpaceNut (2014-10-15 17:48:20)

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#6 2014-10-15 17:39:41

Void
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Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 2,345

Re: Martian Exports

I guess I might support the idea of exports to Earth if it is true that a fusion method could power a space ship.  Mars having deuterium-tritium (The tritium would have to come from Lithium Salts?)

In that case you might not care about a little radiation resulting since you are in space.  That would perhaps change the game a lot.


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 2014-10-16 15:05:25

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 3,720

Re: Martian Exports

In the initial years, meteorites and regolith from Mars will be subject to huge demand. There are at least 20,000 universities and other higher education institutes in the world.  Let's assume that there are 15,000 with departments such as geology, astronomy, materials, etc who would be interested in acquiring such material.   If over ten years, let's say, they are each prepared to spend $100,000 on average, that's $1.5 billion revenue.  Some v. prestigious institutions (Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Paris, etc) will be prepared to pay much more than that average - probably $100millions over a decade.

If fossils are found there will be a similar "gold rush" among biology and genetics departments.

Of course to the universities you have to add multi-national companies, private individuals (collectors), defence agencies and others who may have their own reasons  for acquiring Mars meteorites or regolith.  You can probably add another billion or so for them.


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

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#8 2014-10-16 17:11:33

Void
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Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 2,345

Re: Martian Exports

If the fusion power becomes real, I have to agree with your thinking for sure Louis.


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

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#9 2014-10-16 17:44:56

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 3,720

Re: Martian Exports

Void wrote:

If the fusion power becomes real, I have to agree with your thinking for sure Louis.

I think such trade would be profitable even on the basis of conventional rocketry - if Musk's programme of improvements (particularly reusable rockets) comes to pass, and I see no reason why not in the next decade or so.


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

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#10 2014-10-17 04:43:59

Terraformer
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From: Lancashire
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 2,826
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Re: Martian Exports

Louis, you're talking about $150 million/year. In the context of a Mars colony, that's... not very much. Perhaps if you write off the set up costs and give up on any chance of profit, you'll have enough to get the colonists supplied with what they need - for a decade.


"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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#11 2014-10-17 12:49:50

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 3,720

Re: Martian Exports

Terraformer wrote:

Louis, you're talking about $150 million/year. In the context of a Mars colony, that's... not very much. Perhaps if you write off the set up costs and give up on any chance of profit, you'll have enough to get the colonists supplied with what they need - for a decade.

I'm being conservative...but even on those conservative figures I think meteorite and regolith sales would be around $250 million.   

If Musk is right and he can get launch costs down to $500 per Kg, that's 500 tonnes to LEO, maybe 125 tonnes to Mars surface - more than enough for a small colony in the early stages.

But meteorites and regolith are not the only thing Mars could sell to Mars.  They are many other ways that we could


There could be life support for scientific expeditions for instance. Why wouldn't, say, a company like Toyota invest $100million over three or four years out of its publicity budget to fund say an expedition using Toyota-badged vehicles.  That sort of publicity would be cheap at the price.


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

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#12 2014-10-17 20:52:12

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 12,522

Re: Martian Exports

As far as I see with Mars Exports not all that is Mars will be exported nor will it be just a made on Mars to be just used on Mars either. Fuels, Air and water made on Mars can be used for going deeper into outer space as well. Heck even the "Toyota-badged vehicles" being returned to Earth after its use would prove to be of great value....

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#13 2014-10-18 01:19:57

SpaceGeek
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Registered: 2014-09-19
Posts: 6

Re: Martian Exports

This scenerio developed by Zubrin uses Chemical and Nuclear Thermal propulsion as the only means for transporting cargo form Earth to Mars or from Mars to Earth. Even then, he shows that ultra-conservative near-term technology can be profitable enough for a Martian Export Colony. But this low-level of technology does result in only high-value materials being suitable economically to trade with Earth. But if a mass-driver was set up on Phobos, the potential cost of sending cargo to Earth would be reduced and the number of potentially profitable materials to send back would increase (as the required value per kg to make a profit falls). Nuclear Electric Propulsion (NEP) although too slow for manned traffic between the Earth and Mars, would reduce the cost of transportation between world significantly. The low-thrust, highly efficient fuel consumption would be superb for cargo shipping between worlds allowing the ship to take as long as it likes to reach it's destination. A NEP cargo ship could launch years ahead of it's intended arrival date and arrive with a significantly lower cost per kg than it's competitor making the entire exersize in the lengthy mission and costly development worthwhile.

If Magnetic Sails or Solar Sails were introduced it would reduce both the cost of both outbound and inbound transit between Earth and Mars singificantly. The reduction in the cost of payload traveling both directs would reduce the required value per kg exported neccessary to make a profit further. And hence, just like the demand of the New World drove trans-atlantic transportation innovations in the 19th and 20th centuries, so will the Martian import/export trade cause a demand for advanced technology.

I can see the change proceeding from Chemical to NTR to NEP to Solar Sails to Magnetic Sails to Fusion and from Expendable HLVs to partially reusable LVs to fully reusable HLVs. NEP and Fusion propulsion are both key for human exploration and colonization of the Outer Solar System (and in the case of Fusion the possiblity of Interstellar colonization opens up).

While I agree Mars will use it's InSitu resources for agriculture, manufacturing, water/oxygen/propellant extraction etc. Unless Mars becomes completely self sufficient (a distant prospect) it will require imports and that means it will require exports to pay for the imports. High value Minerals/Metals and Deuterium seem to fit this category.

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#14 2014-10-18 10:42:59

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 3,720

Re: Martian Exports

SpaceNut wrote:

As far as I see with Mars Exports not all that is Mars will be exported nor will it be just a made on Mars to be just used on Mars either. Fuels, Air and water made on Mars can be used for going deeper into outer space as well. Heck even the "Toyota-badged vehicles" being returned to Earth after its use would prove to be of great value....

That's very true.  The vehicle would be worth millions back on Earth to a Museum.  If a Museum can get an extra 100 visitors a day at $10 profit per visitor, that's over $300,000 per annum.  Over 10 years, that's $3million, over 30 years, $9millions. And for a Museum, such additions to their collection can have a range of intangible benefits e.g. encouraging other benefactors etc.


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

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#15 2014-10-18 20:00:29

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 12,522

Re: Martian Exports

SpaceGeek welcome to newmars I should have said so earlier....

The key points put forth by Zubrin to use Chemical which is current state capability but with Nuclear Thermal propulsion (NTP) or Nuclear Electric Propulsion (NEP) these are an ever still thing stopped in the past and lacking for restart into developement.

Magnetic Sails or Solar Sails are current state developing but they lack the pushing power to leave orbit especially with a heavy mass in tow without a chemical assist.

I do agree with the assessments on InSitu resources use senerio as you have indicated and as you noted minerals,metals, Deuterium but I think the list also includes precious stones or gems as well as hand made ornaments as well for exports from Mars as well.

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#16 2015-01-27 16:55:11

JCO
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Registered: 2015-01-22
Posts: 35

Re: Martian Exports

I think the best way to think of what Mars will export is to look back to the colonization of the new world. Most of the exports that fueled the colonies were items that could not be gotten from anyplace but the new world. Spain's gold rush was relatively short lived and did not create many long lasting colonies. No commodity that can be found on Earth will likely be worth shipping back to Earth. So what does Mars have that Earth does not, martian geology. Just like the new world the colonies will not be funded by mundane rare commodities but by unique luxury goods. Anything that could be fashioned into jewelry from martian 'rocks' will be worth orders of magnitude more than the identical item of terrestrial origin. Anything that has a unique make up and an appealing appearance will be worth shipping back to Earth. Martian granite and marble will be more valuable than platinum. It will be shipped back to Earth to floor the most exclusive hotels and the most expensive mansions.

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#17 2015-01-27 18:05:07

SpaceNut
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Posts: 12,522

Re: Martian Exports

Even water exported as fancy mineral elixer would be just one of those items that the rich would gobble up.

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#18 2015-01-27 19:25:56

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 3,720

Re: Martian Exports

JCO wrote:

I think the best way to think of what Mars will export is to look back to the colonization of the new world. Most of the exports that fueled the colonies were items that could not be gotten from anyplace but the new world. Spain's gold rush was relatively short lived and did not create many long lasting colonies. No commodity that can be found on Earth will likely be worth shipping back to Earth. So what does Mars have that Earth does not, martian geology. Just like the new world the colonies will not be funded by mundane rare commodities but by unique luxury goods. Anything that could be fashioned into jewelry from martian 'rocks' will be worth orders of magnitude more than the identical item of terrestrial origin. Anything that has a unique make up and an appealing appearance will be worth shipping back to Earth. Martian granite and marble will be more valuable than platinum. It will be shipped back to Earth to floor the most exclusive hotels and the most expensive mansions.


Yes I've referenced Mars jewelry before now.

Also I think after a few years a Mars colony could for instance assemble Rolexes on Mars - incorporating say some Mars gold, if it exists - the connotations of Mars as a "male" planet would add to the appeal for the super-rich man. I could see those going for $100,000 each.  Ten little Rolexes might have a sale value of $1million back on Earth.   But there might be a market for a 1000 per annum back on Earth.

There might well be a market as well for Mars textiles (v. lightweight gossamer type products) and Mars luxury agricultural products e.g. Mars wine.

When one thinks of the global world GDP on Earth, we are only talking about skimming off a tiny proportion to make a viable Mars colony of say 100,000. A surplus of a couple of billion might be enough to sustain them. 

Once the colony is established selling life support for visiting film and documentary crews, and mega rich "gap year" students will generating huge amounts of money.


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

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#19 2015-01-27 21:09:51

JCO
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Registered: 2015-01-22
Posts: 35

Re: Martian Exports

I do not think martian industry will be able to produce anything as complex as a Rolex for quite some time. What may be profitable is to license the recycling of the ships used to return other exports. The recycler would then sell the materials to various companies to produce certified 100% martian products. The products would be manufactured from material returned from Mars. The certification might even include materials that were manufactured on Earth to be used in constructing the martian cargo return vessels. This would provide a good deal more variety in the materials available for use in creating the products.

The problem with agricultural products is that they are less likely to be really unique and they tend to be low in value. A good bottle of wine is likely to cost $100 and I do not think that is anywhere near enough to make it worth shipping back to Earth.

Your plans also seemed to depend heavily on support from the academic community. I think you assume universities have a lot more disposable income then the actually do. As well as having limited funds schools are also unlikely to be good repeat customers. Once they have their kg of martian regolith the are likely to never buy another one. The one thing that could change this is proof that life is or was on Mars. If that is found the flood gate will open and funds for research on Mars will be all but unlimited (until life was found on Europe smile )

I do not think tourist of any kind will be a big factor in the martian economy until the round trip time is cut massively. The best case scenario for travel time with any technology that looks feasible is 2 months one way. I doubt that many people will want a vacation with that type of travel time.

Once space colonization is well established Mars will likely become the supply depot and ship yards for ventures in the asteroid belt and the outer solar system.

My main point is that the only sure source of income that I can think of that will meet the scale and consistency needed for a martian colony are unique luxury goods. The only things we are sure to find on Mars that meet these requirements are minerals and gems. Metals do not qualify because they are not unique.

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#20 2017-10-01 16:57:29

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 3,720

Re: Martian Exports

Universities have huge amounts of income that they spend on research and acquisitions. The tertiary education sector represents 2.6% of total US GDP.  But they aren't the only source of revenue. Space agencies around the globe spend billions of dollars. The NASA budget last time I looked is $27 billion. But there are big space agencies all around the world.  There are private companies that engage in their own research as well.  And private companies will definitely wish to sponsor such newsworthy endeavours and get exposure for their products in that way. Once Space X are there, everyone will want a piece of the action.

It is not unusual for gap year  tourists to go travelling away from home for 1-2 years. Given the unique nature of the journey to Mars I think rich kids from Earth may will be prepared to put that little bit of extra time into their trip. However, I would agree this won't be an early revenue source...Mars would need I think to develop Earth-simulation environments like covered gorges, a planet wide transportation system and big domes before it became an attractive place for tourists.

Rolex watches need to be finished on Mars to give them the necessary allure.   You can import the mechanism and the parts. Just add maybe hands made from Mars metal and a Mars gem insert...that will be enough.  They will sell for at least $100,000 back on Earth. You don't need to make huge numbers. Maybe 500 a year - $100 million, of which the Mars Consortium might take half. 

There are lots of other potential revenue earners e.g. art projects on Mars. 

JCO wrote:

I do not think martian industry will be able to produce anything as complex as a Rolex for quite some time. What may be profitable is to license the recycling of the ships used to return other exports. The recycler would then sell the materials to various companies to produce certified 100% martian products. The products would be manufactured from material returned from Mars. The certification might even include materials that were manufactured on Earth to be used in constructing the martian cargo return vessels. This would provide a good deal more variety in the materials available for use in creating the products.

The problem with agricultural products is that they are less likely to be really unique and they tend to be low in value. A good bottle of wine is likely to cost $100 and I do not think that is anywhere near enough to make it worth shipping back to Earth.

Your plans also seemed to depend heavily on support from the academic community. I think you assume universities have a lot more disposable income then the actually do. As well as having limited funds schools are also unlikely to be good repeat customers. Once they have their kg of martian regolith the are likely to never buy another one. The one thing that could change this is proof that life is or was on Mars. If that is found the flood gate will open and funds for research on Mars will be all but unlimited (until life was found on Europe smile )

I do not think tourist of any kind will be a big factor in the martian economy until the round trip time is cut massively. The best case scenario for travel time with any technology that looks feasible is 2 months one way. I doubt that many people will want a vacation with that type of travel time.

Once space colonization is well established Mars will likely become the supply depot and ship yards for ventures in the asteroid belt and the outer solar system.

My main point is that the only sure source of income that I can think of that will meet the scale and consistency needed for a martian colony are unique luxury goods. The only things we are sure to find on Mars that meet these requirements are minerals and gems. Metals do not qualify because they are not unique.

Last edited by louis (2017-10-02 16:28:06)


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

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#21 2017-10-01 18:16:26

RobertDyck
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From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 5,427
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Re: Martian Exports

A unique Mars gem would definitely be saleable.

You could mine metal asteroids for gold, silver, platinum, and platinum group metals. It's too difficult to separate gold from silver, so you wouldn't bother on the asteroid. Send back bullion of gold/silver alloy. That could be refined on Earth to separate them, but most likely you wouldn't bother. An alloy of 41.7% gold, 56.3% silver, and the rest industrial metals (magnesium, copper, aluminum, chrome, etc) is called 10 karat gold. With 58.5% gold it's 14 karat gold. You could easily sell 10 to 18 karat gold, sell it as "asteroid jewellery".

Last edited by RobertDyck (2017-10-01 18:32:16)

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