Author Topic: Financing SpaceX's Mars plans  (Read 80689 times)

Online edkyle99

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #40 on: 07/06/2014 09:36 PM »
There's been a fair bit of head-scratching up till now as to how Spacex is going to finance its Mars colonization plans.  ...
The only way that SpaceX is going to build and launch multiple HLLVs and trans-Mars spacecraft is if a government, or governments, fund the project.  I've always seen SpaceX plans as a pitch to NASA and the U.S. government.  None of this gets built otherwise.

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Offline meekGee

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #41 on: 07/06/2014 10:23 PM »
Involving governments brings red tape, strings, and bureaucrats.  I think that Musk will prefer to seek funding directly from the public since few corporations will be willing to invest when the ROI isn't possible for decades.

Instead, consider this list of names.  Collis Porter Huntington, Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford.  Stanford, born to a farmer, organized this group to create the Central Pacific Railroad.  Look up the Pacific Railroad Acts, passed by congress to help promote and fund the development of the railways by granting land to the railroad companies.  So you made a billion at Facebook, congrats.  Want to be immortalized?  Have a spaceport named after you.  The first Mars city.  The passenger gateway at L2.  Or, you can take the cash to your grave and hope that someone writes a nice obit.

Land rights are a huge deal.

What does it take to make a claim? Who recognizes claims?   

Governments indulge in red tape when they have nothing better to do.  But when it becomes as urgent as this, they can move too fast sometimes.

Earth based governments might make demands in exchange for funding, but that goes down the drain when the colony becomes self sufficient. Ultimately, any permanent colony is going to be self governing. You don't get to stake a claim to land unless you send people there. Squatters have more power over that land than someone back on earth with a piece of paper.

So let's try to be specific.

Suppose Musk gets his way with investors, and the first several MCTs land on Mars.

Alcoa, one of his hypothetical investors, says "I claim this piece of land, 100 km x 100 km".  In a true wild west, your claim is only as good as your ability to enforce it, but I don't think anyone wants another wild west on Mars.  So someone has to step up and say "Here are the rules, and I am the enforcer", and at that point governments of Earth get very interested in what's going on.

So this is not SpaceX "pitching it to NASA".   This is SpaceX getting it to the point where the USG, along with every other government, has no choice but to start throwing money at Mars.   Instead of "Flags and Footprints", you have a race to secure influence over Mars.

It is too far away for conventional "diplomacy" - you can't send a battle group there, and you can't start proxy wars using the locals...  All you can do is race to populate the place with your people and culture, as fast as possible.

It's a pretty sweet way to ask for funding...
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Online Lar

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #42 on: 07/06/2014 10:34 PM »
There's been a fair bit of head-scratching up till now as to how Spacex is going to finance its Mars colonization plans.  ...
The only way that SpaceX is going to build and launch multiple HLLVs and trans-Mars spacecraft is if a government, or governments, fund the project.  I've always seen SpaceX plans as a pitch to NASA and the U.S. government.  None of this gets built otherwise.

 - Ed Kyle
I hope you are wrong. Because I'm betting and hoping on this being a non-government thing. If it was, it would be really huge. A transformational change in the way we govern ourselves.

I acknowledge that's not the way to bet and that's why I would only offer long odds on the bet I was referring to before. But a guy's gotta hope.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Online KelvinZero

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #43 on: 07/07/2014 01:37 AM »
The only way that SpaceX is going to build and launch multiple HLLVs and trans-Mars spacecraft is if a government, or governments, fund the project.  I've always seen SpaceX plans as a pitch to NASA and the U.S. government.  None of this gets built otherwise.

 - Ed Kyle
The MCT today would be a brontosaurus in the age of trilobites. Im sure there is an element of pointed humour behind it. A massive reusable vehicle that launches at best every two years isn't that interesting to me. There isnt even serious work on how to live on Mars yet. Obviously nothing like MCT's necessary environment exists today.

It is the F9R which is right under your noses, can serve markets today, and can just maybe evolve into something that launches again on the same day. Try to imagine a world where the F9R has found a sufficient market to keep it's factories running building more even at that launch rate. If you can believe that, and Im not sure I do, it is not too hard to imagine Elon Musk dabbling in mars. He wouldn't need MCT to do so either.

Offline Vultur

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #44 on: 07/07/2014 02:16 AM »
The only way that SpaceX is going to build and launch multiple HLLVs and trans-Mars spacecraft is if a government, or governments, fund the project.  I've always seen SpaceX plans as a pitch to NASA and the U.S. government.  None of this gets built otherwise.

 - Ed Kyle
Maybe.

I don't think we know enough to know what it will cost, though, or what other funding sources he has in mind, etc.

I think what Cruncher suggests (selling billions worth of Tesla stock) could well work, IF Tesla gets to the point that Musk thinks it can handle that (having the CEO sell all that stock might make people not want to invest in it as much). It might work even better if by the time Musk does that, Tesla's grown a lot more so it's $50 or 100 billion of Tesla stock.



The MCT today would be a brontosaurus in the age of trilobites. Im sure there is an element of pointed humour behind it. A massive reusable vehicle that launches at best every two years isn't that interesting to me.

Why should it launch at best every two years? Sure, Mars launch windows are roughly that often, but you'd probably have multiple launches per window (not the first one, but...), If they can really get gas-and-go reusability, couldn't you use one rocket multiple times in a single launch window?

Also, if they're talking about getting there and back in 6 months ... if they have that kind of performance to burn wouldn't the launch window be wider?

Quote
There isnt even serious work on how to live on Mars yet.

True, but I don't think it will be that huge of a barrier once people seriously try. Aren't a lot of ISS ECLSS problems due to zero-g, so they can't just use distillation and simple stuff like that?  Plus replenishing from local resources...

Quote
Obviously nothing like MCT's necessary environment exists today.

No, but neither does MCT. I don't really expect to see it flying in 10 years either.

IMO BFR/MCT will be flying after they get regular Falcon Heavy flights going. Once FH is flying regularly, that might change the space picture...

EDIT: fixed quoting
« Last Edit: 07/07/2014 02:18 AM by Vultur »

Offline GregA

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #45 on: 07/07/2014 03:25 AM »

A massive reusable vehicle that launches at best every two years isn't that interesting to me.
That's not quite getting the vision.

Firstly think 21 MCT upper stages launched on 3 BFR first stages each reused 7 times, for example.

The MCTs continue to mars, land, and return to start again every 2 years. The BFR first stages may also have alternative upper stages in between (fuel depots, other missions?).

We don't really know. Just that it'll cost a lot and need someone to support the vision.

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #46 on: 07/07/2014 03:40 AM »
Involving governments brings red tape, strings, and bureaucrats. 
You think involving corporations doesn't?  I've worked in both, and found that bureaucracy is an equal-opportunity curse.  It's an organizational phenomenon, not a strictly government.

And anyone who tells you different is selling something.

True, but having worked both sides my experience is that the government subspecies is worse.

My experience of both is they are the much the same.

But red tape is also essential.  Without standards and agreements, nothing is going to work. 
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline meekGee

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #47 on: 07/07/2014 04:26 AM »
Involving governments brings red tape, strings, and bureaucrats. 
You think involving corporations doesn't?  I've worked in both, and found that bureaucracy is an equal-opportunity curse.  It's an organizational phenomenon, not a strictly government.

And anyone who tells you different is selling something.

True, but having worked both sides my experience is that the government subspecies is worse.

My experience of both is they are the much the same.

But red tape is also essential.  Without standards and agreements, nothing is going to work.

The cardinal sin of governments (and sometimes corporate leadership) is committed when the purported goal (e.g. Space Exploration) is used merely as a flag while the true intentions are completely different, and very often selfish, greedy, and near-sighted.

NASA's governing by congress is one of the most extreme examples of that.  The reason the US space program is stuck in LEO for the last 40 years is not because of red tape.

Red tape, as you say, often has value, sometimes gets in the way of common sense, and is just one of those things that you need to manage sensibly.
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Online KelvinZero

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #48 on: 07/07/2014 04:56 AM »
Hi Vultur and GregA,
I don't want you to take my comments above as negative. What I am saying is that I think that people are missing how exciting F9R is. If it fulfills its potential -- not just the technical act of a turn around "within hours", but finding a sufficient market so that it is actually being used that heavily and the factories to build more F9R are kept busy -- then the world will have been transformed.

The discussion of how mars can become plausible should be the discussion of that transformation and of F9R. A whole lot becomes plausible after that.

Online Coastal Ron

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #49 on: 07/07/2014 04:56 AM »
Involving governments brings red tape, strings, and bureaucrats. 
You think involving corporations doesn't?  I've worked in both, and found that bureaucracy is an equal-opportunity curse.  It's an organizational phenomenon, not a strictly government.

And anyone who tells you different is selling something.

True, but having worked both sides my experience is that the government subspecies is worse.

My experience of both is they are the much the same.

But red tape is also essential.  Without standards and agreements, nothing is going to work.

You can have standards and agreements without "red tape".
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline RocketGoBoom

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #50 on: 07/07/2014 05:29 AM »
Every company needs a "vision", even if it isn't entirely realistic. SpaceX and Elon talk about Mars, but they don't seem to be doing much about it other than improving the economics of getting into Earth orbit.

Any financing plan for Mars colonization is just fictional. Mars doesn't have a magnetic field. Anything living long term on Mars is HUGELY problematic. At best we are talking about short term visits. Talking about colonization is just so unrealistic that it creates huge credibility issues in a serious discussion on the topic.

In my opinion, there are really only two cases for funding anything Mars related...

1) Government funding for scientific missions (rovers) or a quickie manned mission (maybe a few weeks) just to say we did it first.

2) Charity / Ego Billionaire funding. Elon might fund a manned mission if his net worth reaches silly levels ($50 billion or more). I suspect that will only happen if the US government doesn't make any real effort within the next 20 years.

Once SLS is cancelled in a few years, we will see if NASA or the US Govt are serious based on whatever their replacement option is. That will likely determine which direction SpaceX goes.
« Last Edit: 07/07/2014 05:33 AM by RocketGoBoom »

Offline QuantumG

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #51 on: 07/07/2014 05:31 AM »
Mars doesn't have a magnetic field. Anything living long term on Mars is HUGELY problematic. At best we are talking about short term visits.

That's the worst excuse I think I've ever heard.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline RocketGoBoom

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #52 on: 07/07/2014 05:37 AM »
Mars doesn't have a magnetic field. Anything living long term on Mars is HUGELY problematic. At best we are talking about short term visits.

That's the worst excuse I think I've ever heard.

Not to go too off topic from the financing issue here, but don't you think the radiation issue is a serious long term barrier to any actual self sustaining colony on Mars?

Edit/Lar: This didn't divert too badly but in future let's try to stay closer to the financing aspect of this topic. The thread has been all over the map, but keeps coming back successfully... :)
« Last Edit: 07/07/2014 12:32 PM by Lar »

Offline QuantumG

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #53 on: 07/07/2014 05:46 AM »
Not to go too off topic from the financing issue here, but don't you think the radiation issue is a serious long term barrier to any actual self sustaining colony on Mars?

No. It's essentially trivial compared to the engineering of getting there or even financing.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline ey

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #54 on: 07/07/2014 07:44 AM »
The problem with land ownership on Mars is that most investors won't invest in something that will only pay off 100+ years in the future.

The only way you'd be able to make money off that in your lifetime is to sell it to someone else at a higher price, which would only happen if people believed it would plausibly happen and that whoever's in control at that time would honor the arrangement.

Not that 100 year real estate deals are unheard of -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_rent_in_Hong_Kong#Land_Tenure_in_Hong_Kong -- but that's for land you can actually build stuff on now, not land a few hundred million miles away.

You're lucky if you can even find a company willing to make a 20 year investment in its own capabilities. Most only care about short-term results. Beyond earth colonization is longer term and much higher risk than most people will put up with when it comes to investing.

Offline Oli

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #55 on: 07/07/2014 09:20 AM »

What SpaceX can do is to develop technologies for a Mars mission such that it will be contracted by NASA in the future.

No more, no less.

Offline Mader Levap

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #56 on: 07/07/2014 10:45 AM »
All I said was that IF you start with Elon's statement of "People on Mars in 10-12 years", THEN IMO they need to send a first payload in 2016, because there's a limited number of launch cycles, and there's a certain minimum steps in the landing curve.
So we can conclude Musk was and is way too optimistic on that (reason is personal - he wants to retire on Mars, so he is on pretty terminal deadline). Ah well, as one Dilbert cartoon said, "optimism is not a crime".

In that case you can do the FH flight in 2018, unmanned BFR/MCT in 2020 and 2022, and a manned landing in 2024 or 2026.
In my humble opinion, it is still too optimistic (and too rushed). 30's is earliest possible manned Mars mission from anyone, be it SpaceX, some goverment(s) or other entity.

In Musk's shoes I would try to retire on Moon - if he starts now, he has real shot for that. He is born too early for Mars. He should get over that and focus on work that one day will allow to land man on Mars. Affordably. He actually can significantly contribute for that.
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Offline IslandPlaya

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Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #57 on: 07/07/2014 10:53 AM »
He could just retire later...

Offline jsgirald

Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #58 on: 07/07/2014 11:17 AM »
Every company needs a "vision", even if it isn't entirely realistic. SpaceX and Elon talk about Mars, but they don't seem to be doing much about it other than improving the economics of getting into Earth orbit.

I think he is serious about all this Mars affair, dead serious. But it doesn't mean he's delusional about it. Looking at his career, he's made a fortune betting on new paradigms rather than staying mainstream.
It's highly unlikely that a Mars initiative can be financed by a single individual/corporation, but I'm sure Elon Musk knows that better than any of us, after all it's his job to know about it.

Improving access to LEO is a must if you want to go anywhere, so it's the logical starting point for this enterprise. It's always dangerous to draw on historical paralellisms but the Age of Discovery was possible because first the Portuguese invented a new type of ship that was specifically designed for exploration. Caravels were the product of an intentional effort to get beyond what was possible at the time, and this impulse was the work of wealthy and powerful individuals that shared this vision.

"For every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert".

Offline CuddlyRocket

Re: Financing Spacex's Mars plans
« Reply #59 on: 07/07/2014 11:37 AM »
In international relations, we have a saying that "possession is 9/10ths of the law".  When the Russian Federation violated international law by conquering Crimea from Ukraine, it was strictly illegal under international law.  Yet today the first conquest of a portion of another state by a major power since WWII has largely been tacitly recognized.  After all, what state on Earth would want to fight a nuclear-armed, oil-producing powerhouse like Russia over Crimea?

People misunderstand 'possession is 9/10ths of the law'. First, it requires a functioning system of law. In the absence of such you are left with (to quote George VI) "the primitive doctrine of might is right", which is what the Crimean situation is an example of. In such a lawless environment possession is relevant only insofar as it's easier to defend than attack. Second, even within a system of law, it's only an evidential maxim. It arose at a time when proving you owned property was often difficult and often the only evidence was that one party was in possession and the other not. But in modern times evidence is generally plain and possession will avail you naught, as many a squatter in the UK now discover when the police arrive to cart them off!

Any Martian colony will eventually develop an autonomous legal order and can then itself give legally enforceable land grants. But the US is very unlikely to do so - I can't see that it will consider the diplomatic and probably economic costs (sanctions) being worth so doing - and in any event no-one else will recognise it, so you're back to whether the colony does so or not. If so, why not just let the colony do their thing from the get-go?

Musk has no cash at all, he has millions in debt. see:
http://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musk-borrows-150-million-to-buy-tesla-2013-5

One nit, I'm not as concerned about his current debt as you are...

Musk has these debts simply because it's more economic. The alternative is to sell some shares, but the value of those shares increases much faster than the cumulative interest on the debts. Say he owes $500 million; at 7% interest that's $35 million per annum. But $500 million of his shares increase in value by much more than $35 million over that year, so it would be stupid to sell the shares to pay off the debt! Even if he adds the interest to his borrowing; such borrowing is a declining percentage of his assets each year!

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