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#51 2018-10-09 14:36:07

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,464

Re: Key Debates

I disagree. The only caveat I have is the unloading but so far all we have to go on is an artist's illustration.

Maybe you could pack an automated scissor lifting platform in the bottom cargo hold.  Maybe you could have a cable system. Maybe a crane. Maybe an inflatable chute.

Belter wrote:
louis wrote:

Ain't gonna happen so why waste time on it?

It's going to happen, even if Space-X isn't the one to do it.   Someone else will build a system dedicated to the actual task and will get all the funding for shipping habitats and supplies for an actual base, and Space-X will not.  Not with the ships they have designed.   They simply aren't a good design for delivering what a Mars base needs.


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#52 2018-10-09 16:50:06

Belter
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Registered: 2018-09-13
Posts: 184

Re: Key Debates

There are lots of problems.  The BFR really isn't a good way to place habitats or the materials to construct any of them.   But I feel vindicated by my Mars Lander idea after seeing this -

00d18cc16f0e6dbc6dd214e5f8a1a432_large.jpg

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#53 2018-10-09 17:53:33

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,464

Re: Key Debates

Why isn't it a good way to place habitats? Or the materials to construct any of them? You are in effect simply restating my caveat - the issue is unloading of the BFS.  But I'd rather have the problem of unloading 500 tonnes rather than trying to survive on 50 tonnes.

Yes unloading is a critical factor but do you really think it is a problem that can't be resolved?  There are many different answers.

I am thinking the equivalent of a huge inflatable water slide would be v. useful.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=huge+ … I2k6hVk1eM:

This one is over 22 metres tall:

http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/new … rld-418888

Obviously the BFS slide  would be even stronger than commercial water slides. It should be self inflating. It could be set up for automatic deployment soon after arrival on Mars. There would be automatic deployment while the crew were still in the pressurised environment of the BFS. Once the "slide" was deployed the next step would be for three crew to deploy to a pressurised Rover via a special air lock attachment. The Rover would be automatically winched slowly down the slide. At the bottom of the slide, the Rover would automatically decouple from the winch and the pressurised rover would drive off the ramp section at the bottom.

The Rover - let's call it a Deployment Rover (DR for short) - would then await first the deployment of two PV array mobile units an a a flat bed trailer. Finally the habitat sections,  life support unit, internal fittings sections and the construction robot rovers would be sent down the slides.  This might take several hours. It would be a Sol 1 + 2 activity. The crew would rest in the DR overnight.

The next sol, Sol 1+ 3, the Rover would recharge its batteries from the mobile PV array units (which will have been deployed with charged batteries).   The DR will then seek out the designated habitat site and begin the process of constructing the habitat in what will be a semi-automated process but will include direction of the construction robot rovers. This would probably be another full sol's activity.  The various sections will be transported on the trailer (the construction robots will be able to use their fork lift attachments to put the sections on the trailer and lift them off.  Again this will probably take a full sol's work.

Once the structure is complete, the main hab and interior air lock chamber will then be pressurised to Earth-analog levels with Earth-type gas mix using automated gas release cylinders. The DR will drive into the external air lock chamber.  Once the hab is pressurised, two of the DR crew members will enter the main hab in protective gear with breathing apparatus and undertake a full dust clean of all surfaces using a vaccuum cleaner and wipes. Once the clean is complete, the crew would unpack and activate the Life Support Unit. Once the LSU is fully checked out, the crew would remove breathing apparatus and begin the task of unpacking and assembling other units e.g. kitchen, and bathroom/hygiene (again, largely an uncomplicated process - the units will be designed for easy deployment.)

Once the habitat is fully operational, other BFS crew members can join them in the second rover. But as long as the BFS is yet to be fully unloaded one or two crew members will remain behind in the BFS.



Belter wrote:

There are lots of problems.  The BFR really isn't a good way to place habitats or the materials to construct any of them.   But I feel vindicated by my Mars Lander idea after seeing this -

https://bw-1651cf0d2f737d7adeab84d339db … _large.jpg


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

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#54 2018-10-09 18:16:59

Belter
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Registered: 2018-09-13
Posts: 184

Re: Key Debates

Well, back to my long list of reasons. 

1.  The BFR is potentially a deadly disaster if the landing area isn't perfectly flat and stable.
2.  There is no elevator
3.  There is no ground level airlock
4.  There is no way to drop a habitat module directly to the ground
5.  There is no place to dock or garage a pressured rover
6.  No way to get people or equipment to the ground or up without a winch (and if THAT fails?)
7.  No way of attaching a BFR to a base or turning it into a part of a base.

I'm probably forgeting things, but those are the main issues.

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#55 2018-10-09 18:20:06

Belter
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Registered: 2018-09-13
Posts: 184

Re: Key Debates

My Mars Lander design solves all of those issues, as does the one above I found.

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#56 2018-10-09 18:43:45

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,464

Re: Key Debates

You say there's no elevator but we don't know yet. It would not be that difficult to construct one to operate externally against the BFS.

Something like this perhaps...

http://www.sbssteelstructure.com/Reside … shaft.html

Or how about these construction hoists that can life 3 tonnes or more.

http://alimakhek.co.uk/Ukingdom/Product … ion-Hoists

Belter wrote:

Well, back to my long list of reasons. 

1.  The BFR is potentially a deadly disaster if the landing area isn't perfectly flat and stable.
2.  There is no elevator
3.  There is no ground level airlock
4.  There is no way to drop a habitat module directly to the ground
5.  There is no place to dock or garage a pressured rover
6.  No way to get people or equipment to the ground or up without a winch (and if THAT fails?)
7.  No way of attaching a BFR to a base or turning it into a part of a base.

I'm probably forgeting things, but those are the main issues.

Last edited by louis (2018-10-09 19:00:30)


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#57 2018-10-09 21:31:37

Belter
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Registered: 2018-09-13
Posts: 184

Re: Key Debates

Well, you could build one on the outside, but again, not convenient or efficient.  And the air lock just dumps out to.....nothing.  If there were to be a crane in the unsealed bay down below, you'd have to jump down to it.

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#58 2018-10-10 01:19:53

spacetechsforum
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Registered: 2018-08-18
Posts: 32

Re: Key Debates

Louis, if it ain't gonna happen then the whole talk about the Mars colony is useless. There is no way to do more than flag planting and maybe a single small outpost for few scientists with BFR.

The reason is very simple. BFR needs fuel on Mars. The more stuff you want to move the more fuel you must produce to return. The bigger the refinery producing fuel, the more materials and more maintenance is required (more spare parts, more energy, more people - rotation required, more food, oxygen - production required = more spare parts, more materials etc). You may argue that ships may stay on Mars, but that is defeat to the point of BFR.

If you need to allocate all of the resources to produce fuel, colony on Mars ain't gonna happen. I mean - what is the point if it exist only to produce fuel? Even if you solve the unloading subject you cannot overcome the above problem - this is a design flaw and so you need to alter the design.

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#59 2018-10-10 03:53:36

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,464

Re: Key Debates

I don't think you understand the plan.

500 tonnes is a huge amount to land in "one go".  If you land that amount every two years, you will have landed about 2500 tonnes in one decade. Of course some of it is consumed. But a lot remains in place. Propellant plants for instance will not all be consumed on one mission. With maintenance they can last over several missions.

Meanwhile your thousands of tonnes delivered will include habitats, indoor farms, 3D printers, mining robots, materials processor, scaled down steel furnaces, brick makers etc etc. Your colony is becoming more and more self-sufficient.

Because the colony is becoming more self-sufficient you don't need to take so much in terms of food supplies and so on. Your initial large drop of medical supplies can also simply be topped up in subsequent missions.

Once you have that basic level of self-suffiency your BFSs can take more humans. Instead of the initial crew of say 6-10 you can take hundreds in one mission...of course whether you can will be debatable as the number of humans has to correlate to the Mars-based infrastructure, but each BFS could easily accommodate 50 people heading for Mars and mission 1 envisages take 6 BFSs to Mars - so once you have a functioning base there is nothing to stop you taking 300 every two years.

Also, after a few years you will be exploring the planet finding more and more resources. Given the methane signature of Mars it is quite likely we will eventually find a concentrated source of methane at which point you no longer need to manufacture methane for your rocket fuel (though you will continue to need to split oxygen out of water or CO2.

The business plan is also clear.  Leaving aside sponsorship which itself could raise billions (I'm only leaving it aside because Space X don't appear to be pursuing it much), there will be plenty of space agencies, governments, universities and private companies who will want to put their personnel on Mars for various reasons and they will pay Space X the ticket price and pay for their accommodation/life support while on Mars. Sales of regolith, meteorites and other material will generate huge revenues as well.





spacetechsforum wrote:

Louis, if it ain't gonna happen then the whole talk about the Mars colony is useless. There is no way to do more than flag planting and maybe a single small outpost for few scientists with BFR.

The reason is very simple. BFR needs fuel on Mars. The more stuff you want to move the more fuel you must produce to return. The bigger the refinery producing fuel, the more materials and more maintenance is required (more spare parts, more energy, more people - rotation required, more food, oxygen - production required = more spare parts, more materials etc). You may argue that ships may stay on Mars, but that is defeat to the point of BFR.

If you need to allocate all of the resources to produce fuel, colony on Mars ain't gonna happen. I mean - what is the point if it exist only to produce fuel? Even if you solve the unloading subject you cannot overcome the above problem - this is a design flaw and so you need to alter the design.


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

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#60 2018-10-10 04:03:51

RobertDyck
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From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 5,881
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Re: Key Debates

spacetechsforum,

You keep assuming everything is imported. That's wrong. Mars will mine iron, aluminum, and other metals. Smelt, refine, and fabricate. White sand harvested for glass. We already discussed how to make plastics. Thorium mined as nuclear reactor fuel. Mars will have pressurized greenhouses to grow food. And yes, Mars will make fuel for return vehicles. Imports will be people, information like movies and TV shows, software, electronic copies of technical journals, and highly valuable compact things that are hard to make such as computer chips.

The problem with BFR is that it starts too big. We need something smaller to explore, prove resources, build a propellant production facility and storage depot, habitats with life support for the first 100. All before the first big ship arrives.

Last edited by RobertDyck (2018-10-10 04:04:41)

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#61 2018-10-10 04:05:37

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,464

Re: Key Debates

Air locks on Mars will always "dump out on to nothing" on Mars if you mean dump out on to Mars atmospheric pressure. 

There is no reason why you wouldn't have an air lock chamber on the BFS where the human passenger rovers are located which the crew can enter via an attachment to the main on board habitat area (to avoid dust contamination). Once  the people are inside the pressurised rover they can be automatically lowered to the exit platform and then automatically taken down to ground level by whatever is the chosen method (I am warming to the external elevator idea but scissor lift and inflatable slide are also runners). 

Re the lower cargo hold, I think that would be for automatic deployment. I just feel an external elevator would need a counter balance weight system on the other side for stability so probably two hatch doors to be opened, opposite each and a calibrated counter balance weight system to operate on the other side so the stability of the BFS is maintained. The interesting question is why Space X have opted for this lower cargo hold. Maybe it's big enough to contain a scissor lift?

Belter wrote:

Well, you could build one on the outside, but again, not convenient or efficient.  And the air lock just dumps out to.....nothing.  If there were to be a crane in the unsealed bay down below, you'd have to jump down to it.


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#62 2018-10-10 04:12:38

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,464

Re: Key Debates

Yes, I agree Robert - Mars probably has about 95% of everything we need I would say. It seems to be low on calcium I recall but rich in lots of things we do need. We can also adapt ourselves to Mars. We use lots of wooden tables on Earth, but there's no reason we shouldn't use thin slabs of basalt.  Likewise for tiling, for flooring and so on.

I don't really agree any more about the merits of smaller missions.  The Duchess of Windsor once said "You can never be too thin or too rich." And I'd say of Mars Missions *You can never be too big or too much funded."

RobertDyck wrote:

spacetechsforum,

You keep assuming everything is imported. That's wrong. Mars will mine iron, aluminum, and other metals. Smelt, refine, and fabricate. White sand harvested for glass. We already discussed how to make plastics. Thorium mined as nuclear reactor fuel. Mars will have pressurized greenhouses to grow food. And yes, Mars will make fuel for return vehicles. Imports will be people, information like movies and TV shows, software, electronic copies of technical journals, and highly valuable compact things that are hard to make such as computer chips.

The problem with BFR is that it starts too big. We need something smaller to explore, prove resources, build a propellant production facility and storage depot, habitats with life support for the first 100. All before the first big ship arrives.


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

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#63 2018-10-10 04:18:22

elderflower
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Registered: 2016-06-19
Posts: 1,162

Re: Key Debates

For stone furniture see the Scara Brea excavations on Orkney, where early people did without much in the way of timber.

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#64 2018-10-10 06:40:39

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,464

Re: Key Debates

Indeed. Good example.

elderflower wrote:

For stone furniture see the Scara Brea excavations on Orkney, where early people did without much in the way of timber.


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

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#65 2018-10-10 09:27:39

Belter
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Registered: 2018-09-13
Posts: 184

Re: Key Debates

It looks like the new "Lockheed Martian" lander has an actual elevator and lower air lock integrated into the design.  There appears to be some sort of air lock system built right into the base that lowers down to the surface.  Plus what appears to be some sort of lifting elevator to lower supples from the cargo hold.     Advantage Lockheed.

Last edited by Belter (2018-10-10 09:34:15)

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#66 2018-10-10 14:48:11

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,464

Re: Key Debates

You mean this? 

http://www.aerospacemanufacturinganddes … pt-100918/

It's still just a "concept".  Space X are actually building the BFR. That's the difference. The great virtue of the BFS is that is adaptable as an ISS supply vehicle, a satellite launcher, an orbital tourism vehicle, an Earth to Earth transporter, a lunar tourism vehicle and lander and a Mars lander. The Lockheed lander is just a lander. It's not really a revenue generator in the way the BFR is.

I really don't think unloading the BFR cargo holds is going to be the mission-killer you think it will be. They will find a solution. It might not be the most elegant solution but it will be a pragmatic solution I am sure. 


Belter wrote:

It looks like the new "Lockheed Martian" lander has an actual elevator and lower air lock integrated into the design.  There appears to be some sort of air lock system built right into the base that lowers down to the surface.  Plus what appears to be some sort of lifting elevator to lower supples from the cargo hold.     Advantage Lockheed.


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

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#67 2018-10-10 15:23:10

Belter
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Registered: 2018-09-13
Posts: 184

Re: Key Debates

Well, Lockheed is a publicly held company that has to make a profit.  It can't just lose money like Space X.  Lockheed will be around 100 years from now, Space X and Tesla may or may not be.

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#68 2018-10-10 17:02:30

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,464

Re: Key Debates

It makes money by stringing out over-complicated space projects for decades.

Belter wrote:

Well, Lockheed is a publicly held company that has to make a profit.  It can't just lose money like Space X.  Lockheed will be around 100 years from now, Space X and Tesla may or may not be.


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#69 2018-10-10 17:10:44

Belter
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Registered: 2018-09-13
Posts: 184

Re: Key Debates

The problem with Mars is the same problem with the moon.  The astronomical costs of going will wear on the economy.  Bringing down the cost is critical, but even then, the costs will still be high.   There is no real way to monetize it except for space tourism.   If we're going to go for precious metals, I think that will end up being NEA or Moon-based.  Unless Phobos or Deimos are awash in precious metals easily extracted, anyway.   Mars is isn't very pretty, but it has the benefit of being a lot less ugly than the Moon.   The only thing the Moon has is its view of the Earth.   OTOH, we could lay waste to the other side, mining the crap out of it and no one would care since no one can see it.  Tourism on one side, mining on the other. 

One of the thing things that would be too difficult to do on Mars, but might be possible on the Moon is to send a ton of lander based habitats to Lunar orbit, link them all together by a system of airlocks and frames and then land the entire base as a complete system.    Each landing leg could have its own pressure sensor that identifies when has more pressure than the other legs and release it to match the right amount of pressure from the structure, and making sure it is level.     A series of octagons with 4 airlocks each that could be welded with electron beam welders in orbit.   Rocket engines could even be placed in the spaces between the units, or more likely, attached to each module's underside.  The engines would automatically sync with each other and be managed like a mesh network, so if one were to fail, the others could pick up the slack automatically.  The trick would be to land it softly enough to avoid structural damage.  Shouldn't be too hard at 1/6G.     

dy3xn68.png

Last edited by Belter (2018-10-10 17:25:09)

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#70 2018-10-10 17:26:16

kbd512
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Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 3,185

Re: Key Debates

Louis,

I agree.  It's not a mission killer.  The cargo will have to be easily human and machine transportable for it to be useful.  A cargo elevator that can handle about two tons at a time is fine.  It just drives how the cargo will be deployed and used.  Rather than craning off a single large water storage tank, water will have to be stored in smaller plastic bags / bladders.  The same applies to food.  That's already how its done in the real world.

Gigantic pressurized modules are not required for initial operations.  Pressurized tents (hemispherical domes, actually) for surface habitation with composite overhead support structure, along with pulverized regolith filled kevlar bags for both radiation and MMOD protection will do just fine.  Life support equipment will come in the form of multiple distributed modular systems for both redundancy and capacity / duty cycle minimization, such that system casualties won't take the entire life support system offline.  It's not the Ritz-Carlton, but it'll do.

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#71 2018-10-11 05:17:41

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,464

Re: Key Debates

A pressurised tent might work as a temporary abode.  I can see the value of a temporary tent during the hab construction phase. That could make a lot of sense. But cosmic radiation is an issue.  Perhaps you would have to have the tent covered by a kind of gazebo (a large tray with infill sides as well that could be loaded with regolith to provide protection). The "gazebo" could be automated to erect itself. Then just fill it up with regolith using a robo construction rover. Then put your inflatable tent underneath the gazebo and inflate.


kbd512 wrote:

Louis,

I agree.  It's not a mission killer.  The cargo will have to be easily human and machine transportable for it to be useful.  A cargo elevator that can handle about two tons at a time is fine.  It just drives how the cargo will be deployed and used.  Rather than craning off a single large water storage tank, water will have to be stored in smaller plastic bags / bladders.  The same applies to food.  That's already how its done in the real world.

Gigantic pressurized modules are not required for initial operations.  Pressurized tents (hemispherical domes, actually) for surface habitation with composite overhead support structure, along with pulverized regolith filled kevlar bags for both radiation and MMOD protection will do just fine.  Life support equipment will come in the form of multiple distributed modular systems for both redundancy and capacity / duty cycle minimization, such that system casualties won't take the entire life support system offline.  It's not the Ritz-Carlton, but it'll do.

Last edited by louis (2018-10-11 05:18:11)


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#72 2018-10-11 05:48:27

Terraformer
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From: Lancashire
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,205
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Re: Key Debates

Cosmic radiation isn't an issue if the habitat is only temporary. Even without additional shielding, they'll be getting less exposure on the surface than they will have from the transit - and they can always sleep in a better shielded area.


"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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#73 2018-10-11 06:18:26

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,464

Re: Key Debates

I have long been here a rather lone voice arguing that Mars will generate huge revenues and there will be no problem funding a colonisation programme.

The costs of BFR are going to continue to fall as the BFR finds more and more applications and the economies of scale kick in.  The development costs are already being shared across several applications - it isn't just a "Mars Lander Rocket". A lot of the BFR development costs are already sunk (engine and propellant tank development for instance).

People often start from the premise of "How on Earth are you going to make money from a cold desert 100 million miles away?" - it's impossible. That's not the right way to look at it. The first way to see this is as the Mars colony skimming money from Earth's GDP.  World GDP is around $100,000,000 million. If Mars can skim 0.001% of that GDP, that would be $1 billion per annum. Space X can make money through the following:

1. Commercial sponsorship. Companies like Nike and Coca Cola have annual budgets in the billions of dollars range. I think Coca Cola's budget was $3.5 billion last time I looked. But that's just two companies. World advertising spend is something like $600 billion per annum, and I think just about every company you can think of would be interested in  a Mars link up with advertising. Mars is immediately alluring, of wide appeal, and aspirational as sport is currently. I'd be very surprised if a commercial sponsorship programme couldn't ratchet up to $3 billion per annum once the colony is up and running. You'd maybe have a lead overall sponsor - like Coca Cola - at $500 million per annum, then a shoe/trainer sponsor like Nike at maybe $300million...then a transport sponsor like Toyota (badging the rovers) at $300million. Then you might run through hundreds of products from breakfast cereal to  Lego toys to TV screens with budgets in the $10 to $50 million range. Kelloggs has an annual advertising budget of $730 million. US steel companies, oil companies, solar power companies would all love to have a Mars link up I am sure.

2.  Sale of TV, photo and book rights.  Olympics TV coverage rights are sold for something like $1-3 billion per games.  They are over in a few weeks.  Mars TV coverage will be very valuable to news and other TV companies back on Earth. Imagine how much Netflix or Discovery would pay for some exclusive rights. Books about the colonisation of Mars will sell in the tens of millions on Earth.

3 Sale of regolith, meteorites and so on back on Earth. The 10,000 or more universities  with geology or astronomy departments will all want to get their hands on the stuff.  It will easily cover the cost of transportation back to Mars (which is likely to be around $2500 per kg I would say - half of a $5000 per kg round trip).

4. Providing transport, accomodation, communications, life support, medical services etc etc to space agencies, companies, universities, research institutes and others who wish to send personnel to Mars.

5.  Taking scientific experiment packages to Mars and supervising their operation.

6. Selling low weight products like jewellery back on Earth.

7. Longer term production of luxury goods like Rolex watches on Mars (or rather assembly, incorporating Mars materials).

8.  Creation of a Mars-based art market from which Space X would earn anything up to 50% commission.

9.  Data storage on Mars. Mars could become a safe repository for all human knowledge in digitised form.

10.  A Mars TV channel/radio station broadcasting direct from the planet - offered as part of satellite/cable TV packages.

All the above could easily generate $50 billion per decade.






Belter wrote:

The problem with Mars is the same problem with the moon.  The astronomical costs of going will wear on the economy.  Bringing down the cost is critical, but even then, the costs will still be high.   There is no real way to monetize it except for space tourism.   If we're going to go for precious metals, I think that will end up being NEA or Moon-based.  Unless Phobos or Deimos are awash in precious metals easily extracted, anyway.   Mars is isn't very pretty, but it has the benefit of being a lot less ugly than the Moon.   The only thing the Moon has is its view of the Earth.   OTOH, we could lay waste to the other side, mining the crap out of it and no one would care since no one can see it.  Tourism on one side, mining on the other.


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

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#74 2018-10-11 07:34:03

kbd512
Moderator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 3,185

Re: Key Debates

Louis,

I specifically addressed GCR, which is a long term health issue, by specifying that regolith bags surround the habitable structures.  About 2m of regolith will produce a radiation environment no different than Earth sea level, with respect to GCR and SPE.

You're very enamored with this idea of robotically constructed structures, but I'm more inclined to think that structures built by hand the way 99.99% of all structures on Earth were actually built, with the assistance of some power tools when required, is the best way to accomplish that task for the first missions.  It's certainly the simplest and the fewer the potential failure modes of the equipment and tools used, the better.  Subsequent structures may be robotically fabricated from locally sourced materials, once those processes have been perfected.

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#75 2018-10-11 08:06:57

Belter
Member
Registered: 2018-09-13
Posts: 184

Re: Key Debates

I think both are unfeasible at the moment.   Humans have very little capacity to build structures, let alone absolutely air tight ones.   The only way to do this for awhile is to drop in entire habitat modules, and then perhaps have the landing gear contain wheels and motors to move them into place and connect them with airlocks.   Robotic connection of the modules would work, but I think we're still decades away from having mobile robots on Mars that can do the metal 3D printing, placement and welding that would be required, let alone the mining and processing which takes enormous energy, enormous facilities and major disruption of the surface.  We take for granted how difficult, massive and energy consuming construction is of any kind.

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