Author Topic: Jeff Bezos believes in space as an industrial park, but not as a backup  (Read 18862 times)

Offline woods170

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Or yeah. Just because someone has a clever name for being second doesn't mean it's better.
It does not have to be. But sometimes it can be. But I digress.

Online Coastal Ron

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Earth is a natural container. Mars is a natural container.

NO!

Good god, no.  Absolutely, categorically not.  Stop it, stop it, stop it, please stop.

Mars is not a "natural" anything.  Mars, for all practical purposes, is just another place in the universe not on the surface of the Earth.  It has a little bit of gravity, but that's at least as much of a disadvantage as an advantage, if not more so.

Our choices for living away from Earth are pretty much:

A.  Adapt to different (i.e. initially lower) gravity environments
B.  Adapt to zero G environments
C.  Create the ability to build massive artificial gravity structures in space

However we don't have enough information yet to understand which of these is achievable, and which are not.

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Space is the future, but space itself is mostly worthless. Space is absence. We travel through Space in order to reach an entity of much greater objective value: Stuff.

Keep the supply lines short.  The success of every human settlement depends on logistics.

Sure.  And in comparing Musks plans to Bezos, once you send humans to Mars with minimum viable logistics they have a whole world of local resources to rely upon to fill in the rest.  In contrast, any in-space colony will never have local resources to rely upon.

Now I'm not arguing against space colonies, just pointing out that planets have an advantage in the ability to access resources, whereas with space colonies you have to ship EVERYTHING to them.  There is really no chance of a space colony becoming self-sufficient, whereas there is some long-term possibility that a Mars colony could.

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Build an outpost village near civilization.  Industrialize the village and grow it into a town.  Now use that town to As you said, space is worthless.  It's what we plonk into space that creates a destination.  Patiently plonking destinations into LEO, then into GEO, then points further out creates the best chances for success, instead of getting fooled by the mirage of Mars.

I tend to take an "all of the above" approach to this.  I don't think it makes sense to limit humanity to only one path, especially since it will take centuries before we know which one is better (if any).  And since learning how to be competent traveling around in space helps everyone, we are not yet at a point where we have to make a choice about whether Bezos has the better approach or Musk does.
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 Space Ghost 1962

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The problem with "the conquest of space" ( ;D ) has always been (<objective>, <means>, <ROI>).

The "space race"  -> ("HSF to moon and back", <lunar stack>, <national prestige (or "soft power")>). With follow-on of "reusable HSF" -> ("SSF/ISS", <Shuttle>, <follow on prestige>).

Follow on to that appears to be "BLEO HSF" -> ("asteroid rendezvous mission", <SLS/Orion/whatever>, <prestige?>).

SX: Mars -> ("Mars city", <ITS+cargo>, <permanent off earth economy>)

BO: Space -> ("Industrial park", <NG/NA+whatever>, <orbital ecosystem>)

Going beyond governments requires an economic function. A Mars city is compact for concentrated logistical focus, while an "industrial park" is sparse in order to leverage disparate resources spread over vast distances.

While Mars is distant, the logistical path once bootstrapped (ISRU) is shorter - from Mars. The equivalent for the "often closer" Moon/NEOs is not necessarily always better - if you locate your "park" in LEO/GEO, you're still having to acquire resources from the gravity wells, not to mention that with the "working in space" coming/going back to earth for crew avoiding long term occupancy of space as Bezos claims.



Or yeah. Just because someone has a clever name for being second doesn't mean it's better.
It does not have to be. But sometimes it can be. But I digress.
Both of you just like to be oppositional to anything in principle ... ;)

Suggest more justifying content and less reaction.


add:

We don't yet know the resources, cost of production, ... economic "closed cycle" of either BO/SX vision.

For the moment assume they are the same, and that both optimize "access paths/costs" to needed off earth resources, and they're able to anticipate bootstrap needs from Earth (e.g. that both are smart and don't have any bad luck dominating either).

The compact case wins over the sparse case due to interaction "density" - classic bootstrap business.

The sparse case is more durable for exactly the same reason.

So ... Musk is playing the "short term", momentum investment game. Bezos is playing long term, growth game.

Neither are "net profit" businesses.

Exactly like the other businesses they've already succeeded at.
« Last Edit: 11/01/2016 10:10 PM by Space Ghost 1962 »

Online IainMcClatchie

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Quote from: Dave Klinger
Functionally speaking, there's no difference between living in a pressure vessel on Mars versus living in a pressure vessel in LEO, except that the pressure vessel in LEO is closer to help in an emergency, in addition to being easier to build and supply.

I was going to write what you wrote.

Re: delta-V and thus fuel to get to near Earth asteroids and Mars and so forth.

Past colonies were founded to provide things back home that were more abundant in the new place than in the old.  If activities in space are going to provide stuff to us here on Earth, there is going to be more mass coming down than going up.  In the long run, we only have to get from the surface to LEO, the bulk of all movement after that can be done with momentum exchange tethers.

LEO is best when the thing you need most is on Earth.  What does LEO have that Earth does not?  Better access to the rest of space, somewhat more intense solar radiation, and proximal line-of-sight to billions of consumers.

Mars has propellant but not energy.  I've not yet seen what else it might have.

Some near Earth asteroids will have better ore than is available on Earth.  Some will be closer to the Sun, where solar panels deliver more watts/$ than in LEO.  Maybe mining will make sense.

When I wonder what is to be done that will benefit people here, I think about what is done here:
$1500B/year: oil ($0.40/kg)
$ 900B/year: cellphone plans
$ 420B/year: cement production ($0.10/kg)
$ 100B/year: aluminum mining and refining ($1.80/kg)
$   25B/year: nickel mining and refining ($10/kg)

If people on Earth are going to buy a lot of stuff from space, it's hard for me to see that it's going to be materials, as there is either not enough needed or it's not expensive enough per kg.  So at first, it's going to be communications (and already is, of course, but I mean many hundreds of billions $/year).  Later it might be energy.  Maybe solar power satellites will some day make sense.  I don't see how Mars figures in to any of this.  I think the idea of building satellites in space to avoid most of the cost of boosting them into orbit sounds... pretty far away.

So I think I like Bezos' plan a little better than Musk's Mars ambitions, but I like what I think is Musk's plan to launch lots of very large LEO comsats even better still.

Online JasonAW3

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Not sure what to think; he might be right - it might take too long for a Martian colony to become practically self-sufficient and a viable "back-up" to Earth. Or, both Musk and Bezos may be correct (about backups and industrializing space, respectively); their goals would even complement each other in expanding humanity's presence in space.

In the whole scheme of things, I think both efforts can exist without interfering with each other.  And since both require reducing the cost to access space, both are complementary to a great degree.

Dang...  Said it with far less words than I used...
My God!  It's full of universes!

Offline savuporo

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Near earth space is already an industrial park, for the past few decades. With all the signs of any other industrial park to the point of creating a pollution problem. So Bezos is not wrong.
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Offline leaflion

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When I wonder what is to be done that will benefit people here, I think about what is done here:
$1500B/year: oil ($0.40/kg)
$ 900B/year: cellphone plans
$ 420B/year: cement production ($0.10/kg)
$ 100B/year: aluminum mining and refining ($1.80/kg)
$   25B/year: nickel mining and refining ($10/kg)

What if we add:

$200B/year: precious metals ($35,000/kg)

That and water (which presumably will quickly bootstrap to being an important in-space resource) are the first things proposed to be mined from NEOs.  The idea of LEO industry is that there is much more downmass than upmass. Doesn't take much prop to de-orbit from LEO, just a heatshield.

Offline leaflion

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Imagine you are in space.  There are 4 main things in space that will kill you.

1. The cold and vacuum.  This is your fast death.
2. Gravity.  Judging by what happens after a year of zero G to things like eyes, bones, etc.  This is your slow killer
3. Radiation.  This is your least-fun way to die. Medium-term.
4. Things that crash into you with a LOT of energy.  This is your unlikely but random and not that unlikely killer.

Now, lets compare how LEO vs. Mars protect you from these 4 Killers

KillerLEOMars
Pressure/Cold >:( >:(
Gravity >:( :(
Radiation :-\ :(
Crashed Into >:( :)

Now lets assume that you have a habitat (space station, hab, etc)

KillerLEOMars
Pressure/Cold 8) 8)
Gravity >:( :(
Radiation :) :-\
Crashed Into :-\ :)

Now, lets see what problems we can solve my throwing mass at them (Shielding, big spinny space stations, etc)

KillerLEOMars
Pressure/Cold 8) 8)
Gravity 8) :(
Radiation 8) 8)
Crashed Into 8) 8)

My highly laboured point here is that initially, Mars seems like it protects you from the dangers of space.  But with our current space station tech, its hardly better than a space station.
As our lifting and in-space resource utilization skills increase, Space stations become more livable than Mars.  I contend that it is easier to design big cheap rockets than to solve the biological issue: living in low-G.

I personally wouldn't move permanently off earth until they are all at least  ;)

Offline daveklingler

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Earth is a natural container. Mars is a natural container.

NO!

Good god, no.  Absolutely, categorically not.  Stop it, stop it, stop it, please stop.

Mars is not a "natural" anything.  Mars, for all practical purposes, is just another place in the universe not on the surface of the Earth.  It has a little bit of gravity, but that's at least as much of a disadvantage as an advantage, if not more so.

Our choices for living away from Earth are pretty much:

A.  Adapt to different (i.e. initially lower) gravity environments
B.  Adapt to zero G environments
C.  Create the ability to build massive artificial gravity structures in space

However we don't have enough information yet to understand which of these is achievable, and which are not.

Huh?  C is a relatively straightforward engineering development process that begins with a spacecraft tethered to a spent stage.  A and B are, I agree, complete unknowns WRT possibility and timeframe.

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Space is the future, but space itself is mostly worthless. Space is absence. We travel through Space in order to reach an entity of much greater objective value: Stuff.

Keep the supply lines short.  The success of every human settlement depends on logistics.

Sure.  And in comparing Musks plans to Bezos, once you send humans to Mars with minimum viable logistics they have a whole world of local resources to rely upon to fill in the rest.  In contrast, any in-space colony will never have local resources to rely upon.

Great!  Let's say I drop you directly on top of iron, copper and bauxite deposits on the Martian surface.  What riches!  Now you tell me how long it will take you to do anything with them, say, return ore to a settlement (loading it how and on to what?) and build an electric motor. 

Oh, hey, you've got lots of silicon there.  How long will it take you to refine that silicon to the point where you can build a chip or a solar panel?

Take your time.  No need to be more accurate than plus or minus a few decades. 

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Now I'm not arguing against space colonies, just pointing out that planets have an advantage in the ability to access resources, whereas with space colonies you have to ship EVERYTHING to them.  There is really no chance of a space colony becoming self-sufficient, whereas there is some long-term possibility that a Mars colony could.

Okay, first of all, they're all space colonies.  That's my point.  This idea that Mars is somehow an easier place to start a space colony, because it's a planet and therefore easier because it's a planet and therefore easier, is an unfounded assumption. 

Regarding resources, some time soon (< 10 years) after we (humans) begin launching asteroid retrieval spacecraft, small asteroids measuring in the half-kiloton range can begin to arrive in cislunar space, ready for retrieval to wherever we place stations.  A station in LEO can make a relatively rapid progression, using conventional equipment shipped from nearby, to the point where it can refine and smelt small amounts of ore. 

But we're talking hundreds of metric tons, at the very outset, which is more than any human colony on Mars would be able to even lift on to their little red wagons. 

Please see the Planetary Resources and DSI websites for more detail on asteroid mining.

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Build an outpost village near civilization.  Industrialize the village and grow it into a town.  Now use that town to As you said, space is worthless.  It's what we plonk into space that creates a destination.  Patiently plonking destinations into LEO, then into GEO, then points further out creates the best chances for success, instead of getting fooled by the mirage of Mars.

I tend to take an "all of the above" approach to this.  I don't think it makes sense to limit humanity to only one path, especially since it will take centuries before we know which one is better (if any).  And since learning how to be competent traveling around in space helps everyone, we are not yet at a point where we have to make a choice about whether Bezos has the better approach or Musk does.

I, however, have enough information to make a judgement call that it is more logical and economical to build colonies in LEO with one Earth gravity and very little required radiation protection, and near enough to Earth that off-the-shelf Earth tools can be easily shipped up.  Based on what we've learned from ISS about equatorial LEO radiation levels, guilt-free baby-making can start immediately. Al Globus says so.
« Last Edit: 11/02/2016 05:15 AM by daveklingler »

Offline savuporo

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Now, lets compare how LEO vs. Mars protect you from these 4 Killers

KillerLEOMars
Pressure/Cold >:( >:(
Gravity >:( :(
Radiation :-\ :(
Crashed Into >:( :)

You probably want to re-think the last part
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013JE004482/full
Quote
Recent orbital imaging of Mars has revealed new impact craters formed within the period of spacecraft observation. Beginning with discoveries by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) [Malin et al., 2006] and continuing with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) cameras, over 200 new craters or crater clusters have been observed [Daubar et al., 2013].
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Offline high road

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Now I'm not arguing against space colonies, just pointing out that planets have an advantage in the ability to access resources, whereas with space colonies you have to ship EVERYTHING to them.  There is really no chance of a space colony becoming self-sufficient, whereas there is some long-term possibility that a Mars colony could.

So the big advantage of planets is that you can pollute them all you want without (in the foreseeable future) running out of the raw materials you're not bothering to recycle? That's the second most common argument against space exploration I hear all the time.

Bear in mind that not a single city on earth is self-sufficient, and that even our entire society isn't self-sufficient as we keep burning through mineral reserves and billions of years worth of fossil fuels. If anything, settlements become less self-sufficient as they grow, setting up satellite villages to focus on food production, and focussing themselves on producing what they already have too much of, to sell to others and pay for the things they don't have enough of. Any village that is self sufficient, will either die out because its self-sufficiency comes at a cost that is higher than the market price, or start importing luxury items and services as they build up wealth. Which at that point, they will see as a 'need'.

If self-sufficiency to you only means energy, air, food, water and habitation, I posit that any space station big enough to recycle its own waste into new crops would use the same techniques as any planet with no free oxygen or local biosphere. It would, as technology matures, no longer require a lot of inputs beyond compensating for population growth.

Offline leaflion

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You probably want to re-think the last part
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013JE004482/full
Quote
Recent orbital imaging of Mars has revealed new impact craters formed within the period of spacecraft observation. Beginning with discoveries by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) [Malin et al., 2006] and continuing with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) cameras, over 200 new craters or crater clusters have been observed [Daubar et al., 2013].

Good point. Revised:

Have a habitat (space station, hab, etc)

KillerLEOMars
Pressure/Cold 8) 8)
Gravity >:( :(
Radiation :) :-\
Crashed Into :-\ :(

Now, lets see what problems we can solve my throwing mass at them (Shielding, big spinny space stations, etc)

KillerLEOMars
Pressure/Cold 8) 8)
Gravity 8) :(
Radiation 8) 8)
Crashed Into 8) :-\

Looks like a LEO space station is a better idea the whole way through now.

I recommend using smiley-face tables to perform trade studies.  I believe NASA has a spec for it.  ::)

Offline john smith 19

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It's interesting that this thread has raised several of the questions I wanted to raise on the Martian Homesteading threads.

Unless a government commits to establishing an off Earth settlement regardless of cost then any such settlement must generate some kind of revenue.

Blue and SX can write off the start up costs but in some ways that's the easy part.  The settlement/facility must generate enough revenue somehow to cover it's operating costs, specifically to buy in all the things it needs that it is not self sufficient in.

A settlement that cannot do this is effectively a corporate vanity project that will last as long as it's parents management and stockholders continue to view it as part of their corporate strategy.

BTW Some people seem to think LEO is a place where everything has to be bought up from Earth but as our NEO surveillance improves I expect to see a great many more small(ish) objects that can have their orbital parameters adjusted to bring them to LEO for conversion either into living or working space (with much better radiation protection than anything you are likely to bring up from Earth) or raw material for mfg products.


The question remains what can you make in LEO that is light enough yet has high enough value to justify setting up the facility?
High purity specialized glasses for FO lasers and amplifiers seems to be possible. Possibly a couple of other lines.

Note putting the facility into orbit is not enough.

You need a)Down mass b)regular predictable resupply (where Shuttle fell down) c)Ability to swap out (or land the whole facility) sections for damage analysis, repairs or upgrade. I strongly doubt any facility, crewed or uncrewed, is going to be

Anyone who can't do this is doomed to a "big bang," sending up a stocked up facility, letting it run then de-orbiting the whole thing to recover the finished product. A very  clumsy ConOps.  :(
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Offline francesco nicoli

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When I wonder what is to be done that will benefit people here, I think about what is done here:
$1500B/year: oil ($0.40/kg)
$ 900B/year: cellphone plans
$ 420B/year: cement production ($0.10/kg)
$ 100B/year: aluminum mining and refining ($1.80/kg)
$   25B/year: nickel mining and refining ($10/kg)

What if we add:

$200B/year: precious metals ($35,000/kg)

That and water (which presumably will quickly bootstrap to being an important in-space resource) are the first things proposed to be mined from NEOs.  The idea of LEO industry is that there is much more downmass than upmass. Doesn't take much prop to de-orbit from LEO, just a heatshield.

Any serious space industrialisation plan cannot rely on the falsehood "water is precious in space" to finance itself.
Yes, water IS precious in space because access costs are so high. But you won't have any serious industrialisation if space costs remain high. So, if Musk or Bezos or whoever manages to bring costs down (and hell, it looks like both companies' medium term plans could very well deliver that goal) then water in space is no longer precious.

Offline Robotbeat

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You probably want to re-think the last part
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013JE004482/full
Quote
Recent orbital imaging of Mars has revealed new impact craters formed within the period of spacecraft observation. Beginning with discoveries by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) [Malin et al., 2006] and continuing with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) cameras, over 200 new craters or crater clusters have been observed [Daubar et al., 2013].

Good point. Revised:

Have a habitat (space station, hab, etc)

KillerLEOMars
Pressure/Cold 8) 8)
Gravity >:( :(
Radiation :) :-\
Crashed Into :-\ :(

Now, lets see what problems we can solve my throwing mass at them (Shielding, big spinny space stations, etc)

KillerLEOMars
Pressure/Cold 8) 8)
Gravity 8) :(
Radiation 8) 8)
Crashed Into 8) :-\

Looks like a LEO space station is a better idea the whole way through now.

I recommend using smiley-face tables to perform trade studies.  I believe NASA has a spec for it.  ::)
Just in a spacesuit (no shielding), Mars at relevant landing sites has lower radiation dose than ISS. Please correct.

Also, gravity is an unknown. Mars may easily be good enough. And you CAN actually get to Earth gravity by "throwing mass at the problem". Mars also has the advantage that there are FAR more accessible resources than anywhere in the solar system besides the surface of Earth. And for some resources, like iron, it's even more easily accessible than Earth.

Also, WTf is "crashed into"? Mars surface relevant sites are fully protected from micrometeorites. LEO, on the other hand, will always have significant impact risk.
« Last Edit: 11/02/2016 11:35 AM by Robotbeat »
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline vapour_nudge

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You probably want to re-think the last part
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013JE004482/full
Quote
Recent orbital imaging of Mars has revealed new impact craters formed within the period of spacecraft observation. Beginning with discoveries by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) [Malin et al., 2006] and continuing with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) cameras, over 200 new craters or crater clusters have been observed [Daubar et al., 2013].

Good point. Revised:

Have a habitat (space station, hab, etc)

KillerLEOMars
Pressure/Cold 8) 8)
Gravity >:( :(
Radiation :) :-\
Crashed Into :-\ :(

Now, lets see what problems we can solve my throwing mass at them (Shielding, big spinny space stations, etc)

KillerLEOMars
Pressure/Cold 8) 8)
Gravity 8) :(
Radiation 8) 8)
Crashed Into 8) :-\

Looks like a LEO space station is a better idea the whole way through now.

I recommend using smiley-face tables to perform trade studies.  I believe NASA has a spec for it.  ::)

Good internet etiquette is one smiley per post 😉😄

Offline daveklingler

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You probably want to re-think the last part
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013JE004482/full
Quote
Recent orbital imaging of Mars has revealed new impact craters formed within the period of spacecraft observation. Beginning with discoveries by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) [Malin et al., 2006] and continuing with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) cameras, over 200 new craters or crater clusters have been observed [Daubar et al., 2013].

Good point. Revised:

Have a habitat (space station, hab, etc)

KillerLEOMars
Pressure/Cold 8) 8)
Gravity >:( :(
Radiation :) :-\
Crashed Into :-\ :(

Now, lets see what problems we can solve my throwing mass at them (Shielding, big spinny space stations, etc)

KillerLEOMars
Pressure/Cold 8) 8)
Gravity 8) :(
Radiation 8) 8)
Crashed Into 8) :-\

Looks like a LEO space station is a better idea the whole way through now.

I recommend using smiley-face tables to perform trade studies.  I believe NASA has a spec for it.  ::)
Just in a spacesuit (no shielding), Mars at relevant landing sites has lower radiation dose than ISS. Please correct.

The Earth's magnetic field plays a huge role here.

Mars - around 255 mSv as measured by Curiosity, plus the 300 mSv the colonist incurs on the way to Mars
ISS as it crosses the equator - about 17 mSv (varies by altitude and inclination)
space station at 500km equatorial LEO - 17.7 mSv, acceptable for safe human breeding

Quote
Also, gravity is an unknown. Mars may easily be good enough. And you CAN actually get to Earth gravity by "throwing mass at the problem". Mars also has the advantage that there are FAR more accessible resources than anywhere in the solar system besides the surface of Earth. And for some resources, like iron, it's even more easily accessible than Earth.

Gravity is a known.  It's safe to say that humans are better adapted to 1G than any other value.  If you're proposing to "fix" Mars' gravity in order to make Mars a better place to colonize, that's all well and good and I wish you luck in your future endeavour.

Saying that there are FAR more accessible resources than anywhere in the solar system (false because asteroid belts) is misleading because even if said resources are lying around one's putative Mars colony, it would be several decades (at least) before anything meaningful could be done with them.

Quote
Also, WTf is "crashed into"? Mars surface relevant sites are fully protected from micrometeorites. LEO, on the other hand, will always have significant impact risk.

A previous poster pointed out that new impact sites are appearing before our very satellites.  The Martian atmosphere and the planet itself provide some protection against meteor impacts, but "fully protected" is not accurate.  Beyond that, though, micrometeorites are not that big on the scale of problems for LEO (or Mars). We've dealt with them for the past few decades.

Offline daveklingler

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Bear in mind that not a single city on earth is self-sufficient, and that even our entire society isn't self-sufficient as we keep burning through mineral reserves and billions of years worth of fossil fuels. If anything, settlements become less self-sufficient as they grow, setting up satellite villages to focus on food production, and focussing themselves on producing what they already have too much of, to sell to others and pay for the things they don't have enough of. Any village that is self sufficient, will either die out because its self-sufficiency comes at a cost that is higher than the market price, or start importing luxury items and services as they build up wealth. Which at that point, they will see as a 'need'.

If self-sufficiency to you only means energy, air, food, water and habitation, I posit that any space station big enough to recycle its own waste into new crops would use the same techniques as any planet with no free oxygen or local biosphere. It would, as technology matures, no longer require a lot of inputs beyond compensating for population growth.

This is an interesting and extremely important point.  We talk about "self-sufficiency" as a goal for Mars settlements because (a) they're so difficult to reach and service that self-sufficiency is absolutely necessary for the colony to survive and (b) space colony people often cite "backup plan" as a reason to build space colonies. 

But LEO colonies don't have to be self-sufficient, because (relative to Mars colonies) soon after they're built they'd be functioning not that differently from terrestrial cities, selling products and importing what they can't make themselves. 

To wit, the bar for a LEO colony to "hold its own", i.e. support its population without heavy subsidies, is much, much lower than the bar for a Mars colony, which IS self-sufficiency.

Online Coastal Ron

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Huh?  C is a relatively straightforward engineering development process that begins with a spacecraft tethered to a spent stage.

Such a configuration would be for testing purposes only, not for normal use.  And that type of configuration is certainly not scaleable.

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Great!  Let's say I drop you directly on top of iron, copper and bauxite deposits on the Martian surface.  What riches!  Now you tell me how long it will take you to do anything with them, say, return ore to a settlement (loading it how and on to what?) and build an electric motor.

Oh, hey, you've got lots of silicon there.  How long will it take you to refine that silicon to the point where you can build a chip or a solar panel?

Take your time.  No need to be more accurate than plus or minus a few decades.

I think it will take many decades, maybe even centuries.  My career has been in the manufacturing world, so I know how hard it is to make things even in the middle of civilization.

But making the same size colony out in space, and not on a big lump of atoms, will take far longer.

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Okay, first of all, they're all space colonies.  That's my point.  This idea that Mars is somehow an easier place to start a space colony, because it's a planet and therefore easier because it's a planet and therefore easier, is an unfounded assumption.

The same can be said about colonies not on a planetoid.  However I would characterize it as a calculated assumption.  And it's certainly one that many feel is worth pursuing.

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Regarding resources, some time soon (< 10 years) after we (humans) begin launching asteroid retrieval spacecraft, small asteroids measuring in the half-kiloton range can begin to arrive in cislunar space, ready for retrieval to wherever we place stations.  A station in LEO can make a relatively rapid progression, using conventional equipment shipped from nearby, to the point where it can refine and smelt small amounts of ore.

All of our mineral extraction techniques here on Earth rely upon 1G gravity, free access to as much air as is needed, and in some cases bulk quantities of complex chemicals.

All we'll have in space is lots of heat and cold, so I'm not sure extracting minerals in space is going to happen at a very rapid pace.

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Based on what we've learned from ISS about equatorial LEO radiation levels, guilt-free baby-making can start immediately. Al Globus says so.

Somehow I don't think there will be a rush to make babies in space right away.  But as I said earlier, I think in-space colonies and Mars colonies can exist at the same time, and even complement each other.
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 daveklingler

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It's interesting that this thread has raised several of the questions I wanted to raise on the Martian Homesteading threads.

Unless a government commits to establishing an off Earth settlement regardless of cost then any such settlement must generate some kind of revenue.

Blue and SX can write off the start up costs but in some ways that's the easy part.  The settlement/facility must generate enough revenue somehow to cover it's operating costs, specifically to buy in all the things it needs that it is not self sufficient in.

A settlement that cannot do this is effectively a corporate vanity project that will last as long as it's parents management and stockholders continue to view it as part of their corporate strategy.

BTW Some people seem to think LEO is a place where everything has to be bought up from Earth but as our NEO surveillance improves I expect to see a great many more small(ish) objects that can have their orbital parameters adjusted to bring them to LEO for conversion either into living or working space (with much better radiation protection than anything you are likely to bring up from Earth) or raw material for mfg products.


The question remains what can you make in LEO that is light enough yet has high enough value to justify setting up the facility?
High purity specialized glasses for FO lasers and amplifiers seems to be possible. Possibly a couple of other lines.

Note putting the facility into orbit is not enough.

You need a)Down mass b)regular predictable resupply (where Shuttle fell down) c)Ability to swap out (or land the whole facility) sections for damage analysis, repairs or upgrade. I strongly doubt any facility, crewed or uncrewed, is going to be

Anyone who can't do this is doomed to a "big bang," sending up a stocked up facility, letting it run then de-orbiting the whole thing to recover the finished product. A very  clumsy ConOps.  :(

I think you've framed this issue pretty well.  It's highly unlikely that any government on Earth is going to support a Mars colony in the foreseeable future, and any Mars colony would require constant support for the foreseeable future.  Therefore a successful Mars colony will not exist in the foreseeable future.

For an orbital colony, the necessary support is orders of magnitude smaller and yet still highly difficult to justify.  Tourism will be the first target, and although the market surveys look okay we'll have to wait and see whether that works.  There's also space-based power, a traditional hobby horse, but I tend to discount that because I think we're getting better at generating power near the point of use.

I've wondered myself whether, if we get better at bringing NEOs to LEO and sending products to the surface inexpensively, farming could turn out to be profitable, say on high-value crops that can be grown 24/7 without regard to seasons, insects, blights or natural disasters.
« Last Edit: 11/03/2016 02:11 AM by daveklingler »

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