Author Topic: Steam Punk Mars (Self Sufficient Survival through Low Tech)  (Read 35795 times)

Offline colbourne

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The stated aim of Elon Musk is to make a self sufficient base on Mars that can perform independently from Earth.
This would be much easier, if the base can survive with as little high tech equipment as possible. Chip manufacturing plants can be sent from Earth but it will be many years before such things can be fabricated on Mars with no trade with Earth.

Using technology that can be easily built on Mars would it be possible to set up a base that could be self sustaining using naturally occurring materials. Cleaning the breathable air with vegatation or Mars produced equipment rather than Cleaners from Earth. Plastics should be possible, for construction and sealing tunnels, but construction with wood and bamboo offers other possibilities.

Initially the independent base would revert back to a Medieval lifestyle, but could the base possibly survive ?
« Last Edit: 06/02/2018 04:30 am by colbourne »

Offline zhangmdev

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Re: Steam Punk Mars
« Reply #1 on: 06/01/2018 11:26 am »
Will a self-sustained base/camp survive on Earth? Before going to Mars on a giant rocket ship, better do some experiment first. Running a closed life support system with ISRU and minimal resupply at some remote site. Better not crash the system for a couple of years. Before that, I have no confidence in the survivability of a manned Mars mission.

And I think initial Mars base will be highly automated, with very few people supported by giant, complex, and energy hungry machines.

Offline colbourne

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Re: Steam Punk Mars
« Reply #2 on: 06/01/2018 11:49 am »
It will be necessary to be able to produce suits for use outside of the habitat for the days after the last Earth delivered suits have expired. These could be produced with natural materials e.g. cotton, hemp, rubber or artificial materials.

Living in tunnels underground would be the simplest low tech survival option. Mirrors can replace solar panels and LEDs for plant growth. Although solar panels and LEDs are so important I expect these will be produced on Mars at the earliest opportunity.

I expect NASA and SpaceX have a good idea of the essential requirements for a self sufficient base, and it probably from Elons idea of a base of a million people is quite a long list.


Offline Stan-1967

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Re: Steam Punk Mars
« Reply #3 on: 06/01/2018 01:17 pm »
There is no way semiconductor manufacturing would be done on Mars for at least many generations after colonization, if ever.  More than likely it will be never.   Itís not just the feasibility of setting up a wafer fab,  itís the entire materials supply chain that needs to support a wafer fab.   You canít have a crown jewel of a technological civilization without the complexity that it is built upon.

Think along the lines of consumables and building materials first.   That will keep Martian colonists busy for a hundred years or so.
« Last Edit: 06/01/2018 04:49 pm by Stan-1967 »

Offline ThereIWas3

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Re: Steam Punk Mars
« Reply #4 on: 06/01/2018 01:41 pm »
Cotton, hemp, and rubber are not natural materials on Mars.
"If you want to build a ship, donít drum up people to collect wood and donít assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea" - Antoine de Saint-Exupťry

Offline CuddlyRocket

Re: Steam Punk Mars
« Reply #5 on: 06/01/2018 07:35 pm »
There is no way semiconductor manufacturing would be done on Mars for at least many generations after colonization, if ever.  More than likely it will be never.   Itís not just the feasibility of setting up a wafer fab,  itís the entire materials supply chain that needs to support a wafer fab.   You canít have a crown jewel of a technological civilization without the complexity that it is built upon.

You might be right when it comes to integrated circuits (though I'd replace 'never' with 'for the foreseeable future' as the future is a very long time!), but simple transistors are much easier to produce and can be used to construct electronic devices. Sure, they'd be bulkier, heavier, slower and use more power, but they were used in commercial products at one time, including a computer soon after the transistor's invention!

Offline johnfwhitesell

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Re: Steam Punk Mars
« Reply #6 on: 06/01/2018 07:50 pm »
The silicon wafers used in semiconductors are very light, small and high value.  You would be hard pressed to come up with a better candidate of item to ship over rather then produce in situ.  They are unlikely to be made on Mars so long as they are only made in a handful of places on earth.

Offline DistantTemple

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Re: Steam Punk Mars
« Reply #7 on: 06/01/2018 08:16 pm »
Steampunk: yes .... low-tec self sufficiency - no. (or not in the main city) Aim for self-sufficiency in various systems yes yes yes.
In much of our Earth "civilisation" good and successful is seen as finished, top quality, smooth, usually complicated workings hidden, and the function is a "black box" that does what it is supposed to do without confusing us with its hidden workings. Its almost as if most people live in a world of magic, and want to. This is a kind of dream world... in some ways allied to relaxation, and exploitation. We don't really want to know the dirty secrets that contribute to cars, tv,s PCB's etc.
On Mars, with a highly technological scientific, and overwhelmingly engineering biased population, it would be good to see, enjoy, and celebrate the technology, and "Steam Punk" sculpture, and a bit of "Mad Max" will IMO enrich the developing culture. A culture of "hacking" not to damage, but to adapt, repair, and re-purpose all kinds of machines and robotics, and to do this for enjoyment, stimulation, and satisfaction, will build a culture ready to adapt, fix, and develop their settlement.
I can't imagine low-tec self sufficiency working at all, once technical things start breaking down. However, starting from the high tec, aims to make biological systems as closed as possible, and make as wide a range of chemicals and materials, as possible etc... and be as self sufficient as possible ... is a scientific, and technological aim that is laudable and exciting... and motivating. There are milestones to be reached etc, and parties to be thrown! And practical skills, with soil, plants, compost... woodworking, (bamboo early on!) broaden the culture, and enrich everyone lives. Bits of rocket engines should be in the toy boxes of the first children!
« Last Edit: 06/01/2018 08:18 pm by DistantTemple »
We can always grow new new dendrites. Reach out and make connections and your world will burst with new insights. Then repose in consciousness.

Offline nacnud

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Re: Steam Punk Mars
« Reply #8 on: 06/01/2018 08:22 pm »
There has never been a demand for a fab in a box on Earth as you can just ship parts easily. However perhaps off Earth a fab where you add raw material in one end and get FPGA chips out the other is a viable business model. There are also many more destinations other than Mars...

Offline guckyfan

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Sometimes I get the impression that people don't appreciate how complex a technological society is.

Offline speedevil

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Re: Steam Punk Mars
« Reply #10 on: 06/02/2018 09:34 am »
There has never been a demand for a fab in a box on Earth as you can just ship parts easily. However perhaps off Earth a fab where you add raw material in one end and get FPGA chips out the other is a viable business model. There are also many more destinations other than Mars...
There pretty much has.

The current boxes fabs come in cost several billion dollars.

This sets quite a high floor on the minimum cost of a useful fab-in-a-box.
If it cost less than ten million dollars, and had an output of over 0.1% or so of a standard fab, it might succeed in the market.

As to costs - to emphasise shipping, assuming a cost of $1300/kg to Mars (first cargo BFS rates), you get 0.6g/$.
This 0.6g buys you 6cm^2 of semiconductor wafer, at standard thickness.
This is two or three high performance desktop processors.

Per dollar of shipping.
Chips can easily be back-thinned to a fifth of this thickness, reducing the cost to $2 or so for the entire silicon chip set in a modern PC.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Steam Punk Mars (Self Sufficient Survival through Low Tech)
« Reply #11 on: 06/02/2018 10:41 am »
Low Tech isn't enough to survive on Mars.  Sorry.  The environment is too hostile.  It takes high tech to survive there.

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Steam Punk Mars (Self Sufficient Survival through Low Tech)
« Reply #12 on: 06/02/2018 11:16 am »
Sometimes I get the impression that people don't appreciate how complex a technological society is.
And you'd be right.

The only time people think about this sort of thing is when they look at "Self replicating systems"

The things-that-make  the things-that-make  the things-that-make the thing you want (probably with several more levels for most items). :(

While Mars mfg would have other priorities (more flexibility, not such an emphasis on absolute lowest cost and highest volume) there is still a huge range of "stuff" that's needed (and a way to pay for it).

And then there's the energy cost. Just the raw energy of raw materials is huge. Growing a Silicon boule means melting X Kg's of Silicon and the power budget for that alone is enormous. It's not an issue on Earth because you have a whole power grid to plug into. That "service" alone makes a stunning array of problems vastly easier on Earth than Mars.

However turning to the threads title. Doing this means either living in natural structures (IE Caves) or mfg structures out of local materials (Marscrete or compressed bricks). Can they be made airtight?
Human waste recycling becomes a key resource for plant and fish growth and potentially heat and light.
Air production is something that isn't an issue on Earth. On Mars it's (literally) life and death.
Long term radiation shielding needs 3m of Mars regolith. Low tech means surface operations so how you going to make suits? Made to measure rigid? If so what do the joints use?
BTW low tech means no self contained ECLSS. Hoses and a cable for voice comms.
On the upside, no hours of pre breathing  to run on pure O2. On the downside, cut the hose and you're dead.
« Last Edit: 06/02/2018 12:08 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 stainless steel 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 DistantTemple

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Re: Steam Punk Mars (Self Sufficient Survival through Low Tech)
« Reply #13 on: 06/02/2018 12:21 pm »
OK Low-tec is not easy, or possible in the early decades, but aiming for self reliant practices can be there from NOW, during planning. ISRU ! is self reliance, even if building the ISRU plant is not.

There has to be self reliance, because of the effective synodial separation, and the 4+ month travel times.

The question to ask is: "What can be done effectively to further self-sufficiency now?" From that a time line can be sketched. This may bring forward some projects and defer others.

So deferred: includes silicon wafers! to be reviewed in 20 years.
Quote from: john smith 19
And then there's the energy cost. Just the raw energy of raw materials is huge. Growing a Silicon boule means melting X Kg's of Silicon and the power budget for that alone is enormous. It's not an issue on Earth because you have a whole power grid to plug into. That "service" alone makes a stunning array of problems vastly easier on Earth than Mars.
In 20 years all silicon FABs may be in orbit, because of benefits of vibration, vacuum, and gravity. (a guess) And vast-VAST solar collectors/panels. Then copying one in Mars orbit will only involve finance! And on the surface a grid will exist!

Brought forward to be acted on immediately: Using Mars' materials for construction and shielding. Including liners, and seals for caves and tunnels.
Quote from: john smith 19
However turning to the threads title. Doing this means either living in natural structures (IE Caves) or mfg structures out of local materials (Marscrete or compressed bricks). Can they be made airtight?
snip...
Long term radiation shielding needs 3m of Mars regolith. Low tech means surface operations so how you going to make suits? Made to measure rigid? If so what do the joints use?
I believe these are all in consideration and development by SX and EM. He has said his compressed bricks will be useful on Mars, and for tunnel segments. Under lower gravity, arches built with such segments will easily be engineered to support regolith (+ice) shielding, on the surface or below. Such bricks are promoted for low-tec "3rd world" uses. Marscrete is obvious, and has adequate research. Cut stone as well! And EM's TBC, has Mars in its sights. Liners seals, "o" rings etc, will remain hi-tec but <20 years a nascent Mars chemistry industry could be producing most of the plastics and fibres needed for 100% liner manufacture. As Earth manufacture becomes more automated, making seals just means (buying the machine) importing it to Mars, powering it and giving it feedstocks. Latex/rubber from plants is a niche that may be toyed with later!

Right at the top of the "NOW" list is food production, O2, and CO2 scrubbing, and the rest ECLSS, evolving towards closed systems and cycles... These will be operated on mars with earth built equipment, and maintaind after a while with some printed parts made on Mars. All human waste not used will be stored because of planetary protection. And storage leads to digestors, then storage... then compost, which could be used for bamboo rather than food at first. Bamboo enhances living spaces! In Sci Fi, a part of every crew are environmental crew!
Quote from: john smith 19
Human waste recycling becomes a key resource for plant and fish growth and potentially heat and light.
Air production is something that isn't an issue on Earth. On Mars it's (literally) life and death.
In Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red Mars" etc groups split off and make their own settlements, where some are hell bent on lower-tec. However there and in real life, the highest tecnologies; genetic modification, and terraforming, will enable the lowest tec eventually!
Self sufficiency, and survival in the event of unexpected isolation, will depend on 1. Attitude, 2. Skills and abilities, 3. Knowledge (vast database of) 4.Materials, and processes.
 
We can always grow new new dendrites. Reach out and make connections and your world will burst with new insights. Then repose in consciousness.

Offline CuddlyRocket

The silicon wafers used in semiconductors are very light, small and high value.  You would be hard pressed to come up with a better candidate of item to ship over rather then produce in situ.  They are unlikely to be made on Mars so long as they are only made in a handful of places on earth.

The OP questioned whether it would be possible to make a Mars colony self-sustaining; relying on Earth negates that aim. Could you manufacture transistors on Mars relatively straightforwardly, and how self-sufficient would that make a colony?

Offline DistantTemple

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Re: Steam Punk Mars (Self Sufficient Survival through Low Tech)
« Reply #15 on: 06/02/2018 09:37 pm »
The silicon wafers used in semiconductors are very light, small and high value.  You would be hard pressed to come up with a better candidate of item to ship over rather then produce in situ.  They are unlikely to be made on Mars so long as they are only made in a handful of places on earth.

The OP questioned whether it would be possible to make a Mars colony self-sustaining; relying on Earth negates that aim. Could you manufacture transistors on Mars relatively straightforwardly, and how self-sufficient would that make a colony?
My Idea that silicon wafers will be made in orbit (in 20 years), earlier occurred to a Kerbalite! https://forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com/index.php?/topic/45769-semiconductor-manufacturing-in-space/
He says its advantageous because of the natural clean room of space, the zero g, and the extreme high value to mass ratio. If successful in LEO, then possible in LMO too. Problem solved. And with lower gravity, Mars to mars orbit is cheaper than Earth, so down the line Mars could become a net exporter of Chips. Mars' population will be skewed towards engineers, and scientists, and a higher IQ. So designing chips, and automated processes to make them, will be "in the blood"

Edit sp vale >>> value also "successful" grammar.
« Last Edit: 06/03/2018 02:25 pm by DistantTemple »
We can always grow new new dendrites. Reach out and make connections and your world will burst with new insights. Then repose in consciousness.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Steam Punk Mars (Self Sufficient Survival through Low Tech)
« Reply #16 on: 06/03/2018 12:43 am »
The silicon wafers used in semiconductors are very light, small and high value.  You would be hard pressed to come up with a better candidate of item to ship over rather then produce in situ.  They are unlikely to be made on Mars so long as they are only made in a handful of places on earth.

The OP questioned whether it would be possible to make a Mars colony self-sustaining; relying on Earth negates that aim. Could you manufacture transistors on Mars relatively straightforwardly, and how self-sufficient would that make a colony?

I suspect the 80:20 rule applies. It is heavy things that Mars needs to be made self sufficient in.

Offline colbourne

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Re: Steam Punk Mars (Self Sufficient Survival through Low Tech)
« Reply #17 on: 06/03/2018 03:57 am »
I think the aim is to make Mars eventually totally self sufficient. ie If Earth is wiped out, the colonists on Mars will still be able to keep the human race alive. The sooner this is achieved, the better  the odds of our species surviving.

This means that, they have to have the ability to keep life essential devices operational. As long as water, air ,food and energy are available they have the potential to succeed.
Relying on critical systems from Earth that can not be maintained on Mars is the recipe to disaster. All the time Earth is available as a trading partner, it is ok to use complex equipment, but the aim should be to build stable maintainable services on Mars to cover the essentials.

Offline CuddlyRocket

My Idea that silicon wafers will be made in orbit (in 20 years), earlier occurred to a Kerbalite!

You seem to be a little fixated on silicon wafers! :) They're an advanced technology and you don't need them in order to manufacture semiconductors such as transistors etc. In fact, you don't need semiconductors in order to manufacture many electronic devices. That said, you probably need them to manufacture solar cells!

I think the aim is to make Mars eventually totally self sufficient. ie If Earth is wiped out, the colonists on Mars will still be able to keep the human race alive. The sooner this is achieved, the better  the odds of our species surviving.

This means that, they have to have the ability to keep life essential devices operational. As long as water, air ,food and energy are available they have the potential to succeed.
Relying on critical systems from Earth that can not be maintained on Mars is the recipe to disaster. All the time Earth is available as a trading partner, it is ok to use complex equipment, but the aim should be to build stable maintainable services on Mars to cover the essentials.

In reality there's going to be a tension between making the colony self-sufficient as soon as possible and leveraging the import of Earth technology to develop the colony as quickly as possible! But I think it's a useful theoretical exercise to consider how quickly you can make the colony self-sufficient; and what technologies would that involve.

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Steam Punk Mars (Self Sufficient Survival through Low Tech)
« Reply #19 on: 06/03/2018 08:54 pm »
The silicon wafers used in semiconductors are very light, small and high value.  You would be hard pressed to come up with a better candidate of item to ship over rather then produce in situ.  They are unlikely to be made on Mars so long as they are only made in a handful of places on earth.

The OP questioned whether it would be possible to make a Mars colony self-sustaining; relying on Earth negates that aim. Could you manufacture transistors on Mars relatively straightforwardly, and how self-sufficient would that make a colony?

I suspect the 80:20 rule applies. It is heavy things that Mars needs to be made self sufficient in.
Indeed. And consider what (in total) are some of the heaviest.
Food
Water
Air
Propellant
Bricks (or some other building material).

And of course as the settlement grows unless the amount of imports per settler falls the ongoing mass that has to be sent from Earth grows.

A key issue is power generation. PV cells might be individually light but power generation on the scale needed for ISRU (I think a figure of MWs was mentioned) means they soon mount up.

Likewise if people are looking at LED's that's a very specialized, very heavy, very expensive production line, which also has a pretty large power budget.

Data point. It takes 2.78 Mj to raise 1 Kg of Silicon from 20c to molten, most of it from the solid to liquid transition.
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 stainless steel 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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