New Mars Forums

Official discussion forum of The Mars Society and MarsNews.com

You are not logged in.

Announcement

Announcement: We've recently made changes to our user database and have removed inactive and spam users. If you can not login, please re-register.

#26 2018-10-19 19:10:18

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,868

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

I can never understand why people don't look at this from the right end of the telescope. You and others always start with the challenging environment of Mars. That's the wrong place to start. Start with the opportunities.

So when we look at watches, start with the recognition that the global watch market is worth over $40 billion.  That "pie" is definitely available. The only question is what slice you might get out of it. 

You are unlikely to increase demand for watches. It's about inserting yourself into the market (at the luxury end because of the costs of transit) and getting your share. Of course, you would immediately link up with an established brand - probably Rolex. It would be insane to try and establish yourself independently I think when the imperative is raising revenue.

The Mars brand is really strong.

I have absolutely no doubt the watches will sell but because of the shipping costs you can only really access the luxury end of the market.  Manufacturing the watches on Mars would be straightforward. You can import all the parts and then have a Mars-based robot insert Mars-origin jewels into the faces of the watch and do the final assembly - it's now "Made on Mars".  Put the watch in a fancy case with a long certificate of provenance describing the exact location on Mars where the jewels came from etc and you have an absolute winner! I would be surprised if you couldn't make at least $500 million per annum from luxury watch manufacture - selling maybe 10,000 individual watches.

A man's Rolex watch weighs about 100 grams up, depending on materials used. If it costs $5000 per kg for a round trip to Mars that is only $500 per watch at the low weight end.  Luxury watches sell for $20,000 upwards depending on the materials used.  Really it's all about differentiating yourself from the herd and what better way of doing that than saying you've got a watch on your wrist that has been to Mars and has Mars jewels incorporated in it?

What you call "fashion" I would call "market imperative".  NBC doesn't "want" to pay $4 billion for the Olympics, but on the other hand they really don't want CBS or ABC or Netflix to get the Olympics at a lower price. The same logic will apply re Mars.  Coca Cola might not want to pay $5 billion for rights to the Mars Mission but equally they don't want Pepsi to get it for $4 billion. 

Whenever a big news story about Mars comes on I see it immediately shoots into the Top Ten of news stories on sites like the  BBC website. Mars is always big news.  So that is where you start when trying to give it a commercial value.

But even your use of the word "fashion" as though it is not productive shows you don't understand how economies work. Fashion is a huge element in the UK economy.  The UK fashion industry (just clothes really) is worth over £20 billion per annum.








JoshNH4H wrote:

Louis brings up the economy of the UK.  Okay, let's talk about that.

The UK has an economy worth £3 trillion per year ($4 trillion), or £32,300 per person per year ($42,000).  The economy is roughly 1/5 industry and 4/5 services, with a very small amount of agriculture and mining.

The top service job categories in the United Kingdom are:

  1. Retail (including auto repair): 4.97 million workers

  2. Human health and social work: 4.43 million workers

  3. Professional Scientific and Technical Activities (I believe this category includes both scientific research and corporate research as well professional as jobs such as cable repair): 3.05 million workers

  4. Administration: 3.02 million workers

  5. Education: 2.93 million workers

  6. Food service and hospitality: 2.42 million workers

  7. Transportation and Storage: 1.79 million workers

  8. Public administration and defense: 1.50 million workers

  9. Information and communication: 1.48 million workers

  10. Finance and insurance: 1.14 million workers

  11. Art, entertainment, and recreation: 1.01 million workers

All other service jobs have fewer than 1 million workers.

I don't believe that the intent was to denigrate the service sector, which is a crucial part of the economy of any advanced society, but rather to denigrate the specific services which you are claiming to be valued in the billions on a sustainable basis.  One thing that stands out about these activities is that the bulk of them are not exportable at all, and the  remainder are not better-suited to Mars. 

Let's have a look at the dictionary definition of the word "gimmick".

dictionary.com wrote:

Gimmick (n):

  1. an ingenious or novel device, scheme, or stratagem, especially one designed to attract attention or increase appeal.

  2. a concealed, usually devious aspect or feature of something, as a plan or deal

An interesting thing about these two definitions is that they're opposites: In the latter you're trying to hide what makes you different and in the former you're profiting off it.  I suppose the common thread is the notion of making sales by cheating or hiding the ball.  We seem to be going with watches, so to speak briefly on that: Martian Watches can either be made in-house or in cooperation with an established luxury watchmaker.  If made in-house it will be difficult to make watches of a high quality and also difficult to establish a reputation as a luxury brand (Consider that there is no meaningful difference in timekeeping ability between a $5 watch, an Apple Watch, and a $50,000 watch).  Once you get past the hype of a Martian watch, after all, you might find that the Martian brand doesn't stack up to established watchmakers in quality.  If working with an established watchmaker, it's certainly worth asking how much value the "Martian" brand adds to a watch because this is the maximum amount of money they will be willing to give to a settlement organization to achieve that branding.

You have provided guesses on what this value is, but when pressed you retreat into claims like "I think it's reasonable that..." and "wouldn't you agree that..." when in fact nobody agrees and they are unreasonable on the face, particularly as a long-term multibillion dollar revenue strategy.  Coca-Cola ads on rockets going to places where nobody lives? I think not.

Fundamentally, the underlying value behind most of your revenue schemes is a kind of fashion.  It is your belief, based on the things you have proposed to date, that Mars will be so fashionable that all sorts of companies will need to get a piece of the Martian pie.  It's not clear to me that there's any reason to believe this is or will be the case, but even if such a fashion comes around there's one thing with fashions that you can always count on: They will eventually pass. For a settlement on Mars that means a group of people will be left high-and-dry with no viable source of income, a catastrophically bad result if you want to see settlement that is sustained and perpetual.


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

Offline

#27 2018-10-19 20:06:02

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,135
Website

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

I'm still off from today's work. Haven't read this whole thread. But would like to point out, my idea forMars economy starts with settlers. Yes, asteroid mining will generate $billions if not $ trillions, and location of Mars as well as it's gravity well make it ideal to service asteroids. And defence: once asteroid mining begins, someone will find a way to weaponize them. Deliberately redirect an asteroid to your enemy on Earth. Then defence against asteroids becomes a major defence industry. But I still believe settlers will be the primary economy.

Before BFR, I envisioned a reusable settler ship capable of transporting 100 to a couple thousand settlers at a time. Earth orbit to Mars orbit using aerocapture at both planets, and shuttles at each end. Company built settlement on Mars will use insitu resources to provide all supplies for the ship: propellant, food water, even spare parts for maintenance. Settlers pay in Earth currency, but spacecraft operations are from the Mars economy. No need to export stuff to Earth.

Secondary economy will be providing everything settlers need to establish a homestead.

Offline

#28 2018-10-20 16:25:30

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,868

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

I very much doubt that we will be exploiting asteroids any time soon if a round trip costs anything between $5000 and $10,000 per kg. I am sure eventually asteroid mining will take place but there simply won't be any economic need for many decades to come (for one thing intensive recycling will be much cheaper than asteroid mining).

There are 101 ways to destroy your enemy. I think before asteroid impact becomes a weapon tiny "flying insect" robots will be a much more potent force - send out billions of the critters to destroy all your enemy's WMD sites, kill their leaders and parliamentarians...indeed kill all managers of all enterprises , whilst at the same time inserting themselves into the machinery of every working factory in the enemy state. That sort of armageddon will soon be upon us way before any abiliity to manipulate asteroids.

I think it remains to be seen whether the "homesteader" model  will be realisable. It's difficult to say at this point I think.  It might work. If we are able to perfect cheap Mars habs with agri-domes, it might become possible off the back of robot labour.  The more difficult issue is whether people would like to live in an isolated bubble...maybe but obviously the thing about the homesteader ideal in the USA was that people lived in wide open spaces, they weren't just isolated on their farm.

RobertDyck wrote:

I'm still off from today's work. Haven't read this whole thread. But would like to point out, my idea forMars economy starts with settlers. Yes, asteroid mining will generate $billions if not $ trillions, and location of Mars as well as it's gravity well make it ideal to service asteroids. And defence: once asteroid mining begins, someone will find a way to weaponize them. Deliberately redirect an asteroid to your enemy on Earth. Then defence against asteroids becomes a major defence industry. But I still believe settlers will be the primary economy.

Before BFR, I envisioned a reusable settler ship capable of transporting 100 to a couple thousand settlers at a time. Earth orbit to Mars orbit using aerocapture at both planets, and shuttles at each end. Company built settlement on Mars will use insitu resources to provide all supplies for the ship: propellant, food water, even spare parts for maintenance. Settlers pay in Earth currency, but spacecraft operations are from the Mars economy. No need to export stuff to Earth.

Secondary economy will be providing everything settlers need to establish a homestead.


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

Offline

#29 2018-10-20 17:15:06

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,135
Website

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

I gave a presentation at a Mars Society convention years ago. A group started as a result. My point was a reusable autonomous spacecraft. Mine metal asteroids for precious metals: gold, silver, platinum, platinum group metals. Use the left-overs to make Inconel-617, which is the metal alloy NASA identified as a metal heat shield. It's primarily nickel, with 20-24% chrome, 10-15% cobalt, 8-10% molybdenum, 0.8-1.5% aluminum, and 0.05-0.15% carbon. It can be purified with the Mond process, using carbonyls. That requires carbon monoxide. CO2 can be transported to the asteroid, reacted with H2 to make CO. Ice can be transported, melted, electrolysized to make H2. Water and CO2 come from a carbonaceous chondrite asteroid. That asteroid will be the source of propellant. So mine asteroids in pairs: one metal, the other with volatiles. Use left-over metals to make a heat shield and back shell, pile precious metal bullion inside and just weld the heat shield to back shell. Aim for a desert somewhere, and drop it. Then the spacecraft goes for a new load. Reusable and autonomous means it just keeps going, and going, and going, and going...

Forget the high price per kg. That's for missiles, weapons. Military considers missiles to be ammunition, and you don't reuse ammunition. You need to think in terms of mining industry, not military. Big giant trucks cost millions, and each load of dirt has very little gold. But the truck just goes back for another load, and another, and another... The mining operation is profitable.

Offline

#30 2018-10-20 17:37:58

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,868

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

"Forget the high price per kg. " ????

How can you forget that?  Sea transport on Earth is more like $5 per kg than $5000 per kg! Also, while you might not need the giant mining trucks you see on Earth, you will need space-rated robots which are incredibly expensive themselves.





RobertDyck wrote:

I gave a presentation at a Mars Society convention years ago. A group started as a result. My point was a reusable autonomous spacecraft. Mine metal asteroids for precious metals: gold, silver, platinum, platinum group metals. Use the left-overs to make Inconel-617, which is the metal alloy NASA identified as a metal heat shield. It's primarily nickel, with 20-24% chrome, 10-15% cobalt, 8-10% molybdenum, 0.8-1.5% aluminum, and 0.05-0.15% carbon. It can be purified with the Mond process, using carbonyls. That requires carbon monoxide. CO2 can be transported to the asteroid, reacted with H2 to make CO. Ice can be transported, melted, electrolysized to make H2. Water and CO2 come from a carbonaceous chondrite asteroid. That asteroid will be the source of propellant. So mine asteroids in pairs: one metal, the other with volatiles. Use left-over metals to make a heat shield and back shell, pile precious metal bullion inside and just weld the heat shield to back shell. Aim for a desert somewhere, and drop it. Then the spacecraft goes for a new load. Reusable and autonomous means it just keeps going, and going, and going, and going...

Forget the high price per kg. That's for missiles, weapons. Military considers missiles to be ammunition, and you don't reuse ammunition. You need to think in terms of mining industry, not military. Big giant trucks cost millions, and each load of dirt has very little gold. But the truck just goes back for another load, and another, and another... The mining operation is profitable.


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

Offline

#31 2018-10-20 19:08:49

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,135
Website

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

louis wrote:

"Forget the high price per kg. " ????

What is the price of one of these. What is the cost per kg if one of these trucks could only haul one load? How much gold per load? How many tonnes of ore per load, and how much gold per tonne? You could never justify the expense! But mining companies do, because they don't throw out the trucks after just one load. The trucks keep going, and going, and going...
Caterpillar-Electric-Truck-1-570x321.jpg

Now realize in the scenario I described, the mining "truck" will transport from Earth to a C-type asteroid to pick up volatiles including propellant, then to an M-type to pick up an aeroshell. Deposit volatiles for mining, and transport the aeroshell to Earth. Drop the aeroshell, then proceed back to the C-type asteroid for more propellant. Again, and again, and again...

Last edited by RobertDyck (2018-10-20 19:09:40)

Offline

#32 2018-10-20 20:15:20

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 3,721

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

Conveyer systems are vastly more economical, more efficient in operation, and easier to transport than mining trucks.  Assembly is required, but assembly will generally be required for most of what we ship to space in the coming decades.  The conveyers can be made of composites with stainless steel liners for durability.  The conveyer system can use electric motors and solar panels for power.

If transport across considerable distance is required, then tracked vehicles are the way to go.  There are no readily available fossil fuels to provide power for enormous trucks exerting enormous pressure on soft ground, which is anathema to efficient off-road operation of wheeled vehicles.  The trucks work acceptably well in mines because the ground is highly compacted or rock.  If that describes the location where the mining operation will take place and transport over a few miles is required, then large wheeled vehicles might be the way to go.  I tend to think smelters will be co-located with the mines and metals will be produced where they're mined, then transported elsewhere.

The only way materials will be transported back to Earth is if the materials can't be economically mined on Earth.  Otherwise, space mines will exclusively support the space economy.  Once we start mining materials in space and fabricating transport vehicles or structures in space, the input of resources from Earth will be limited to workers.

Offline

#33 2018-10-21 03:25:56

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,135
Website

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

I'm talking about transporting smelted precious metals from an asteroid to Earth. Gold is used to plate connectors for electronics. There's very little gold left, most of the gold on the surface of Earth has been mined. Operational mines today have very low concentrations of gold. Platinum only exists in very few mines, and platinum group metals are needed for hydrogen fuel cells, oil refineries to crack crude oil into gasoline etc, and even catalytic converters. Europe has banned lead solder from electronics because it gets into landfills, where it can contaminate ground water. Instead of 60% tin / 40% lead, the alternative is still 60% tin but replaces lead with a combination of silver and copper. So there's silver in electronics, including home computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and flat-screen TVs. Demand will only increase, yet these metals are already scarce.

Offline

#34 2018-10-21 05:36:37

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,868

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

My point is cost. If gold becomes extremely scarce, then the price rises. As the price rises then more and Earth based recycling techniques become commercially viable. Eventually getting gold out of sea water will become economic. 

So you have to show that the costs of off Earth mining and transport is going to come in at less than those recycling efforts. Currently the cheapest launch is around $1500 per kg I think...might be wrong. So, just to get the mining or smelting equipment to an asteroid would be hugely expensive. And of course you'd be using equipment never before used, in a new context (we've seen how things can "bounce around" on asteroids, with their v low G forces). In other words there would be huge development and testing costs. Before you mined a gram of anything you'd probably be requiring a start up investment of tens of billions of dollars.

In fact Mars itself will probably be a better prospect for mining. If there are surface seams of gold (there should be as Mars had vulcanism and water) then if we have a working base there, it would not be too difficult to mine (using rock drills, and tow transporters with Rovers). There will be returning BFRs in any case, so you are only talking about the marginal cost of transport. Gold would more than cover the cost of BFR transport.

RobertDyck wrote:

I'm talking about transporting smelted precious metals from an asteroid to Earth. Gold is used to plate connectors for electronics. There's very little gold left, most of the gold on the surface of Earth has been mined. Operational mines today have very low concentrations of gold. Platinum only exists in very few mines, and platinum group metals are needed for hydrogen fuel cells, oil refineries to crack crude oil into gasoline etc, and even catalytic converters. Europe has banned lead solder from electronics because it gets into landfills, where it can contaminate ground water. Instead of 60% tin / 40% lead, the alternative is still 60% tin but replaces lead with a combination of silver and copper. So there's silver in electronics, including home computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and flat-screen TVs. Demand will only increase, yet these metals are already scarce.


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

Offline

#35 2018-10-21 09:37:15

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 19,686

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

The typical mining operation does not smelt at the location that the ore is as you will not have the energy to do so. The more important aspect is tonnage to be moved. A space ship is just as limited as a huge dump truck would be and the energy for its use would be propotional to moving the ton of material that we want.
Some would say moving the object which contains the ore to where you want it might be the solution using the volitiles which it contains to accomplish that task.

Offline

#36 2018-10-21 10:41:50

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,135
Website

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

louis wrote:

My point is cost.
...
Currently the cheapest launch is around $1500 per kg I think...might be wrong. So, just to get the mining or smelting equipment to an asteroid would be hugely expensive. And of course you'd be using equipment never before used, in a new context (we've seen how things can "bounce around" on asteroids, with their v low G forces). In other words there would be huge development and testing costs. Before you mined a gram of anything you'd probably be requiring a start up investment of tens of billions of dollars.

My point is launch cost doesn't apply per load. The spacecraft will make multiple trips. Yes, you have to get it into space. Industry has lots of money to invest, the catch is they require a positive return on investment. Airbus A380 cost $25 billion to develop, 2016 estimate. The Liebherr T282B mining truck costs US$4 to 5 million each.

SpaceNut wrote:

The typical mining operation does not smelt at the location

An important feature of an asteroid mine is it will have to smelt on-site. And this is why it has to be a metal asteroid. The Mond process works at ~200°C. That heat can be achieved with a parabolic mirror to concentrate sunlight. Space has 24/7 direct sunlight. And photovoltaic panels to provide electric power. The Mond process works with ferrous metals: iron, nickel, cobalt, each at a different temperature/pressure. The differences allow separating them. At higher pressures and adding fluorine gas, it works with platinum group metals. Asteroids are primarily iron/nickel, so after removing all that the remainder will have everything else concentrated, including gold and silver. Gold and silver will be extracted. Separating gold from silver is difficult, so don't try. Gold mines typically smelt onsite to about 98% purity, so do that at the asteroid. Result will be gold/silver alloy, with about 2% other metals. That's good enough to transport back to Earth, further processing can be done at a refinery on Earth. But the Mond process can purify platinum group metals to 99.999% purity onsite. Iron, nickel and cobalt will be separated from each other, with about that same extreme purity. Carbon will come from CO used for processing. Tricky bit is extracting chrome, molybdenum and aluminum for the heat shield.

Offline

#37 2018-10-21 16:11:55

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

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

The only way I can see moving materials back to Earth cost effectively is with rail guns that can shoot a probe from an asteroid towards Earth with a hypersonic parachute to stop it and some minimal fuel for course corrections.   The question really isn't what the solar system has to offer the Earth because that is almost zero.  The question is, if we offload people to other worlds, at what point do they stop being on welfare.

Offline

#38 2018-10-22 14:13:46

knightdepaix
Member
Registered: 2014-07-07
Posts: 236

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

Tourism is one. Other than that, shall economy be conducted in kind ?

Is manufacturing on Mars better given about one third gravity and one hundredth atmosphere thinner of that on Earth? Due to the ultra thin atmosphere, surface temperature varies greatly. Is a temperature gradient beneficial to manufacturing?

About the name of the first city on Mars -- Martianopolis?

Offline

#39 2018-10-23 01:58:04

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,868

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

Tourism is certainly a prospective sector. Currently though it looks like transit time is going to be around 6 months plus. I've read conflicting stuff about whether we can get there faster than that. I think if we could get the journey time down to say a month then general tourism would become viable. People might plan a 3 month break - one month outward transit, one month on Mars, and one month return to Earth. Maybe a few days lunar stop-off would be part of the package.

Prior to that I think "gap year" tourism is a possibility.  Once the planet has been developed beyond a scientific research station, and has a lot of experiences to offer, I think young people might be attracted to go work and play there for a couple of years. In the same way young people combine work and tourism when travelling aroud the world, they might come to Mars, help the colonisation effort in various ways for six months, then do some exploring...visiting Olympus Mons, Valles Mariensis, explore a cave system, go rocket hopping around the planet.

You can operate a heat engine off the temperature gradient and get energy that way but that's not a technology that's been perfected for Mars yet. I guess industrial processes requiring freezing could make use of Mars's night time temperature. I have mentioned before that storage of methane might be possible as "clathrates" (cold globules of methane),rather than in tanks - that would save a lot of infrastructure.   I doubt though that most manufacturing processes would be cheaper on Mars if we then add in the cost of returning manfuactured goods to Earth...but there might be some niche products where that might work - eg where there's high value to mass ratio.
Certainly you could operate on Mars without having to pay taxes, buy licences, consult with locals on pollution issues, put in place expensive anti-pollution controls on air emissions or rent land. So there are definitely cost savings there. But equally challenges of construction on Mars and  life support (generally not required on Earth) are going to add to costs.


knightdepaix wrote:

Tourism is one. Other than that, shall economy be conducted in kind ?

Is manufacturing on Mars better given about one third gravity and one hundredth atmosphere thinner of that on Earth? Due to the ultra thin atmosphere, surface temperature varies greatly. Is a temperature gradient beneficial to manufacturing?

About the name of the first city on Mars -- Martianopolis?

Last edited by louis (2018-10-23 02:10:58)


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

Offline

#40 2020-08-16 09:16:19

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 19,686

Re: Key features of a Mars economy

bump robotics

Offline

Board footer

Powered by FluxBB