Author Topic: Annual budget required to build and maintain a small Martian base?  (Read 4808 times)

If SpaceX or NASA or both were to go to Mars in the 2030s, what budget would be needed to develop all the technologies to create a small Mars base?

I mean to make it permanently inhabited, and not a few Apollo-type missions, and then not come back for 50 years?

https://spacenews.com/op-ed-mars-for-only-1-5-trillion/

[zubenelgenubi: I edited the thread title.]
« Last Edit: 01/04/2023 11:16 pm by zubenelgenubi »
The knowledge is power...Everything is connected...
The Turtle continues at a steady pace ...

Offline Slarty1080

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2597
  • UK
  • Liked: 1727
  • Likes Given: 767
It's too soon to say with any accuracy.

One key variable being to what extent SpaceX Starship delivers on its cost reduction aims. 1-2 orders of magnitude cost reduction, 3 even? Or maybe there will be reusability issues? Who can say. Beyond that to what extent SpaceX be able to call the shots?

Another major factor is to what extent such a project can be isolated from space politics (job creation programs). SpaceX probably needs Congress onboard for funding, but Congress will probably arrange a situation where they can expect lots of contracts going to the usual suspects for all manner of needed items (rovers, suits, power supply, ECLSS etc) and "embellishment" items (finding a role for SLS, multiple transfer and habitat modules from different suppliers, things which might come in handy even if you can't find a use for them etc).
My optimistic hope is that it will become cool to really think about things... rather than just doing reactive bullsh*t based on no knowledge (Brian Cox)

Offline Robotbeat

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 36431
  • Minnesota
  • Liked: 20790
  • Likes Given: 10808
Yeah. Could be comparable to Artemis or ISS. Possibly less, if less redundancy and SpaceX alone were doing it (but I don't think SpaceX would do it this way... they really want to focus on transport).
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline colbourne

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 449
  • Liked: 73
  • Likes Given: 37
If SpaceX or NASA or both were to go to Mars in the 2030s, what budget would be needed to develop all the technologies to create a small Mars base?

I mean to make it permanently inhabited, and not a few Apollo-type missions, and then not come back for 50 years?

https://spacenews.com/op-ed-mars-for-only-1-5-trillion/

[zubenelgenubi: I edited the thread title.]
Probably a better question would be how many kg's of materials need to be landed on Mars from Earth, broken down to initial base construction and then average supplies per year of operation.  If we are talking about a permanent base we do not need to include support for return transports.

Offline MickQ

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 686
  • Australia.
  • Liked: 128
  • Likes Given: 485
Yeah. Could be comparable to Artemis or ISS. Possibly less, if less redundancy and SpaceX alone were doing it (but I don't think SpaceX would do it this way... they really want to focus on transport).

Last I heard, SpaceX still wanted to provide transportation services to/from Mars. Nothing further.

If another company/consortium wanted to align with SpaceX and provide construction, logistics and maintenance support services for the base then ??? 

Offline Alexsander

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 120
  • Liked: 9
  • Likes Given: 4
If SpaceX or NASA or both were to go to Mars in the 2030s, what budget would be needed to develop all the technologies to create a small Mars base?

Imagine four custom-built 20 ft containers (pressurized, with all the needed equipment and retractable wheels) stacked inside each Starship. A pez-dispenser with a crane would lower them to the ground, one by one; after touching the ground they would self-drive to the base location (some flat place nearby) and dock together to form a large pressurized area. The first single ship would build a ~120 m≥ base with ~50 m≤ floor area -- a small apartment. I know, it looks like a Mars trailer park, but it is cheap and easy to expand later.

Offline su27k

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6353
  • Liked: 8941
  • Likes Given: 873
It's going to be SpaceX providing Mars surface installations, they may not want to but they have to, since nobody else is going to do it for them. NASA is certainly not doing it, by the time NASA realizes the need for this it'll be way too late. BTW a small Martian base is indistinguishable from the surface installation needed for a conjunction class mars mission.

And SpaceX's work on HLS and Starship Mars variant will give them the necessary expertise for this. HLS will require an ECLSS and crew facilities that work both in zero-g and 1/6 g, and Starship Mars transfer vehicle/lander will require an ECLSS and crew facilities that can work continuously for 6 months in zero-g then work in 1/3 g for at least a short while, putting this two together should give them the necessary knowhow to build ECLSS and crew facilities that work in 1/3 g for 2 years.

This doesn't mean SpaceX will do this alone, they'll have subcontractors, but those subcontractors won't be other aerospace primes, they would be companies like Tesla, Caterpillar, Liebherr, etc, just like their subcontractors for Earth based installations.

Offline Slarty1080

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2597
  • UK
  • Liked: 1727
  • Likes Given: 767
It's going to be SpaceX providing Mars surface installations, they may not want to but they have to, since nobody else is going to do it for them. NASA is certainly not doing it, by the time NASA realizes the need for this it'll be way too late. BTW a small Martian base is indistinguishable from the surface installation needed for a conjunction class mars mission.

And SpaceX's work on HLS and Starship Mars variant will give them the necessary expertise for this. HLS will require an ECLSS and crew facilities that work both in zero-g and 1/6 g, and Starship Mars transfer vehicle/lander will require an ECLSS and crew facilities that can work continuously for 6 months in zero-g then work in 1/3 g for at least a short while, putting this two together should give them the necessary knowhow to build ECLSS and crew facilities that work in 1/3 g for 2 years.

This doesn't mean SpaceX will do this alone, they'll have subcontractors, but those subcontractors won't be other aerospace primes, they would be companies like Tesla, Caterpillar, Liebherr, etc, just like their subcontractors for Earth based installations.
It is conceivable that SpaceX might go it alone with a Mars base, but I think highly unlikely. Musk will absolutely want Congress and NASA on board mostly for funding but also for political cover (nuclear power and planetary protection issues etc).

If SpaceX can reduce the price of a human Mars transport sufficiently it might just get funded. There would have to be a lot of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, but with all the smarts in SpaceX and NASA (and the rest) there should be scope for nugging Congress in that direction.
My optimistic hope is that it will become cool to really think about things... rather than just doing reactive bullsh*t based on no knowledge (Brian Cox)

Offline su27k

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6353
  • Liked: 8941
  • Likes Given: 873
It is conceivable that SpaceX might go it alone with a Mars base, but I think highly unlikely. Musk will absolutely want Congress and NASA on board mostly for funding but also for political cover (nuclear power and planetary protection issues etc).

Oh I'm sure Musk will want NASA onboard and Congress to pay for it (partially), but this doesn't mean handing out surface installation contract to aerospace primes. Congress had a chance to do this a few years ago, when Musk unveiled the Mars architecture in IAC, they ignored it, they're still ignoring it as far as Mars is concerned. Inaction has consequences.

I see a joint NASA-SpaceX mission being funded similar to a HLS Starship mission, except Starship will do all the space transportation, and SpaceX will take care of surface habitation/transportation/suit as well. NASA just need to bring the money, the astronauts and their science instruments.
« Last Edit: 01/14/2023 01:28 am by su27k »

Offline MickQ

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 686
  • Australia.
  • Liked: 128
  • Likes Given: 485
In order to answer the OP we need to initially establish the number of persons being supported and maintained.  Everything else stems from that.

I don't know, but look like NASA wants, something for 2-6 persons on Mars maximum...
« Last Edit: 01/20/2023 12:51 pm by Tywin »
The knowledge is power...Everything is connected...
The Turtle continues at a steady pace ...

Offline AmigaClone

My personal guesstimates depends a lot on three factors. First, the cost of sending a Starship with 100 tonnes worth of equipment and supplies to Mars, including all the launches needed to send fuel to the depot being used. Second, if there is easily minable ice near the base location. Third, would be the effectiveness of methods to recycle water, to remove CO2 from the air and converting that CO2 to O2.

Best case I can imagine (Starship costing below 10 million per launch, with easy access to minable water, and being able to recycle much of the water used inside the base as well as using methods to providing a safe atmosphere cheaply) would be around 5 billion to design, build, and transport the base, associated rovers, and other equipment to Mars. In this scenario, I can see the cost to transport supplies and doing a crew rotation (10 people) every two years being as low as 500 million.

Offline guckyfan

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7430
  • Germany
  • Liked: 2329
  • Likes Given: 2857

Best case I can imagine (Starship costing below 10 million per launch, with easy access to minable water, and being able to recycle much of the water used inside the base as well as using methods to providing a safe atmosphere cheaply) would be around 5 billion to design, build, and transport the base, associated rovers, and other equipment to Mars. In this scenario, I can see the cost to transport supplies and doing a crew rotation (10 people) every two years being as low as 500 million.

Water from mining for propellant production should be cheap. They can't go to a location without plenty of water.

Nitrogen, or a mix of Nitrogen and Argon will be byproduct of CO2 production for propellant. Since the engines run fuel rich and the ratio of Methane and Oxygen from propellant production will be stochiometric there will be a big surplus of oxygen. So plenty of atmospheric gases will be almost free. A means of CO2 scrubbing from the habitats will be the biggest ECLSS challenge.

Offline colbourne

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 449
  • Liked: 73
  • Likes Given: 37

Can you scrub the CO2 by com

Best case I can imagine (Starship costing below 10 million per launch, with easy access to minable water, and being able to recycle much of the water used inside the base as well as using methods to providing a safe atmosphere cheaply) would be around 5 billion to design, build, and transport the base, associated rovers, and other equipment to Mars. In this scenario, I can see the cost to transport supplies and doing a crew rotation (10 people) every two years being as low as 500 million.

Water from mining for propellant production should be cheap. They can't go to a location without plenty of water.

Nitrogen, or a mix of Nitrogen and Argon will be byproduct of CO2 production for propellant. Since the engines run fuel rich and the ratio of Methane and Oxygen from propellant production will be stochiometric there will be a big surplus of oxygen. So plenty of atmospheric gases will be almost free. A means of CO2 scrubbing from the habitats will be the biggest ECLSS challenge.
Can you scrub the habitats atmosphere by compressing it and freezing out the CO2 ?  Even using  growing of plants should help.

Offline daedalus1

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 751
  • uk
  • Liked: 381
  • Likes Given: 0
To have a sustainable base on the moon and mars by 2033, Iíve estimated 50 launches per year.  If there is a orbiting station around the moon and mars, say and additional 24 launches per year. So it will be about another century to get to this flight rate. Perhaps you would need to ask, will the annual budget exceed the planet Earthís annual GDP?

So what you are asking is, can the citizens of Earth afford sustainable human spaceflight with a budget above Earthís GDP?

I too can pluck numbers out of the air,  but to simplify the estimates just stick to Mars and not moon or orbital stations.  It's in the thread title.

Offline spacenut

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4813
  • East Alabama
  • Liked: 2379
  • Likes Given: 2507
The Earth could easily sustain the building and occupation of a Mars base or colony, IF they could cut their military budgets  10% and combine the effort. 

Offline lamontagne

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3811
  • Otterburn Park, Quebec,Canada
  • Liked: 3613
  • Likes Given: 647
If SpaceX or NASA or both were to go to Mars in the 2030s, what budget would be needed to develop all the technologies to create a small Mars base?

I mean to make it permanently inhabited, and not a few Apollo-type missions, and then not come back for 50 years?

https://spacenews.com/op-ed-mars-for-only-1-5-trillion/

[zubenelgenubi: I edited the thread title.]
The reference is totally out of date, as it's from 2015 and before Starship and in-situ ressource designs. And it was basically a hit piece against Mars, so the values were rather silly.

To answer your question,

1- SpaceX needs to develop a long term life support system, that can operate without significant resupply for a few years and support 50-100 people.  All of the technology exists for this, as the ISS has demonstrated for the last 20 years.  Just needs to be upscaled.  You might even say that it will go into the Starship developments costs, so for the settlement developments costs will be very small for this item.
Development cost: 50 millions to adapt to Mars, and then perhaps one million$ per person.

2- SpaceX needs to develop in-situ resource extraction.  This is mainly a method for digging up ice and sand and separating them.  There is no reason for this to be particularly expensive.  Rock crushing and digging are already extremely developed on Earth.
Develop a martin rock crusher and ice extractor.  Less than 100 million$

3- Develop electrolysis and Sabatier reactors to create Oxygen and methane.
This is already a part of the Starship design, as the Starship transportation system cannot work without it.  Interestingly there is also a market on Earth for this.  All the technology exists, most of it is about a century old.  So no real problem here.
Develop Fuel production.  A few hundred million at most.

There is no need for a space station.  That is a completely different use and purpose.  So no cost here.

4- Develop surface habitats.
These are likely to be cans on legs, built on Earth and developed like similar equipment.  As there will be dozens of these, and eventually hundreds, they will not be all that expensive.
A few tens of millions each.
The first mission will likely only use starships for habitats anyway.

5- Develop a power source.
Kilopower already exists (almost) and they have Megapower in the design stages, I expect.  So nuclear should be available.  Otherwise, it can be done with a lot of solar and batteries to pass the night.  So not all that expensive, really.

So you will only need a one billion dollars of so program to develop and build the hardware for the first base(s).

The transportation costs, at 20 million$ per launch (conservative) x 50 launches is 1 billion $.

Then there is crew training, food, other equipment, etc.  So the whole thing should cost way  under 10 billion dollars.  Add to it 10 billion $ to develop Starship, mostly paid for by Starlink sales, and the overall cost might hit 20 billions, but I would be surprised.

This is less than 0,1% of the US GDP (about 10 000 billion $),  Let alone the world GDP that is about 100 trillion dollars (100 000 billions) .  So it is a very marginal cost.

My guess is that the cost to support such a base might be 1-2 billion per year.  However, it would be much more interesting to support an aggressively expanding society on Mars.  This might cost many billions, but would also generate many billions of value.  With a bit of luck, eventually Mars would generate revenue for Earth, rather than being a money pit.
« Last Edit: 01/22/2023 07:39 pm by lamontagne »

Offline D_Dom

  • Global Moderator
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 628
  • Liked: 432
  • Likes Given: 145
It is curious to ponder what anybody is thinking proposing 20 B$ as "a very marginal cost".
« Last Edit: 01/22/2023 10:37 pm by D_Dom »
Space is not merely a matter of life or death, it is considerably more important than that!

Offline JohnFornaro

  • Not an expert
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10661
  • Delta-t is an important metric.
  • Planet Eaarth
    • Design / Program Associates
  • Liked: 1185
  • Likes Given: 692
If SpaceX or NASA or both were to go to Mars in the 2030s, what budget would be needed to develop all the technologies to create a small Mars base?

To answer your question,

1- SpaceX needs to develop a long term life support system, that can operate without significant resupply for a few years and support 50-100 people.  All of the technology exists for this, ...

Development cost: 50 millions to adapt to Mars, and then perhaps one million$ per person.

2- SpaceX needs to develop in-situ resource extraction.  ...  Less than $100 million

3- Develop electrolysis and Sabatier reactors ...
Develop Fuel production.  A few hundred million at most.

There is no need for a space station.  That is a completely different use and purpose.  So no cost here.

4- Develop surface habitats.
...

5- Develop a power source.
...  So not all that expensive, really.

So you will only need a one billion dollars of so program to develop and build the hardware for the first base(s).

The transportation costs, at 20 million per launch ... a money pit.

Hold on there, Kemosabe. Your numbers are too low by at least three orders of magnitude, I'd say. Even now, the launch costs for SpaceX are closer to $50M.

While SLS is not an example of budget responsibility by at least a factor of two, by my telling, it is a real spacecraft.  Even SpaceX's developmental costs to date exceed your estimate.

All of the items you mention could not be built on Earth at the prices you suggest.
« Last Edit: 01/24/2023 12:21 pm by JohnFornaro »
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Slarty1080

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2597
  • UK
  • Liked: 1727
  • Likes Given: 767
Sadly due to the nature of the topic and the shear number of unknowns it's unlikely that any meaningful agreement will be reached. Too many assumptions have to be made most of which are arguable.
My optimistic hope is that it will become cool to really think about things... rather than just doing reactive bullsh*t based on no knowledge (Brian Cox)

Tags:
 

Advertisement NovaTech
Advertisement SkyTale Software GmbH
Advertisement Northrop Grumman
Advertisement
Advertisement Brady Kenniston
Advertisement NextSpaceflight
Advertisement Nathan Barker Photography
0