Author Topic: Specific Mars Colony Development & Planning  (Read 293786 times)

Offline Arb

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Specific Mars Colony Development & Planning
« on: 05/07/2014 08:42 pm »
Thread for information about SpaceX's Mars Base plans and development.

To start: http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2014/01/17/how-feasible-is-elon-musks-idea-to-establish-a-colony-on-mars-in-the-2020s/

Quote
I know Elon — well.  His obsession with Mars is no PR scam, but something the folks at SpaceX are giving their blood and sweat to achieve.

You have no idea how much design and planning is already underway.
-Dolly Singh, Former Head of Talent Acq. at SpaceX

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Elon has sent his people to visit my lab several times to start up a collaboration with us on these technologies.
-Philip Metzger, Physicist / planetary scientist at NASA Kennedy Space Center
« Last Edit: 05/11/2014 06:57 pm by Chris Bergin »

Offline Dave G

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #1 on: 05/07/2014 08:54 pm »
The first question I always have about a Mars base: What is the power source for electricity?  Is solar enough? Will they need nuclear?  If so, how would that work for a commercial base?

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #2 on: 05/07/2014 09:42 pm »
The first question I always have about a Mars base: What is the power source for electricity?  Is solar enough? Will they need nuclear?  If so, how would that work for a commercial base?

Can't stress enough how critical this question is.  People don't realize the difficulty of having no "native" energy source.

The colony, once a power source is established will be a giant exercise in industrial process control - maybe the most complex one ever designed.

ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Offline GregA

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #3 on: 05/07/2014 10:23 pm »
When EM talks about sustainable energy he usually talks about solar power etc, and he often mentions that nuclear is also a good solution.

I would expect nuclear to play a big part on Mars. Using water and carbon dioxide to create methane and oxygen, and make various polymers will use a fair bit of energy I would assume, and smelting iron will need a lot of heat. There may be smaller SRGs to support vehicles.

I think Solar will play a supporting role, perhaps in smaller outposts outside the main base (assuming they exist), especially once they can be produced locally. But that also brings up the question of how big a base or colony is SpaceX planning, the various hints have implied something huge but people interpret it much smaller.

Offline jeffkruse

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #4 on: 05/07/2014 10:32 pm »
Power will be really hard.  Small nuclear will be really expensive.  How can an outpost grow?  Solar panels and nuclear will have to come from earth for a long time and that will limit growth.

Offline Helodriver

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #5 on: 05/07/2014 10:33 pm »
In the long term can nuclear ever be self sustaining on Mars? Has any of the remote sensing detected any concentrations of heavy elements which could be processed into reactor fuel? Silicon and lighter metals for in situ production of solar cells might be more easy to mine and refine. Location of valuable workable ores will be a big driver of settlement locations, just like on Earth.

Offline StephenB

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #6 on: 05/07/2014 10:35 pm »
Quote
Elon has sent his people to visit my lab several times to start up a collaboration with us on these technologies.
-Philip Metzger, Physicist / planetary scientist at NASA Kennedy Space Center

. His main point: robots do three order of magnitudes more work (in joules) than humans currently. In several decades that might go up by several more orders of magnitude -> bright future.

Another cool thing they did was to have a set of robots on Mauna Kea at 9k feet extracting oxygen from the soil and using it for rocket fuel.

Offline AncientU

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #7 on: 05/07/2014 10:49 pm »
The first question I always have about a Mars base: What is the power source for electricity?  Is solar enough? Will they need nuclear?  If so, how would that work for a commercial base?

The second question is source of water.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
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Offline docmordrid

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #8 on: 05/07/2014 10:51 pm »
In the long term can nuclear ever be self sustaining on Mars? Has any of the remote sensing detected any concentrations of heavy elements which could be processed into reactor fuel? Silicon and lighter metals for in situ production of solar cells might be more easy to mine and refine. Location of valuable workable ores will be a big driver of settlement locations, just like on Earth.

Mars has both uranium and thorium, which is most of what you need to set up long term power generation.  Uranium is implied by radon columns in the atmosphere (study), and this map shows the thorium.
« Last Edit: 05/07/2014 11:07 pm by docmordrid »
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Offline Halidon

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #9 on: 05/07/2014 10:53 pm »
I wonder if inflated lighter-than-air wind turbines would work in a Martian climate. For whatever reason, it seems like the sort of solution Elon would be interested in.

Offline GregA

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #10 on: 05/07/2014 11:14 pm »
I wonder if inflated lighter-than-air wind turbines would work in a Martian climate. For whatever reason, it seems like the sort of solution Elon would be interested in.
Elon's motivations and preferences are very important to us guessing what might be done on Mars.

I see his goals generally as ultra long term. On Earth that's sustainability protecting the environment and supporting the advancement of humankind. But on Mars it's colonising and setting up a society that can survive without Earth (eventually). Environmentally friendly and sustainable energy (as understood on Earth) can not be important in the short term on Mars - he'll use finite resources that help make everything possible. Though multiple sources of energy is important.
« Last Edit: 05/07/2014 11:16 pm by GregA »

Offline go4mars

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #11 on: 05/07/2014 11:22 pm »
...Solar panels and nuclear will have to come from earth for a long time...
Why? And how long is "long"?
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Offline llanitedave

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #12 on: 05/07/2014 11:29 pm »
In the long term can nuclear ever be self sustaining on Mars? Has any of the remote sensing detected any concentrations of heavy elements which could be processed into reactor fuel? Silicon and lighter metals for in situ production of solar cells might be more easy to mine and refine. Location of valuable workable ores will be a big driver of settlement locations, just like on Earth.

There's going to be a real need for prospecting.  Geologists on Earth are used to looking for particular types of process that concentrate various materials into ore-grade bodies.  Without plate tectonics, those process are probably in short supply on Mars.  There may be other ways to get ores, but we'll be starting from scratch from a minerals exploration standpoint.  I don't think people realize -- and I wonder if even Musk does -- how much exploratory leg work is going to have to be done before they can even begin to think about a good location for a Mars colony, let alone the details of putting it together.

Launching thousands of people a year is going to be the easy part. The BFR and MCT may be ready in 10 or 15 years, but I'm pretty sure the ability to make a Mars infrastructure work is not going to be.
"I've just abducted an alien -- now what?"

Offline go4mars

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #13 on: 05/07/2014 11:30 pm »
I expect earth-moving, mining, deep drilling, smelting equipment will be among the first payloads.  I believe ISRU water, air, and energy production and storage will be extreme priority for the colony's early years.  Without the capacity to build tanks, solar concentrators, wires, beams/rebar, etc. growth and quality of life will be unnecessarily constrained.   I wonder how many at SpaceX are working on this stuff, what their budget is, and what they think about crowd-sourcing, prize purses, and analog facilities.
Elasmotherium; hurlyburly Doggerlandic Jentilak steeds insouciantly gallop in viridescent taiga, eluding deluginal Burckle's abyssal excavation.

Offline go4mars

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #14 on: 05/07/2014 11:45 pm »
Perhaps noteworthy on this thread; the first time I ever saw titanium being "3D printed" was at the SpaceX factory.
Elasmotherium; hurlyburly Doggerlandic Jentilak steeds insouciantly gallop in viridescent taiga, eluding deluginal Burckle's abyssal excavation.

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #15 on: 05/07/2014 11:51 pm »
Early Outpost power needs? How about solar, paired with Stirling engines using ISRU generated LOX/methane/carbon monoxide fuel. During dust storms and nighttime? Radioisotopic Thermal Electric Generator (RTG) modules. Landing large scale RTG modules weighing several tons would get you reliable kilowatts of power on a constant basis. Not as powerful as proper fission reactors sure; but simpler, safer and cheaper.
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Offline ClaytonBirchenough

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #16 on: 05/07/2014 11:54 pm »
Some of these questions are just being asked too early, and with nothing concrete it is hard to speculate on what SpaceX will do that is so different from other proposals. This will turn into a GCR/power supply/artificial gravity thread very, very soon...
« Last Edit: 05/07/2014 11:54 pm by ClaytonBirchenough »
Clayton Birchenough

Offline GregA

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #17 on: 05/08/2014 12:50 am »
Some of these questions are just being asked too early, and with nothing concrete it is hard to speculate on what SpaceX will do that is so different from other proposals. This will turn into a GCR/power supply/artificial gravity thread very, very soon...
Good point. And that belongs in the Mars area. When I asked about growing a colony from 100-2000 in the Mars forum, most answer became about setting up an initial small outpost and how you would grow it to 100 - that's where the mindset is, and it's also absolutely necessary to GET a colony to 100 of course, but I was talking about a different step in the challenge.

I say that because there are differences in SpaceX approach. Perhaps we can focus on those (and attempt to avoid discussing the MCT too… just what it enables).

We know they plan the MCT to be able to transport 100 people, but that it would take far fewer at first as there would be lots to transport with the first trips. We know they're expecting to be looking at multiple new launch sites in the 15 year timeframe to move lots of people. We know EM approves of nuclear power, and solar power, and ISRU big time, particularly methane production.

So big, nuclear powered, heavily resourced initially?

We also know they thought there were methane vents on Mars, and I thought that was around the time they changed the BFR to methane… plans will change as resources are discovered and better understood.

I would assume a colony able to explore and designed for flexibility?

Offline ArbitraryConstant

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #18 on: 05/08/2014 12:50 am »
In the long term can nuclear ever be self sustaining on Mars? Has any of the remote sensing detected any concentrations of heavy elements which could be processed into reactor fuel?
There's a technology gap for making it economically/socially acceptable on Earth but if that is solved you can get more energy from granite than a similar amount of coal.

I think the main barrier is that it will be harder to establish the industrial base needed for a nuclear economy than solar, even with solar's limitations. Nuclear needs like... big metal parts. Making the reactor vessel requires such a big piece of steel that there's literally only a single factory on Earth that can do it (Japan Steel Works). You can do solar printing a few chemicals onto aluminum foil, and the results will get substantially more efficient as time goes on.

Offline Cinder

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Re: SpaceX Mars Base Development & Planning
« Reply #19 on: 05/08/2014 01:01 am »
this map shows the thorium.
Units?  I can't find them and don't have time to google/dig them up.
« Last Edit: 05/08/2014 01:04 am by Cinder »
NEC ULTIMA SI PRIOR

 

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