Author Topic: Jeff Bezos believes in space as an industrial park, but not as a backup  (Read 45749 times)

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Suggest you consider economics differently for Musk/Bezos.

Musk's economics are around the formation of a "bootstrap" economy and its ability to leverage local resources considerably, with the long term goal of weaning dependence.

Bezos, in contrast, is focused on reinventing industrialization around space, from resources (asteroids/moon/...) to products/components/WIP/FIGS ... bound for markets largely on Earth.

Both will generate some revenues from entertainment/adventure/tourism that don't work the above basic cycle,  but will advance the marketing/mindshare of interests.

Look to past history of colonization to gain insight into what it takes to achieve a bootstrap and how long dependencies last. Also, at some stage, economic interests will choose to diversify holdings to "buy in" early before value is established, because it is far cheaper, and often the risks are the same as later. Selling futures might likely be Musk's long term ROI. Also, since he has then a means of taking on planets, makes other "real estate" valuable for other reasons.

As to space industrialization, a Bezos might invest in highly automated vertical industries that function differently in space/zero G from the ground up, and without the need for safeguards or environmental concerns, gaining efficiencies impossible elsewhere. You've seen what "China strategies" have done to American manufacturing. What if you could get 100x below that? And perhaps fulfillment from orbit?

In a like way to Musk, Bezos might "sell the future" to various corporate/industrial interests, translating them for a revenue share into a space based reinvention of a specific business category, not priced off of immediate returns but again on projected future value. Again, like in the above Musk example, at some point a corporation might either diversify or hedge with an investment, fearing not being able to call the "tipping point" well.

One could create a "space bubble", much like we saw a "dotcom bubble" back a quarter of a century ago. We're still only partway through the existing Internet disruption, globalism, and nanofabrication. With the future arriving inconveniently and incompletely all the time.

That's a sneak peak at how big big might be.

Offline john smith 19

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I believe he's wrong about that one. The ships are coming back anyway, so the incremental cost is the extra propellant needed. That's it.
That's only part of the problem.

The price of whatever you're shipping back to Earth has to be high enough on Earth to make those costs and the delay worthwhile.

Musk didn't think even Crack had a good enough price/lb to justify this.

What commodity/product do you think is that valuable?
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline Nilof

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I believe he's wrong about that one. The ships are coming back anyway, so the incremental cost is the extra propellant needed. That's it.
That's only part of the problem.

The price of whatever you're shipping back to Earth has to be high enough on Earth to make those costs and the delay worthwhile.

Musk didn't think even Crack had a good enough price/lb to justify this.

What commodity/product do you think is that valuable?

It is not justifiable with a flags & footprint architecture. It certainly is justifiable with an architecture expected to be able of transporting a million people to Mars. Otherwise transporting people wouldn't be viable.

Of course, when instead of Mars you consider large-scale mining of the Moon or Asteroids, transport back to Earth can be made trivially cheap.
For a variable Isp spacecraft running at constant power and constant acceleration, the mass ratio is linear in delta-v.   Δv = ve0(MR-1). Or equivalently: Δv = vef PMF. Also, this is energy-optimal for a fixed delta-v and mass ratio.

Offline high road

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I believe he's wrong about that one. The ships are coming back anyway, so the incremental cost is the extra propellant needed. That's it.
That's only part of the problem.

The price of whatever you're shipping back to Earth has to be high enough on Earth to make those costs and the delay worthwhile.

Musk didn't think even Crack had a good enough price/lb to justify this.

What commodity/product do you think is that valuable?

I know that Musk is the unquestionnable prophet saviour of humanity and all that, but in the same interview he said a trip to Mars would cost 500.000, and the return was free because he needed the ship back. Even ignoring that people need to eat, breathe and defecate once in a while, that's 6.22 bucks per gram. Elon must have a very cheap supplier. Or you guys should not overanalyse what he says in ethousiasm.

Products that would cost enough per gram, although still probably too little to fill up spacecraft: gems and minerals that only formed in Martian geological conditions, if any are found, Martian fossils, even basic ones that are unremarkable on earth, and 'untouched ' Martian water and talismans for the billions of crazy people back here.
« Last Edit: 11/04/2016 10:51 PM by high road »

Offline john smith 19

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It is not justifiable with a flags & footprint architecture.
Isn't the fact it is a flags and footprint mission going to rule that out anyway?
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It certainly is justifiable with an architecture expected to be able of transporting a million people to Mars. Otherwise transporting people wouldn't be viable.

Of course, when instead of Mars you consider large-scale mining of the Moon or Asteroids, transport back to Earth can be made trivially cheap.
Which makes Mars less competitive with those other locations.

The question remains, what is this material or product that is worth shipping 140 million miles to the Earths surface that cannot be made  more cheaply closer to Earth and is so valuable to justify doing it?  So far all I've got is something made on Mars specifically to have the "Made on Mars" label on it.

Outside of this it looks like everything else can be made cheaper or better in LEO (because access to very low pressure and/or microgravity is the point of being there). While Mars has lots of "raw material" it would still seem easier to move ever a fairly large NEO into LEO.
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline meekGee

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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.


Anyone who thinks in terms of "living in pressure vessels on Mars" is missing the whole point.

Mars has resources and energy, which is enough to build a stand-along civilization.  Sunlight, water, CO2, an endless supply of oars and minerals. And isolation.  So it's inherently different from Cis-lunar space.


ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Offline john smith 19

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Suggest you consider economics differently for Musk/Bezos.

I get very suspicious whenever someone tells me normal economics does not apply to someones plan.  :(

It usually does, it just means people are not seeing all of the parts of the system that the business is a part of.

In SX's case I'd note the pretty generous NASA payments for CRS.  SX make much of their commercial manifest but the payments for ISS supply per unit mass are much higher.  SX mention NASA's assistance in the technical support they get but rarely mention that they make a serious amount of cash from those flights.
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline MP99



I get very suspicious whenever someone tells me normal economics does not apply to someones plan.  :(

It usually does, it just means people are not seeing all of the parts of the system that the business is a part of.

Are you including the cost of Dragon in ISS resupply?

Cheers, Martin

Offline kch

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Anyone who thinks in terms of "living in pressure vessels on Mars" is missing the whole point.

Mars has resources and energy, which is enough to build a stand-along civilization.  Sunlight, water, CO2, an endless supply of oars and minerals. And isolation.  So it's inherently different from Cis-lunar space.

Oars will be handy if you're up a creek without a paddle ... maybe there are canals on Mars?  ;)

Offline Chasm

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I see the difference between the two a bit more philosophical.

Elons basically said "Mars or bust!". Should Jeff answer "Me too!"?
It does not work that way, so he needs something else. (Ignoring for a moment who came first.)


Overall Jeffs approach and the Blue Origin reminds me a bit of a SF book. Part of the set up was sending out colonization ships, not just to one star but several together in one go along the same line. Peeling one ship off every time a star gets passed. Not caring there are habitable planets or not. They simply don't need one as they have the tech not only to survive but to thrive as long as they find some resources.

If you jumps into the deep end, do need to care how deep it actually is? It's not like their goals will be reached any time soon. I think it's much more important to have a diverse set of ideas, priorities, funding and approaches if we ever want to get off this rock in any meaningful numbers.

Offline Vultur

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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.

Yeah. And while total self-sufficiency is long-term, <99% self-sufficiency is probably very quickly acheivable. (That is, propellant/breathing air/water/food/simple building materials produced on Mars, stuff like electronics & fancy alloys being brought from Earth.)

It shouldn't take too long even to get to the point of making solar cells.

I think people tend to overestimate the difficulty of making stuff with extraterrestrial resources because our current manufacturing is very complex. But there are often many other ways to do things that aren't economically viable on Earth... but with the different resources and constraints of Mars would make perfect sense.

Also, assuming 10-15 (on Musk's very optimistic timeline) or 20-30 years of advancement beyond today in things like 3D printing and bioplastics (probably extremely important for Mars)...

Offline su27k

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Mars as a backup for humanity is a feature of a fully sufficient Mars colony, but from a practical standpoint it is not a good reason to colony Mars. It will cost too much. Reaching a one million person colony that needs no input from Earth will be incredibly expensive. Good luck on getting funding if that's the primary reason.

For a fraction of the cost of a fully sufficient Mars colony, most of the civilization collapsing scenarios on Earth can be mitigated. Asteroid defense, civil defense, disaster relief, securing food production, reducing poverty, renewable energy, etc.

It is a mistake to think Mars colony would be more expensive than fixing Earth, in fact it's the opposite. For example, Imperial College London estimates the cost to half CO2 emissions by 2050 is $2 trillion per year, that's just one of the problems in your long list. The cost of a Mars colony would be rounding error comparing to the resources we spent and will be spending to maintain Earth.

It is a common misconception to think Earth is better than Mars because we have "free" air, water and good temperature range, but none of these are truly free. They're the product of a super complex, global scale ecosystem and climate, which is being strained by 7 billion people. Maintaining and fixing this complex system is going to make the ECLSS for a Mars colony like child's play, and that's ignoring man-made problems like politics, religion and war.
Right, lets scrap Earth... Do you understand WHAT are you talking about?

I'm talking about the technical difficulty and resources needed to maintain Earth's ecosystem vastly exceeds the technical difficulty and funding needed for a Mars colony, thus it's incorrect to assume we have to choose one over the other. How you get scraping Earth from this is beyond me.

Offline MikeAtkinson

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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.

An in-space colony near an asteroid has that asteroids resources to call on, and probably several other asteroids which are only a short distance away in delta-v terms.

Creating the first in-space colony near an asteroid is difficult, but once it has reached a level that it can manufacture other colonies then exponential growth in colony numbers can occur.

Mars seems easier in the short term, the problems all seem manageable. Then given the ITS infrastructure (or similar) in-space colonies in cis-lunar space (for tourism?) can be created and the experience used to create in-space colonies near asteroids.

Offline john smith 19

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Yeah. And while total self-sufficiency is long-term, <99% self-sufficiency is probably very quickly acheivable. (That is, propellant/breathing air/water/food/simple building materials produced on Mars, stuff like electronics & fancy alloys being brought from Earth.)
Then you seriously underestimate the problems you're  facing.

There will be a 1001 products that the settlement can't make from scratch and won't be able to for a very long time afterward.
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I think people tend to overestimate the difficulty of making stuff with extraterrestrial resources because our current manufacturing is very complex. But there are often many other ways to do things that aren't economically viable on Earth... but with the different resources and constraints of Mars would make perfect sense.
That's partly true and necessity is the mother of invention but now you're into an R&D cycle to replace a product. Given it's got to fit into a slot in the original equipment it doesn't just have to work it has to work in that slot. That original part may well have been through dozens of iterations spanning years to deliver that level of performance in that form factor. Mfg Tungsten Carbide cutting heads for drilling or excavating is a very specialized technology and if you're using diamond heads then even the raw materials may not exist on planet.

Another case in point. Semiconductors and LEDs (both for lighting and lasers) are the product of multi $Bn factories. While a small scale system (making ones and twos at a time) could be much cheaper no one knows how to build such a system.  And of course it's very doubtful the chip makers will supply the IP needed to duplicate their parts, so you'll have to reverse engineer them.

But these are comparatively simple components.

Personally I would say the EVA suit will be a massive challenge to make locally. It's got a very complex combination of materials (fabrics) and products combined together in a very complex thermoelectromechanical system.

How many people do you know who can make their own gloves? Can they do that in a 3 or 4 layer composite? Worn out EVA suits mean no surface access. No surface operations. That means not being able to access anything that is not directly connected to the settlement. Replacing humans with robot avatars does not help. The problem remains. What do you do when you run out of spares for the parts you can't make?

With humans on site to handle some of the tricky tasks basic ISRU looks pretty viable but self sufficiency as in no resupply from Earth is IMHO centuries away, even with a well worked out plan to do so, rather than letting "market forces" set the make/buy decisions.

This is why I think it's important to find ways for the settlement to generate cash flow from  Earth to buy in those parts it can't make on Mars, and won't be able to make on Mars for a very long time.

That in turn means there has to be a reason for people to be there long term to motivate themselves beyond "making humanity multi planetary."   :(

It's a great sound bite.  It's not really a reason for getting up in the morning on Mars.  :(
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline guckyfan

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I think, 99% by mass is achievable. But that may leavae 95% of complexity to  achieve. That's the hard part. That's why a large colony is needed, and time. It won't be done in a short time. But roughly from a certain level needed supplies by mass will remain constant while the population grows.

EVA suits may be very complex. One man movable units with manipulator arms will be an order of magnitude at least less complex and for most purposes at least as useful, often more so. VR will help as well.

Offline Vultur

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Yeah. And while total self-sufficiency is long-term, <99% self-sufficiency is probably very quickly acheivable. (That is, propellant/breathing air/water/food/simple building materials produced on Mars, stuff like electronics & fancy alloys being brought from Earth.)
Then you seriously underestimate the problems you're  facing.

Mmm... how? In Musk's plan, propellant/air/water will be locally produced basically from Day One. (The smaller human needs for water and oxygen will just be side products of the propellant ISRU, which already involves melting ice and making oxygen.)

Growing food in greenhouses/artificial environments is well understood, simple building materials takes more development but not that much (sintering regolith, bioplastics, etc.)
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I think people tend to overestimate the difficulty of making stuff with extraterrestrial resources because our current manufacturing is very complex. But there are often many other ways to do things that aren't economically viable on Earth... but with the different resources and constraints of Mars would make perfect sense.
That's partly true and necessity is the mother of invention but now you're into an R&D cycle to replace a product. Given it's got to fit into a slot in the original equipment it doesn't just have to work it has to work in that slot. That original part may well have been through dozens of iterations spanning years to deliver that level of performance in that form factor.

Spare parts in existing equipment, yeah, you have a point. But early on you WILL need that sort of thing shipped from Earth, I'm not arguing that. That 99% by mass I was talking about is "consumables".

Past that start-up period, though, you're talking about making equipment from scratch on Mars, not spare parts for Earth-made stuff. And there you've got much more flexibility to do things in different ways.

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Mfg Tungsten Carbide cutting heads for drilling or excavating is a very specialized technology and if you're using diamond heads then even the raw materials may not exist on planet.

Huh? Diamond is just carbon - we know there's tons of that on Mars. It's in the CO2 atmosphere. And synthetic production of industrial diamond is well understood.



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Another case in point. Semiconductors and LEDs (both for lighting and lasers) are the product of multi $Bn factories. While a small scale system (making ones and twos at a time) could be much cheaper no one knows how to build such a system.

Yes. Granted, semiconductors/LEDs are very low mass/high difficulty so they will be one of the last things made on Mars.

 On a 40-50 year timescale though, much less a century... there are a ton of potential pathways. By that point they may not even be making electronics out of silicon chips anymore, it might be quantum computing (though I am personally skeptical of the practicality of that) and As-S nanotube semiconductors. Or something totally unexpected.



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How many people do you know who can make their own gloves? Can they do that in a 3 or 4 layer composite?

That's not really a fair comparison, as nobody on Earth really has the reason to get that capability on a small scale. I'd be surprised if the descendants of current 3D printing/additive manufacturing technologies 30 years down the line couldn't do that quite easily.

And I'm not sure Mars suits have to be as complex as existing EVA suits. No need for MMOD protection, and the thermal issues will probably go only one way (there is likely enough atmosphere on Mars to deal with cooling). And a real colony will be using simpler mechanical counterpressure suits.

Offline john smith 19

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Mmm... how? In Musk's plan, propellant/air/water will be locally produced basically from Day One. (The smaller human needs for water and oxygen will just be side products of the propellant ISRU, which already involves melting ice and making oxygen.)
Full self sufficiency means the settlement is self replicating. If you can't make in the settlement it has to be bought in from Earth so it will be somewhere between 80 and 120days+ to get there.

You're not making a product. You're making the supply chain to make the product. While some products can be made in multiple different ways there are limits. Also you need to factor in the scale of the operation you're talking about. Aluminum production is very energy intensive, which is why most Aluminum smelters are near hydro electric dams, because that is the only way they can get the huge quantities of electricity the process needs. Likewise Iron and Steel production use coke. In principal you can use Methane, but no one AFAIK does so. That's a major R&D project.

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Spare parts in existing equipment, yeah, you have a point. But early on you WILL need that sort of thing shipped from Earth, I'm not arguing that. That 99% by mass I was talking about is "consumables".
That "existing equipment" you casually hand wave is very complex and to design and mfg replacements from local materials will take decades, during which you will need those spares or have a base that's gradually becoming un usable as its systems fail. I would not like to be someone living in such an environment, but if you're happy to do so.... :(
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Past that start-up period, though, you're talking about making equipment from scratch on Mars, not spare parts for Earth-made stuff. And there you've got much more flexibility to do things in different ways.
And of course now they will not be interchangeable with the Earth supplied systems. You'd better hope you don't need any of them (or their space) so you can recycle the materials.
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Huh? Diamond is just carbon - we know there's tons of that on Mars. It's in the CO2 atmosphere. And synthetic production of industrial diamond is well understood.
Again it's the supply chain. In particular a Gigapascal autoclave, which is large and heavy and difficult to make. Yes you can make a smaller one but you're still going to need a big billet of high grade steel, along with the tools to make it out of.

You'll no doubt be waving your hands and saying "But 3d printing can make anything" except something that calls for raw strength is very time consuming to make as it's going to be a solid lump of metal, and 3d printing is actually better at making things with holes in.
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Yes. Granted, semiconductors/LEDs are very low mass/high difficulty so they will be one of the last things made on Mars.

 On a 40-50 year timescale though, much less a century... there are a ton of potential pathways. By that point they may not even be making electronics out of silicon chips anymore, it might be quantum computing (though I am personally skeptical of the practicality of that) and As-S nanotube semiconductors. Or something totally unexpected.
Re read that last paragraph to yourself.

Slowly.

For 4 to 5 decades IE from when a child is born on Mars to the time they are in early middle age, (at least) Mars will have to import parts of all kinds from Earth.

IOW it will have to be doing something to pay for those parts or live in a continually deteriorating base.
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How many people do you know who can make their own gloves? Can they do that in a 3 or 4 layer composite?

That's not really a fair comparison, as nobody on Earth really has the reason to get that capability on a small scale. I'd be surprised if the descendants of current 3D printing/additive manufacturing technologies 30 years down the line couldn't do that quite easily.
It's a trivial prediction that 3d printing will get better. But pinning all your mfg on it and saying "3d printing will cope" is a very dangerous strategy if your life depends on it.   :(

You're really not seeing the bigger picture here. While careful planning can reduce the range of parts and materials that need to be made on Mars to become self sufficient that range will still be huge and for at least one human lifetime the colony will need to be continually resupplied with those parts

I've not even touched on any sort of medicines as off Earth medicine is practically unknown. AFAIK no operation has ever been carried out off Earth so far.

Likewise there are another 100001 specialized chemicals needed to make things or final chemicals. Examples would be the resins used in PCB and the photoresists used to coat them. Again for full self sufficiency you need to either make them on Mars or develop an alternative mfg process that avoids the more difficult materials.
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And I'm not sure Mars suits have to be as complex as existing EVA suits. No need for MMOD protection,
Wrong. IIRC image analysis of Martian surface over about a 5 year period identified about 120-200 new craters using existing cameras more than 0.3m is size. Mars air pressure is good enough to suck the heat out of any uninsulated surface structure but not to protect it from meteorites.   :(
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and the thermal issues will probably go only one way (there is likely enough atmosphere on Mars to deal with cooling).
So MLI is not likely to work and you'll need some kind of foam insulation. You would not want to rely on a double walled Dewar type construction with MMOD. Convection can be a very efficient system for removing heat from a surface structure.
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And a real colony will be using simpler mechanical counterpressure suits.
Again you're pinning your hopes on a system that's not been under active development for decades  :(

Your idea of "self sufficient" is like that of a small farmer in the Mid Western US. The key resource they make that allows them to be "self sufficient" is money. If the industrialized civilization they are a part of failed they would continue only as long as they could find or make spare parts for all the technology they use and diagnose and treat any conditions they suffered from. If not they die.

Until you reach full self sufficiency  Mars will need a cash flow and I think that will continue for at least 50-100 years from first settlement.

I'm taking Musk at his word. He's talking about Mars as a "lifeboat" or a "backup" to Earth. That means (ultimately) being able to restart Earth in the event of a major catastrophe, and being able to survive without any resupply from Earth until that's possible.

That's is a very different proposition from what you seem to think a Martian settlement will be.  :(
« Last Edit: 11/13/2016 05:50 PM by john smith 19 »
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline guckyfan

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Musks idea of a backup for humanity might attract philantropic support, not sure but possible.

I don't see how an orbital industrial park could attract that kind of money.

So if both are not viable businesses, I see that Mars may happen, but cannot see the same for the in space industrial park.

Offline Vultur

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Mmm... how? In Musk's plan, propellant/air/water will be locally produced basically from Day One. (The smaller human needs for water and oxygen will just be side products of the propellant ISRU, which already involves melting ice and making oxygen.)
Full self sufficiency means the settlement is self replicating. If you can't make in the settlement it has to be bought in from Earth so it will be somewhere between 80 and 120days+ to get there.

Right but we are talking about different stages of development, I think. I see 3 - 4 different stages if it works out at all.

1) Initial start up - melting ice and CH4/O2 propellant ISRU, which produces water & oxygen for human needs also. Everything else imported from Earth.

2) Second phase of start up - food grown on Mars. There would still be some foods brought in but they would be low mass, high value/hard to grow 'luxury' ones like coffee/chocolate rather than staples. Nearly all "technological" components still imported from Earth, but some use of 3D printing for tools/parts and some production of things like bioplastics starts.

At this point they're definitely not self-sufficient, but could probably survive a "missed" synod or two without shipments from Earth.

3) Transition to growth primarily being "Mars side driven". New habitats built on Mars with primarily Martian components, with only some very hard to make high-tech components imported from Earth.

 At this point the colony isn't indefinitely self-sufficient, but with a supply of spare parts can survive fairly long cutoff times (until they run out of spare parts) so a war or economic depression on Earth that cut off travel to Mars for say twenty years / 8 - 10 synods would not be fatal.

4) Complete self sufficiency. Total cutoff would still lead to a drop in standards of living on Mars (some stuff would probably still be cheaper to make on Earth) but colony can survive indefinitely (say at least thousands of years) without Earth input.

The question is how quickly they can move up stages. I think 3) can be reached in 40-50 years if the "Musk plan" lasts that long and thus there is still a commitment to getting to self sufficiency.  4) possibly not too long after that.

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You'll no doubt be waving your hands and saying "But 3d printing can make anything" except something that calls for raw strength is very time consuming to make as it's going to be a solid lump of metal, and 3d printing is actually better at making things with holes in.

It's not just 3d printing. I'm well aware 3d printing isn't an universal panacea for all manufacturing.


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For 4 to 5 decades IE from when a child is born on Mars to the time they are in early middle age, (at least) Mars will have to import parts of all kinds from Earth.

True.

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IOW it will have to be doing something to pay for those parts or live in a continually deteriorating base.

Now that I'm not sure holds true. Depends on how the economics are set up. It's quite possible (likely, IMO) much if not all will be paid for by a "Mars Colony Foundation" nonprofit's investments on Earth. There needn't be actual Mars-side exports.

But there will be, by a few decades in. Maybe not physical exports, at least not primarily, but IP.

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That "existing equipment" you casually hand wave is very complex and to design and mfg replacements from local materials will take decades,

I'm not convinced it would take nearly that long, given motivation to actually pursue it, especially given technology likely to be available 30 years from now (even assuming only incremental improvements in existing tech, no major breakthroughs).

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Wrong. IIRC image analysis of Martian surface over about a 5 year period identified about 120-200 new craters using existing cameras more than 0.3m is size. Mars air pressure is good enough to suck the heat out of any uninsulated surface structure but not to protect it from meteorites.   :(

0.3m craters is way larger than micrometeorites. I don't think Mars suits will need micrometeorite protection, and an impactor large enough to make a foot-wide crater or more would probably damage a human regardless of the suit they wore.


Offline john smith 19

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Musk won't have the ability to source deep industrial items on Mars for quite some time. So one compensates by having high lifetime items that are locally repairable/serviceable instead. Which means that obsessive maintenance would be necessary to stave off replacement.
Agreed. But the problem remains how do y ou pay for those parts.
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Bezos OTOH has to reinvent manufacturing/resources/processing in a on-orbit environment, involving trial and error. So lots of facilities to "bootstrap" such need to happen first before you can scale-up and deploy.
Well on the upside the orbital facility has a reason for existing beyond "being there" and it's not entirely unknown territory. This has been under exploration since Skylab in the early 70's. Making a fully uncrewed station is tougher but the real issues with space industrialization has been the unreliability of transport to and from orbit. Set up an operation that allows regular deliveries and collections and things change quite a lot. Such a station is there for the micro gravity, the very hard vacuum and the abundant sunlight.
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While we are not a species that have ever lived on Mars or needed to be supported so remotely, even more of an issue is being off planet in space itself.
Agreed. An atmosphere means you don't have to rely on radiation for cooling and some gravity simplifies design considerably.
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Back to your issue - neither economics close, they are "bargaining" for existence under the same rules.

Same rules but different ways/priorities/means to apply them.

Again, read the past histories of colonization and industrial revolution for applicable examples for each.
Indeed. It's Musk has the more romantic vision, Bezos has potentially the more usable one.
Right but we are talking about different stages of development, I think. I see 3 - 4 different stages if it works out at all.

The question is how quickly they can move up stages. I think 3) can be reached in 40-50 years if the "Musk plan" lasts that long and thus there is still a commitment to getting to self sufficiency.  4) possibly not too long after that.
Without some kind of cash flow you don't move up the scale at all.
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It's not just 3d printing. I'm well aware 3d printing isn't an universal panacea for all manufacturing.
Good to know.

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True.

Now that I'm not sure holds true. Depends on how the economics are set up. It's quite possible (likely, IMO) much if not all will be paid for by a "Mars Colony Foundation" nonprofit's investments on Earth. There needn't be actual Mars-side exports.
I'd love to see if this has ever been done for any other settlement efforts and if so how they worked out.

Otherwise it sounds like wishful thinking on an epic scale.
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But there will be, by a few decades in. Maybe not physical exports, at least not primarily, but IP.
IP in the sense of videos and scientific data of various kinds seems to be a viable revenue stream.
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I'm not convinced it would take nearly that long, given motivation to actually pursue it, especially given technology likely to be available 30 years from now (even assuming only incremental improvements in existing tech, no major breakthroughs).
You are seriously underestimating how hostile the Martian environment is and the extent to which a habitat would have to have its environment monitored and maintained. We have limited knowledge on Mars dust but it's looking both chemically aggressive and toxic.
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0.3m craters is way larger than micrometeorites. I don't think Mars suits will need micrometeorite protection, and an impactor large enough to make a foot-wide crater or more would probably damage a human regardless of the suit they wore.
The implication is that those are just the ones that can be seen from orbit.

AFAIK there is no reason to think that this is the lower size limit for objects making it the surface.

Being under a 3m of regolith is looking like a pretty good idea.
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

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