Author Topic: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?  (Read 22233 times)

Offline lkm

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #60 on: 07/09/2010 05:12 PM »
My basic point, I think, was that earth to LEO, LEO to anywhere else, is just a transportation system. Like all mass transportation systems it has a large infrastructure, development and operating cost that must be spread across it users. At a high level the technology used is irrelevant and hard to predict 150 years into the future.
But what we can guess is that demand for LEO and GEO is likely to increase as existing services (telephony, TV, imagery) are expanded, improved and delivered to many more consumers across the globe and new services, both imagined and as yet unthought of are implemented ( space  based solar power, server farms, ?).
What we can further guess is that the technology to deliver these payloads will improve, because it always has, and that prices will come down as the demand goes up. We can further imagine that as prices come down new or old ideas become economical and demand increases further in a virtuous spiral.
Now when I brought up Antarctica I wasn't suggesting it created a demand for air travel, rather I was positing that the fact that 3 million people can fly from London to New York every year makes it fiscally more possible for thousands of people to be transported to and supplied on a barren remote dangerous continent. Just as the costs of a Mars population would be reduced by a vibrant and robust LEO/Lunar/NEO/? transportation system. 
Neither result would be the driving mission of any transportation system, but they are possible results that can just drop out from the ongoing nature of things.
 



Offline Jim Davis

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #61 on: 07/09/2010 06:29 PM »
My basic point, I think, was that earth to LEO, LEO to anywhere else, is just a transportation system. Like all mass transportation systems

Space transportation is hardly "mass" transportation in any sense of the word, roughly 50 movements a year to LEO and beyond.
 
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But what we can guess is that demand for LEO and GEO is likely to increase as existing services (telephony, TV, imagery) are expanded, improved and delivered to many more consumers across the globe

This is debatable. Improved services don't necessarily translate to greater demand for launches. The satellites, pound for pound, are much more capable than ever.

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and new services, both imagined and as yet unthought of are implemented ( space  based solar power, server farms, ?).

Granted, but here you're falling into the trap of one speculative scheme (20,000 Martian residents) being dependent on other speculative schemes. The more speculative links in your chain of argument the less convincing your argument becomes.

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What we can further guess is that the technology to deliver these payloads will improve, because it always has, and that prices will come down as the demand goes up. We can further imagine that as prices come down new or old ideas become economical and demand increases further in a virtuous spiral.

Again, you're going to need more than 50 (indeed many more than 50) launches to LEO and beyond annually before anyone will invest substantially in technology to deliver payloads.

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Now when I brought up Antarctica I wasn't suggesting it created a demand for air travel, rather I was positing that the fact that 3 million people can fly from London to New York every year makes it fiscally more possible for thousands of people to be transported to and supplied on a barren remote dangerous continent. Just as the costs of a Mars population would be reduced by a vibrant and robust LEO/Lunar/NEO/? transportation system. 
Neither result would be the driving mission of any transportation system, but they are possible results that can just drop out from the ongoing nature of things.

But this is sort of like the guy who claimed it was easy to become a millionaire - "Start with $900,000..." You're starting with the assumption that investing in space transportation will be very lucrative and will result in a "vibrant and robust LEO/Lunar/NEO/? transportation system". If one grants that assumption, then yes, 20,000 people on Mars in 150 years is quite reasonable. But it is not clear that investing in space transportation will be very lucrative. Launch costs are relatively modest when compared to the revenue and/or benefits provided by commercial satellites over their lifespans. It is only when the benefits themselves are modest (like manned space) that launch costs are prohibitive. Thus the case for investment in space transportation technology is hard to make. Indeed, the only time it was ever successfully made was 50-60 years ago when delivery of nuclear weapons was so urgent.

In short, I find it unlikely that a "vibrant and robust LEO/Lunar/NEO/? transportation system" will "just drop out from the ongoing nature of things". It's certainly difficult to detect such a trend over the past few decades.

Offline lkm

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #62 on: 07/09/2010 09:48 PM »
I think by it's very nature anything we can say about 2160 is going to be highly speculative, all we can do is extrapolate from what we have now and fill in the holes with some informed speculation.
If you accept the premise that Mars is a natural occurrence that falls out of a robust transport system, as you have, then the question is reduced to how long until such a system comes about? Is there a long term trend of a growing mass to orbit transportation system? If there is,  what is its rate of growth and how long until that produces Mars?
Like all mass transport systems the metric of measurement is units moved, for space that unit is the kg. So the question is, is there a long term trend of an increase of kg to orbit?
The major sources of that demand today are satellite technologies, so to predict future demand we start with what already exists. As William Gibson said "The future exists today. It's just unevenly distributed."
Satellite television although widely available in the developed world is still far from saturation and in many countries is basically a monopoly.
Satellite telephony like Iridium has barely a million users currently but in a mobile market increasingly monopolized by globally released single model phones a single network bypassing a thousand local networks of dubious quality would make a lot of sense ( Apple buys Iridium, Google buys ?).
Satellite imagery has already moved beyond the military to Google maps and the like, but the demand for greater resolution and real time imagery has yet to do so, clearly if it does  a gps map app with real time sat coverage would require more satellites.
Beyond these existing uses the fact that, as you say, satellites are becoming more capable than ever and are not immune to Moore's law suggest that there must be purposes to which they haven't yet been put but will someday.
When it comes to improving payload delivery substantial investment over the long term is only modest in the short term. The new space movement in the US clearly has it as a goal and SpaceX has not yet been unsuccessful. In the EU Skylon may seem fanciful but the Europeans have a track recorded of funding economically slight megaprojects such as Concorde, the Channel Tunnel, Airbus and Eurofighter. Funding Skylon with enough government money to buy down the risk would not be out of character.



 

Offline KelvinZero

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #63 on: 07/10/2010 01:05 AM »
Doesn't really sound comparable. We know from other transportation technologies that the former is true, a plane ticket today is a fifth the value of one thirty years ago, cars, boats and trains all show the same thing. We also can guess that demand is going to rise over the coming decades as satellite technologies begin to spread more evenly delivering more services to more consumers. While we also know that demand for 150 room mansions has fallen dramatically over the last 200 years and have very little scope spreading of costs.
You can query the base costs and you can query how quickly they might come down but to suggest they won't or can't for a transportation system seems strange.

I actually have a concern that we may find more and more ways to avoid satellites. After all they do have the intrinsic speed-of-light time lag. Could the earth become sufficiently wired that satellites are seldom used for data transmission? Could high altitude solar powered robotic planes replace many other uses? Could advancing technology make the necessary mass for the remaining uses smaller and smaller?

I think the last thirty years have demonstrated that there is no requirement for costs to come down dramatically. I think for costs to come down, we need an industry that is bordering on breaking even right now, and will only become more profitable as the industry scale increases.

Offline mlorrey

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #64 on: 07/10/2010 05:26 AM »
Two assumptions for a quick hand wave.
First, the 2010 price of a ticket to:
 LEO is  ~$10 million
The Moon is  ~$100 million
Mars is $1 billion
Second assumption, rising demand, improving technology and amortization of development and operational costs will roughly halves those costs every ten years.
The result is that by 2160 Mars is roughly as expensive as Antarctica is today, which has a population of ~10000 or so scientists but no tourists because they are effectively banned. So by 2160 Mars could easily have around 20000 people on it, half scientists and half tourists.
Your assumptions may vary.


Who told you tourists are banned from Antarctica? There is a huge tourism business in Antarctica, cruise ships go there.  From the Antarctic Tourism Industry website: "Although Antarctic tourism began in the late 1950s, it remained at low levels until the early 1990s when it took off. From a base of 4,698 tourists in the 1990/91 summer, annual numbers have risen to 46,069 in the summer of 2007/2008. "

If there are only 10,000 scientists in Antarctica, then it stands to reason that if Mars reaches 20,000 population, it will also see 80,000 per year in tourists. Tourists aren't counted in population figures normally.

This would mean a rather large interplanetary cruise ship industry, and enough market pressure and capital to focus on really advancing propulsion physics.
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Offline mlorrey

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #65 on: 07/10/2010 05:29 AM »
I am 100% certain, if it would be possible to go to Mars one-way today, thousands, if not millions, would sign up.

If thousands, if not millions were willing to go to Mars one-way today, it would be possible.

But there aren't, so there's not.

You sound so certain, without a shred of evidence to back up your absolute opinion on the matter. Lets see some poll figures eh?
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Offline mlorrey

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #66 on: 07/10/2010 05:32 AM »
Changes to current space treaties will have to be made. What drove the settlers from the eastern USA to set out for the West? One of the drivers was the promise of free land. The Martian colonsist would have to own the land they occupy. Otherwise Mars will never become more than an Antarctica style science outpost. Without land ownership, there will be no need for more than just a few people on Mars.

There are no changes to current space treaties that need to be made. Firstly, the US isn't a party to the worst and most collectivist, but it is really immaterial. The space treaties that exist only prohibit Earth nations from claiming sovereignty over other planetary bodies. It says nothing about settlers going and setting up their own government and property registration system..
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Offline mlorrey

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #67 on: 07/10/2010 05:35 AM »
Changes to current space treaties will have to be made. What drove the settlers from the eastern USA to set out for the West? One of the drivers was the promise of free land. The Martian colonsist would have to own the land they occupy. Otherwise Mars will never become more than an Antarctica style science outpost. Without land ownership, there will be no need for more than just a few people on Mars.

Yeah, because we're so lacking in land here on Earth, and farming the Sahara or the Outback or Greenland or Antarctica or New Mexico or the ocean surface would be SOOO much harder than farming on Mars.

Fail.  Try again.

Actually not. Making the outback or the sahara livable would require some rather massive shifts in global weather patterns and climate, which would cause massive damage to other nations that have livable climates now. Similarly, making Antarctica or Greenland into habitable arable land would likewise require a massive shift in global climate and a 200 meter rise in sea levels which would cause many trillions of dollars in damages to other nations. So none of that stuff is allowed here for legal reasons.

Not so on Mars. We can mess around with the Mars climate all we want without annoying the climate of some Earth nation. Therefore, colonizing and terraforming Mars is much more possible than making uninhabitable areas of Earth habitable.
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Offline Jim Davis

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #68 on: 07/10/2010 06:49 AM »
You sound so certain, without a shred of evidence to back up your absolute opinion on the matter.

It is my opinion sure, but hardly absolute. You on the other hand were "100% certain" and also "without a shred of evidence to back up your absolute opinion on the matter".

Quote
Lets see some poll figures eh?

I'd love to see some actual scientific polling done. With real questions like:

Would you be willing to make a one way trip to Mars if it meant leaving behind wife and children?
Would you be willing to make a one way trip to Mars if it meant working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week? 12 hours? 8 hours?
Would you be willing to make a one way trip to Mars if the annual mortality rate was 50%? 25%? 10%?
Would you be willing to make a one way trip to Mars if the level of privacy were equivalent to a subway car? A submarine? Antarctic research station?
Would you be willing to make a one way trip to Mars if it was just yourself? 10 other people? 100 other people?
Would you be willing to make a one way trip to Mars if it meant eating food indefinitely equivalent to combat rations? TV dinners? School cafeteria?
Would you be willing to make a one way trip to Mars if there were significantly more people of your own gender than the other? Vice versa?

Etc, etc.

Followed by "control" questions like:

What is the longest period of time you have ever been by yourself? Separated from wife and children? Away from civilization?
What are the longest hours you've ever worked? How long did you work these hours? How long would you have been willing to work these hours?
What's the most dangerous work you've ever done? What's the most dangerous activity you normally engage in?
What's the lowest level of privacy you've ever experienced? For how long?
What's the most bland diet you've ever experienced? For how long?
What's the longest period you've ever gone without sex?
Have you ever had to work for/with someone you intensely disliked? How long did this go on?
Have you ever had to live with someone you intensely disliked? How long did this go on?

Etc, etc.

But what we usually get is anecdotes like "At the Mars Society convention Zubrin asked everyone willing to make a one way trip to Mars to raise their hands. And everyone did!"

I've tried to do some informal polling of my own but usually receive little cooperation. Usually the objections are of the "It won't be that bad!" type. Most married folks I've talked to insist on bringing the spouse or if the spouse is not willing, they wouldn't go. I've never run across anyone willing to abandon their children before they come of age.

A common attitude among would be space colonists that I've spoken to is that they're quite willing to colonize the moon, Mars, L-5, or whatever if conditions would be what they imagine them to be but are much more noncommittal if conditions deviate substantially from that ideal. Just about anyone would be willing to work and live in a techno paradise like Island Three (who wouldn't?) but if conditions start slipping back toward ISS levels or worse the "It can't possibly be that bad!" mantra starts up.

Frankly, since we only have the vaguest notions of what conditions the first space colonists might be facing I'm skeptical of any claim of the sort "I'd go in a minute!" Also, it's really easy to volunteer when you'll never be called on to follow through.

Offline mlorrey

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #69 on: 07/10/2010 07:32 AM »
Well I think the idea of recruiting from the married population is a waste of time anyways, you are asking the wrong people. You want to get people young, preferable in college or just out of college, to maximize the return on investment in shipping them to Mars. The only older people who you'd take would be people investing in the venture, silicon valley types who are used to high risk ventures and living in a cubicle, etc.

There are websites to organize surveys like this on,  though the subjects would be entirely self selected versus random cold calling that is more scientific.

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Offline KelvinZero

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #70 on: 07/10/2010 09:14 AM »

Actually not. Making the outback or the sahara livable would require some rather massive shifts in global weather patterns and climate, which would cause massive damage to other nations that have livable climates now. Similarly, making Antarctica or Greenland into habitable arable land would likewise require a massive shift in global climate and a 200 meter rise in sea levels which would cause many trillions of dollars in damages to other nations. So none of that stuff is allowed here for legal reasons.

Not so on Mars. We can mess around with the Mars climate all we want without annoying the climate of some Earth nation. Therefore, colonizing and terraforming Mars is much more possible than making uninhabitable areas of Earth habitable.

We wouldn't try and colonize the Sahara by changing the weather. What is needed is efficient methods of trapping the sand or fencing it out, irrigation, shade and so on. It isn't so hard to do for a given square kilometer. We don't because there are easier ways to make money right now.

Perhaps if we start running out of area for solar power farms we will start extending them in to areas like this. Once each square kilometer of desert real estate gains a value it will be plausible to pay people to manage each square kilometer, trap the sand, import soil and begin grass growing as a more efficient long term solution to keeping the desert back.

I think it will be the same on mars, except that self sustainability would be far more important. We will learn to live there in small self sustainable colonies, and colonize mars through these building more colonies and so on. Manipulating the environment will not be considered till much later IMO.

Offline lkm

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #71 on: 07/10/2010 09:20 AM »
I said Antarctic tourism was effectively banned because the Antarctic treaty effectively bans commercial exploitation of the continent,  such as building hotels, resorts and allowing cities to grow. Thus tourists to Antarctica don't actually go to Antarctica, they go to a cruise ship that goes past it. To actually land on it they need a permit.
Imagine how many tourists there would actually be if private enterprise wasn't restricted to below high tide.

Offline KelvinZero

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #72 on: 07/10/2010 09:56 AM »
I am 100% certain, if it would be possible to go to Mars one-way today, thousands, if not millions, would sign up.

If thousands, if not millions were willing to go to Mars one-way today, it would be possible.

But there aren't, so there's not.

I would guess there would be at least thousands. This planet has more than six billion people in it. Thousands of volunteers only requires one in a million. Since suicides in the US are almost 18 per 100,000 per year, one in a million once for something that is probably a much more exciting way of leaving this  planet seems entirely reasonable. I would expect a lot higher.

Suppose a million people wanted to go (on the order of one in a thousand), suppose they had average life savings of around 100k, That still only gives you around a hundred billion dollars. That is about right for a moderate mars mission perhaps.. not moving a million people.

It is hard to tell at what point the sheer size of the investment would push the cost down to something plausible per individual. This also means it would be hard for an individual to take the gamble before the technology is proven.

Offline kfsorensen

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #73 on: 07/10/2010 01:12 PM »
Changes to current space treaties will have to be made. What drove the settlers from the eastern USA to set out for the West? One of the drivers was the promise of free land. The Martian colonsist would have to own the land they occupy. Otherwise Mars will never become more than an Antarctica style science outpost. Without land ownership, there will be no need for more than just a few people on Mars.

Yeah, because we're so lacking in land here on Earth, and farming the Sahara or the Outback or Greenland or Antarctica or New Mexico or the ocean surface would be SOOO much harder than farming on Mars.

Fail.  Try again.

Actually not. Making the outback or the sahara livable would require some rather massive shifts in global weather patterns and climate, which would cause massive damage to other nations that have livable climates now. Similarly, making Antarctica or Greenland into habitable arable land would likewise require a massive shift in global climate and a 200 meter rise in sea levels which would cause many trillions of dollars in damages to other nations. So none of that stuff is allowed here for legal reasons.

Not so on Mars. We can mess around with the Mars climate all we want without annoying the climate of some Earth nation. Therefore, colonizing and terraforming Mars is much more possible than making uninhabitable areas of Earth habitable.

Once again you demonstrate why there is no need to take anything you say credibly.  You're in your own little world.

Offline Jim Davis

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #74 on: 07/10/2010 05:45 PM »
I would guess there would be at least thousands. This planet has more than six billion people in it. Thousands of volunteers only requires one in a million. Since suicides in the US are almost 18 per 100,000 per year, one in a million once for something that is probably a much more exciting way of leaving this  planet seems entirely reasonable. I would expect a lot higher.

I am not persuaded by your suicide statistics. People commit suicide usually because they find some component of life intolerable. It is not clear that a one way ticket to Mars would make life any more tolerable for these people. If a guy is suicidal because his wife left him, going to Mars won't assuage his pain. I doubt that many people commit suicide by losing themselves in the Alaskan or Canadian wilderness and seeing low long they can stick it out. The gun or bottle of pills is generally seen to be more effective medicine for what ails them.

And as I said in my response to Mike, it all depends on what they're signing on for, which at this juncture is completely unknown. If the Chinese are assembling a group of political dissidents and hardened criminals to ship to Mars to work in a slave labor camp to mine (say) D2O I doubt anyone, suicidal or not, will be volunteering to join them.
« Last Edit: 07/10/2010 05:48 PM by Jim Davis »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #75 on: 07/10/2010 06:16 PM »
It's not really about finding people who would go if they had the chance. It's about finding a lot of really rich people motivated enough to want to spend all their money and life to go live on Mars. I can imagine a religious movement doing this, but not much else.

Tourism would be an incredibly small market for a long time because the trip times are going to be very long for the least expensive trips. Traveling to Antarctica doesn't take a $100 billion space ship and doesn't take a year and a half round-trip. To get trip times below half a year or comparable to a seasonal outing to Antarctica would take trillions of dollars if it can be done at all.

It's possible, just not exactly very likely. Let's try to think of realistic and unique ways which could make it happen.

The only force strong enough to make this feasible would be a century of intense technological progress driven by very cheap energy.
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Offline gbaikie

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #76 on: 07/10/2010 11:01 PM »
It's not really about finding people who would go if they had the chance. It's about finding a lot of really rich people motivated enough to want to spend all their money and life to go live on Mars. I can imagine a religious movement doing this, but not much else.

Tourism would be an incredibly small market for a long time because the trip times are going to be very long for the least expensive trips. Traveling to Antarctica doesn't take a $100 billion space ship and doesn't take a year and a half round-trip. To get trip times below half a year or comparable to a seasonal outing to Antarctica would take trillions of dollars if it can be done at all.

It's possible, just not exactly very likely. Let's try to think of realistic and unique ways which could make it happen.

The only force strong enough to make this feasible would be a century of intense technological progress driven by very cheap energy.

I would say the we only need electrical energy to be as cheap in space as on earth.
So, we don't need intense technological progress nor very cheap energy-
but we would get both.
In other words, if you desire for there to be "intense technological progress" and "very cheap energy" the way to get there is to have power in space at about the same cost as power on earth.

Some people have imagined, that "all you need to do" is have the govt buy some huge space power satellite. And simply with the economic of scale you would "get there". There are the same type of people that believe that if a govt simulates the economy good things will result. Or if build a billion dollar space plane and called it the Shuttle, it will lower the costs of getting into space.

To say it as simply as possible, there is some truth to this kind of idea, but it misses other larger and dominating factors.
It's sort of like some 5 year old telling some other 5 year how you drive a car- you put the key in there, move it into gear, and push that pedal on the floor.
Mayhem ensues.
To continue the analogy, 5 year olds should not drive cars, nor should govt drive the economy. But this flies in the face of all the years of Marxist and socialist training- govt is suppose to do this, etc.

Now, there is the question of whether most people do want "intense technological progress" and "very cheap energy". They may vote for change, but do they actually want real change?

Now, assuming this is desired, all one has to do is get the govt out of the way. And do it in a very dramatic fashion. Simply make a firm law that a govt will not tax any activity in space. You could give it a time period- say 40 years. Why not forever?
Well, 40 years would be too scary as it is.
And since some people are absolutely convinced that nothing in the rest of 99.99999% of the universe could possibly be economic why are they scared?

But the above suggestion is fairly unrealistic- taxes are like death.

I have another idea which could involve the govt doing something. The govt simply buys water payloads. Have it a limited program [should be first rule of any govt program- just if you go to war you should have some kind of exit strategy].
So I am talking about govt spending which less than 1/2 billion dollars in total over time period of decade or two. So yearly, it's about 50 million dollars. And this money buys water payloads which have been delivered to some orbit and the orbit should last for at least 5 years [therefore a 300 mile LEO orbit would work, since water has much higher density than normal satellites- and is less affected by atmospheric drag].

This program isn't in a hurry to buy it's water payload. If it was in a hurry it would pay current rates. Instead it offer to pay a very modest amount. So it pays say 500 per pound of water delivered. Or say $1000 per lb if delivered to high earth orbit.
So if it pays $1000 per lb, 500 million buys 500,000 lbs of water [250 tons]. If and when it gets 100 tons to some location in space, the govt then offers to give that 100 tons to anyone who will convert the water into rocket fuel.

Offline KelvinZero

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #77 on: 07/11/2010 12:35 AM »
I would guess there would be at least thousands. This planet has more than six billion people in it. Thousands of volunteers only requires one in a million. Since suicides in the US are almost 18 per 100,000 per year, one in a million once for something that is probably a much more exciting way of leaving this  planet seems entirely reasonable. I would expect a lot higher.

I am not persuaded by your suicide statistics. People commit suicide usually because they find some component of life intolerable. It is not clear that a one way ticket to Mars would make life any more tolerable for these people. If a guy is suicidal because his wife left him, going to Mars won't assuage his pain. I doubt that many people commit suicide by losing themselves in the Alaskan or Canadian wilderness and seeing low long they can stick it out. The gun or bottle of pills is generally seen to be more effective medicine for what ails them.

And as I said in my response to Mike, it all depends on what they're signing on for, which at this juncture is completely unknown. If the Chinese are assembling a group of political dissidents and hardened criminals to ship to Mars to work in a slave labor camp to mine (say) D2O I doubt anyone, suicidal or not, will be volunteering to join them.

Er.. I am sort of comforted that you are not convinced by my plan to populate the first crews to mars with a thousand suicidal manic depressives. That wasn't quite what I was trying to say.  :)

What I am trying to say is that for a thousand volunteers from a planet of 6 billion (lets assume 1 billion after factoring out old, young, untrainable) you only need that one in a million person to volunteer. The number of suicides in one million people is just an example of the extreme range of life choices you can find in a large group.

It is true that what the actual conditions are is a factor, but the immense cost of going there rules out the absurd ones. For example sending political dissidents and hardened criminals would be too absurd for china to do, but probably not absurd enough to prevent one in a million people volunteering.

Finding volunteers for any plausible mission would not be the bottleneck.

Offline mlorrey

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #78 on: 07/11/2010 03:46 AM »
It's not really about finding people who would go if they had the chance. It's about finding a lot of really rich people motivated enough to want to spend all their money and life to go live on Mars. I can imagine a religious movement doing this, but not much else.

Tourism would be an incredibly small market for a long time because the trip times are going to be very long for the least expensive trips. Traveling to Antarctica doesn't take a $100 billion space ship and doesn't take a year and a half round-trip. To get trip times below half a year or comparable to a seasonal outing to Antarctica would take trillions of dollars if it can be done at all.

It's possible, just not exactly very likely. Let's try to think of realistic and unique ways which could make it happen.

The only force strong enough to make this feasible would be a century of intense technological progress driven by very cheap energy.

A luxury cruise ship today costs on the order of $500 million, and offer a 1 week cruise price that generally ranges from $2500-$5000 per person, based on double occupancy. Now, if we are projecting propulsion technology by the 22nd century will advance to the point that interplanetary cruise ships can carry up to 1,000 passengers, and can reach escape velocity from LEO in under a day, with constant thrusting during the remainder of the trip, then a cruise to Mars, one way, will be a four week affair.

By the 22nd century, such ships are built from Martian steel, which is much cheaper than lugging anything up from Earth (assuming there is no skyhook space elevator at Earth by then). Fuel is likewise much cheaper thanks to ice mining projects around the solar system. Now that the Earth to LEO bottleneck is no longer the primary cost determiner, prices of anything in space is far cheaper than in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, it is instead the cost of refining martian hematite and ice into steel and rocket fuel, and building and operating vessels built and fueled with them.

So, in current year dollars, it is reasonable to project that building an interplanetary cruise ship would cost between 10-20 billion. A four week cruise would be priced at about $800,000 per person, double occupancy. The cost of getting to orbit should be somewhere between $500k-1 million.

Once you factor in inflation, 1 million dollars today should be between $22-25 million in 100 years. A $20 billion cruise ship would be $625 billion in then-year dollars.

Once CFC production ISRU machinery is installed on Mars, it goes to work producing this greenhouse gas. According to Martyn Fogg's Terraforming Calculator, adding a mere 0.3 microbars of CFC to Mars atmosphere will cause all the CO2 in the poles to evaporate permanently, and 250 millibars of CO2 in the martian regolith to outgas, producing an atmosphere of 299 millibars (about half the pressure at Lhasa, Tibet) which is equivalent to atop Mt. Everest, an equatorial average temperature of 17.6 C, and 46.6% of the Martian surface will be livable in a shirtsleeves environment (albeit having to wear an oxygen mask). This will also melt most of the glacial ice and refill the northern sea basin. Growing earth life out in the open becomes possible (it may be the same pressure as atop Everest, but its a lot warmer, about 62 Farenheit on average at the equator).

So imagine living where you can be outside in the climate of southern california, but the atmosphere is CO2 and 1/3 of Earth normal, so you need to wear an oxygen mask. This is normal living for someone with respiratory problems anyways. You would of course live inside a home with higher pressure. Before leaving earth you would have received gene therapy to give you the hemoglobin and other respiratory advantages that are being found in the genes of people living in Tibet and the Andes, so this Mars climate is actually quite livable.

As for cheap energy, polywell fusion is continuing to move forward successfully. The WB-8 reactor has been in operation and testing and should be done with that stage later this year. EMC2 is raising funds to build WB-D, the net power demonstrator reactor.

As superconductor technology advances, this will enable polywell cores to shrink, from a minimum 3 meter diameter down to a mere 1 meter diameter. The 3 meter diameter is based on copper wound electromagnets.

Beyond polywell, there are enough other fusion projects that are underway, not just the ITER and NIF projects, that I would be very surprised if we don't have feasible and cheap fusion power within 10-15 years commercially available.
« Last Edit: 07/11/2010 03:54 AM by mlorrey »
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Offline Jim Davis

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Re: There's a Martian colony in the year 2160. How?
« Reply #79 on: 07/11/2010 05:16 AM »
Er.. I am sort of comforted that you are not convinced by my plan to populate the first crews to mars with a thousand suicidal manic depressives. That wasn't quite what I was trying to say.  :)

I did misunderstand you. Sorry.

Quote
What I am trying to say is that for a thousand volunteers from a planet of 6 billion (lets assume 1 billion after factoring out old, young, untrainable) you only need that one in a million person to volunteer. The number of suicides in one million people is just an example of the extreme range of life choices you can find in a large group.

Thanks for making that clearer. The problem here is that your pool of potential volunteers is not 6 billion or anything like it. There will be standards that have to be met (age, physical and mental health, education, linguistic, gender, orientation, etc) and they would probably be very stringent.

Quote
It is true that what the actual conditions are is a factor, but the immense cost of going there rules out the absurd ones. For example sending political dissidents and hardened criminals would be too absurd for china to do, but probably not absurd enough to prevent one in a million people volunteering.

Finding volunteers for any plausible mission would not be the bottleneck.

I'm sorry I don't see penal colonies as necessarily absurd, not that I expect such a thing to happen. Yes, the cost is immense but the cost will be immense no matter whom one sends. There might well be some attraction, given a ruthless enough regime, in using undesirables to find out if, say, D2O can be mined on Mars and at what costs. The amount of ongoing expense can be minimal and if things don't work out the plugged can be pulled and losses cut to the minimum. The Soviet era "cosmonaut testers" come to mind. But even ruling things like slave labor out the conditions on Mars will make a very Spartan lifestyle completely plausible.

But maybe I'm yet again not following you. Please give your definition of a plausible mission.

For myself, I think the chances of any government or organization sending people on one way trips to Mars are almost nil. I can't see any government or organization that would commit itself to supporting people on Mars indefinitely, a very real contingency. They would insist on some sort of exit strategy if returns do not justify continuation. The possibilities for playing hardball (ie, emotional blackmail) among politicians, businessmen, etc with lives hanging in the balance are endless.

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