The Deferred Dreams Of Mars

This article reminds me of a passage from my space safety book (still in draft form, but nearing completion, with illustrations):

Unfortunately, Congress has been pretty much indifferent to missions, or mission success, or “getting the job done,” when it comes to space. Its focus remains on “safety,” and price is no object when it comes to it. In fact, if one really believes that the reason for Ares/Orion was safety, and the program was expected to cost several tens of billions, and it would fly (perhaps) a dozen astronauts per year, rather than fifty million dollars, NASA was implicitly pricing an astronaut life to be something on the order of several billion dollars.

As another example, if it were really important to get someone to Mars, we’d be considering one-way trips, which cost much less, and for which there would be no shortage of volunteers. It wouldn’t have to be a suicide mission – one could take along equipment to grow food, and live off the land, but it would be very high risk, and perhaps as high or higher than the early American settlements, such as Roanoke and Jamestown. But one never hears serious discussion of such issues, at least not in the halls of Congress, which is a good indication that we are not serious about exploring, developing or settling space, and any pretense at seriousness ends once the sole-source contracts have been awarded to the favored contractors of the big rockets.

For these reasons, I personally think it unlikely that the federal government will be sending humans anywhere beyond LEO any time soon, but I do think that there is a reasonable prospect for private actors to do so – Elon Musk has stated multiple times that this is the goal of SpaceX, and why he founded the company. There are a number of other people with similar goals and financial resources, and one or more of them is likely to achieve them, because they have a much different tolerance for risk than bureaucrats and Congresspeople. The real danger of NASA hypersensitivity to safety is not that it will prevent NASA from sending astronauts into space, but that its standards will osmotically bleed over into the regulation of commercial human spaceflight, making it more unaffordable for all.

Just as a tease…

64 thoughts on “The Deferred Dreams Of Mars”

  1. The more that the idea is out there and the more that it is thought about, the more sense it makes to do a one way trip with a group of people. It might be interesting to do a study on what it would take to be self sufficient….

    1. Dennis,

      Yes, that is really the critical path to space settlement, developing the technology for basic self-sufficiency on Mars or really anywhere in space with only energy and basic elements as inputs. So far the only experiment that was even close to what was needed, “Earth 2,” was far too complex to be practical and failed in less than two years.

      BTW I have been exploring this a while and its actually far more complex then simply building a cheaper launch system as we don’t even know all the variables, for example the impact of low gravity for very long terms on plants and the need for trace elements.

    2. “…what it would take to be self sufficient…”

      I think commercially mining lunar water would make Mars “self sufficient”.

      So exploring the Moon to determine if there is minable water is the step out should take before sending any crew to Mars.
      One can send crew to Mars before any lunar water is mined, but the mining of lunar water will make Mars self sufficient.

      Or we need lunar water mining before we can have Mars settlements, but not before we can have Manned Mars missions.

      Said the opposite way, if we get human settlements on Mars, we are sure to get lunar water mining [assuming there is minable lunar water].
      Another way saying it, any company mining lunar water will want a market of rocket fuel which used to get to Mars and to get crew back from Mars orbit.

      The way to do a Manned Mars mission is to use a lot of rocket fuel.
      This rocket fuel can come from Earth or from the Moon.
      You want to use a lot rocket fuel because you want to send crew Mars as fast as you possibly can.
      And large amounts of rocket fuel in Cislunar space, is relative to other costs, cheap.
      So one should not consider sending crew to Mars which requires more than 4 months to get there. What cost you are saving for +6 months is simply not worth it.
      And only reason people consider it, is they want to conserve the use of rocket fuel. Bad idea.

      I think one should try to get to Mars within 2 months. Use vast amounts of rocket fuel. But I think one should at least try for 3- 4 months as the travel time. And return trip, maybe as long as 5 to 6 months.

      So I think goal should be send crew to Mars as fast as possible- which is about 2 months or less. And return them as fast as possible [2 months or less]. With this goal, you might get 1 to 4 months as possible trip time- and 4 months is ok. And it’s possible at some point one will send crew for longer duration, because for some reason you need to.

      So political approach may be to do 3-4 month as goal with trying to make it shorter time period. But with 3-4 months one has to use a lot of rocket fuel. With this as stated goal, narrows and defines the mission- and I believe it’s facing reality.
      And if this not a government project, it seems going there faster would the way the private sector would choose to do it. Or would end up doing it.

      1. Costs go up significantly for anything less than six months. So what you’re really saying is let’s wait indefinitely. I hope that doesn’t happen. There are a few plans by some (Musk, Mars One, etc.) that say it will not.

        You are absolutely right that a mars colony at the very least means lunar oxygen will be developed. It is one of the reasons mars expands us into the entire solar system.

        It’s not that great a burden for someone to wait six or even nine months to get to mars although a shorter trip does have a safety factor. This will spur nuclear engine development (which we definitely should not wait for.)

        The most important thing is to get people there to prove we can live there. I’m pretty sure if they have water and energy they can figure out the rest. Especially since once there, they will have the whole world behind them.

        Long term success depends on their independence and that depends on ownership.

        1. “Costs go up significantly for anything less than six months. So what you’re really saying is let’s wait indefinitely. I hope that doesn’t happen. There are a few plans by some (Musk, Mars One, etc.) that say it will not.”

          Rocket fuel use goes up significantly.
          And as I said, use lots of rocket fuel.
          And one of points is to lower costs.

          Put this way unless you spending too much for rocket fuel, a series of Manned Mars manned mission should cost less than 10 billion dollars in the cost of rocket fuel shipping to high Earth orbit. Or at 10 million per tonne it’s 1000 tonnes of rocket fuel.

          So the majority of cost spent on rocket fuel doesn’t have paid until one sends the crew.
          One could wish to make a nuclear rocket to go fast to Mars- that cost occur prior to sending crew.
          Politically it’s easier to spend money for something which gives a bang within a term of office- so 2 years for congress peoples
          is least time. President: 4 years. Senate: 6 years.
          So 10 billion spend to make a nuclear rocket is political harder than approving the money need to fill the gas tank before sending crew to Mars.
          So 10 billion dollar for nuclear rocket able to get to Mars quicker than 6 months- would be an price no one believe is possible. Considering the cost of the James Webb Space Telescope.
          Now, do need a 1000 tons of rocket fuel in high earth orbit to send crew to Mars is say within 4 months?
          It seems one could probably use 1/2 of this amount, perhaps little as a 1/5th amount. But that just to get there, one need rocket fuel at the other end at Mars orbit to get crew back to Earth.
          If you have rocket fuel at Mars orbit, you could use rocket fuel to land on the surface of Mars. You need to bring enough rocket fuel to get into Mars orbit, but you could send the rocket fuel needed land on Mars surface using slower cargo Hohmann transfer trajectory.
          So let’s assume you need 1000 tons of rocket fuel and it cost 10 million per ton and need it for one crewed mission to Mars.
          It does not seem like one could use more then this. One could use less, but don’t how you could use more unless you want less than 2 month trip time.
          Let’s say you want less than 2 month trip time. So 2000 tonnes of rocket fuel- so 20 billion dollars.
          If you wanted 2 months, does anyone think a NASA project could spend less on the hardware for this manned mission that would cost less than 20 billion dollars.
          Aren’t getting close to this price for the non flying SLS?

          Wouldn’t ever one agree that the more rocket fuel shipped, one would not think it cost more per unit cost [per ton].

          So it seems to me the hard part and the part costing the most is the hardware that uses the rocket fuel, rather than the cost of rocket fuel. And of course no one would build a nuclear rocket that would get to Mars in less than 2 months. It’s not choice that could be made.
          So I would say getting the money to buy the rocket fuel is a non problem, compared to getting all the other stuff needed.

          So I would say go for 3-4 months, and maybe more even rocket fuel will be used, if not the first trip, then perhaps the second trip.

          But before going to Mars, you go to the Moon, and you should want fuel depots for Manned Moon. So for Manned Mars, as far as fuel depots, you need one at Mars orbit and perhaps one on the Mars surface.
          So for Manned Mars you mostly just buying a lot more rocket fuel, and it’s paid for when you fill up to go to Mars.

          Now how many trips you going to send to Mars, before one can start buying rocket fuel made on Lunar surface?
          1 or 2 trips?
          And 3 to 5 trips to Mars one get some competitive prices on the rocket fuel. And the more lunar rocket fuel you buy the cheaper it gets to buy rocket fuel.
          One could use reusable boosters as one stage of rocket- a lot stuff used to get to Mars could be reused.
          If the rocket fuel costs 10-20 billion and the spacecraft can mostly reused, and it cost 10 to 20 billion. Compared to buying spacecraft for 10 to 20 billion and throwing it away after one use- one isn’t paying much for the rocket fuel. You buying rocket fuel instead of buying new spacecraft.

          1. it seems to me the hard part and the part costing the most is the hardware that uses the rocket fuel

            You would be wrong, even if the rocket fuel were free. To give an example using FH at 50mt for $100m…

            A single FH launch could put a 50mt ship in orbit (crew of six) for a total cost of about $200m.

            You need about 10 times the ship mass for the required delta V so that’s $1b dollars for fuel (even if the fuel itself is free.) Startup cost to get that from the moon would be even more although over time it could be cheaper.

            So fuel is 80% of the cost, but we’re not done. That ship once in orbit can amortize it’s cost over multiple flights while new fuel has to provided each time. So ship costs soon approach about 1% of the total cost.

          2. “it seems to me the hard part and the part costing the most is the hardware that uses the rocket fuel

            You would be wrong, even if the rocket fuel were free. To give an example using FH at 50mt for $100m…

            A single FH launch could put a 50mt ship in orbit (crew of six) for a total cost of about $200m.”

            You seem underestimating costs and you assuming the private sector going to Mars.

            I think NASA should explore the Moon, then explore Mars.
            And I am assuming NASA spends about 5 billion per year on this manned exploration. And NASA continues with ISS in the beginning stages of lunar manned but by Manned Mars NASA should have handed off ISS to some other entity.

            Going to Mars one has limited launch windows- about once every 2 years. And I assume if you spend 5 billion per year on program and miss a launch window- it’s costing 10 billion dollars. This assuming you think exploring Mars is what you doing rather than NASA just being a job program.
            I am also assuming that if lose crew while they are attempting exploring Mars, this has cost of somewhere around +12 billion. Another cost to program- mainly due to delay to program.
            So, I assume NASA will want less than 10% chance to lose their crew as baseline. So improving to chance of success could wroth 1 billion dollars or more.

            If you plan to send crew to Mars so they arrive in less than 4 months, such capability should extend your launch window, and reduce chance losing 2 years. And a shorter travel time should increase safety to crew.

            I think that only the private sector can lower costs. And it should be NASA’s focus to try to lower costs [as they are incapable of doing this]. Instead NASA should focus in terms of economics, to get most amount exploration done within a certain time period and within their budgets- this is lower costs for NASA.
            NASA’s job should be increase markets in space- this allows NASA to explore more in shorter time period [“lowers their costs”].
            So things like manned Moon or Mars will have a total program cost. I think if NASA spent in total about 40 billion on manned lunar and 100 billion on a manned Mars, this would be great value to American tax payers.
            The only way NASA can do this, is by creating markets in space. And I think creating a market for rocket fuel in space is a good way to begin this road towards more markets in space.

  2. I sincerely doubt that the Feds will provide any reasonable path to anywhere except maybe LEO.

    As everyone says they are too risk averse. You are connecting (via a couple of links) politicians with pilots and any death will cause trouble for the Pol.

    500 years ago the government could send out ships without having to worry overmuch about the safety of the crews. There was no political blowback and life was much cheaper.

    But I observed that when Melvill et al were taking Space Ship One up, no one tried to stop them. When one of the flights featured a hair raising roll for a while, no one tried to shut them down.

    Private is going to have to be the way to go. The only way Pols will take political risks is of the political cost of not flying the mission is higher. This is, in my opinion, what happened with Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. Pols were willing to take the risks even after a couple of hair raising Gemini flights and Apollo 1.

    1. Another good thing about a private venture to mars is that it will filter out those without the vision to see long term. This will allow the colony to grow for quite a while without interference from those that ‘know’ it’s not economically viable.

      For the first time in human history, men may understand true liberty… and life and property.

  3. Rand,

    [[[ The real danger of NASA hypersensitivity to safety is not that it will prevent NASA from sending astronauts into space, but that its standards will osmotically bleed over into the regulation of commercial human spaceflight, making it more unaffordable for all.]]]

    Which is the biggest danger to space commerce from NASA’s “Commercial Crew” program. As long as NASA built its own system it didn’t care about how safe space commercial systems were, they weren’t on their radar. Now they are just because “NASA Astronauts” may be flying on them.

    1. Then why has the government spent the last 40 years dumbing down the curriculum of public schools to the point where there are no brains to drain. You can’t control people who think for themselves, after all.

      1. The situation is similar to that faced by Puritans seeking a place away from the authority of the Church of England to live as they please. The King’s government, and different factions within the King’s government, moved back and forth several times between allowing and stopping the Plymouth colony. On the one hand, it got rid of people who were trouble-makers. (MfK’s people who think for themselves)

        On the other hand, if the colony were successful, it would allow the spread of such ideas and intentions to a place where the King’s writ ran very thinly, or not at all, and could still communicate with Britain, probably influencing it to some unknown extent. Those 2 sets of future fears and desires pulled policy first one way, and then another. IMHO, ultimately, Britain benefited enormously from spreading its basic culture into areas where English-speakers could then be made into comfortable allies, of a sufficiently tolerant British Crown.

        Congress might wish such people as us to leave and quit pestering them. However, those who are truly statist in ideology, rather than from present temporary political interest, will eventually demand control over these Mars settlements be assured before the first launch. Will they have the power to make that demand law? Well, …that’s what a horse race is all about, …isn’t it???

  4. We can only hope that NASA remains risk averse. We need people to claim their rights that do not come from government. The food issue is particularly funny (send twinkies!) There are hundreds of companies that would be very glad to sell you food that is packaged to remain good for over five years.

    1. Ken,

      Actually the stored food they sell to Mormons here in Nevada is designed to be stored for 10 to 20 years. The storage life of the food is not a problem for Mars, it’s the mass. A year’s supply of food for one person may mass as much as 750 lbs. You multiple that by 10 years and you have a mass of 7,500 lbs that must be lifted out of the Earth’s gravity well and into Mars gravity well. That is basically the equivalent of 4 Red Dragon flights. At $150 million a flight that would equal $600 million just for the food for a single individual. For a group of 10 individuals that would be $6 billion and 40 Red Dragon flights. However at 4 flights a year that is probably doable.
      This is just the mass of food, not the water needed for drinking or the needs of life support.

      However the Earth II experiment that was run near you by Tucson didn’t end early due to a food shortage, it ended due to a shortage of oxygen because of problems with the life support system. That will be one of the challenges, developing a reliable life support system in an environment with high amounts of very toxic and damaging dust. One that will last years. The other will be keeping that same toxic dust out of the habitat to reduce exposure. And out of your equipment including space suits. The suits used on Apollo were close to their limit of endurance on the latter missions with only three days exposure to dust and you didn’t even have the atmosphere Mars has that moves the dust around constantly blowing it into every joint and opening.

      1. I use 8 kg per day or 3000 kg per year. So about 3 m3 for a flight to mars. Half that as a bare minimum. 2000kg annual being a happy medium, but you want to allow for a possible free return just in case.

        Daily (1 kg oxygen, 2.5 kg hydrated food, 4.5 kg water includes packaging.)

        All the rest of the supplies go the cheap route 4 years worth the first time and 2 years at a time after, directly to the mars surface. Proven ISRU reduces that over time; ISRU water obviously the first thing to work on.

        1. Ken,

          It still adds up to a lot of money for transport and keeps you dependent on Earth. They don’t like what you do they cut off your supplies.

  5. Mars is like an Anglerfish, it looks pretty from a distance, but get up close and it’ll swallow you (and everything you’re likely able to throw at it) whole.

  6. From an Earth-centric point of view, you want any colony to be a little dependent on the mother planet. So why wait until a colony could be self sufficient?

    Also, it would be ideal to have the capability for people or items to return from Mars, even if it was rarely used. There needs to be physical interaction between the two planets.

    But IMO Mars is a desert and we need to go where the water is, which appears to be a little further out.

  7. If NASA had been in charge of Ships leaving Europe going around the World on voyages of discovery or colonization, we’d all still be IN Europe, Native Americans would still be living a hunter gatherer lifestyle, and Asians would probably be on Mars as we speak.

    1. Which is why it’s so funny so many space advocates put their faith in NASA and spend all their time advocating for NASA to fund space settlement and New Space. Yes, a generation of progress towards space settlement wasted.

      1. I not only don’t want NASA. I think a private venture could be fully funded now if they just adopt the right plan (which also works for the individual colonists which nobody seems to consider apart from a central planning perspective.)

        But you’d have to understand accrual accounting.

        1. Ken,

          Probably and that is what I was originally hoping for SpaceX before they started taking NASA money, and as a result needed to start doing their paperwork and books the NASA way.

  8. Elon Musk is the most important man in the world, akin to Watt or Edison in their times, but he’s wrong about Mars. Mars won’t surpass a flag stuck in the ground until a product produced on Mars is sold for a profit on Earth. Until then, Musk is leading the way out of this gravity well to the free and virtually inexhaustible energy and material resources of space.

    1. The things you talk about IcePilot are true but too long term. A private colony on Mars consisting of SpaceX launched Bigelow inflatable modules and other supplies with a few hundred colonists could be provitable right away. The one thing Mars has to trade on right away(as well as a private Lunar colony) is its location iself. A private indenpendent off-world colony on the moon or mars has one immediates source of income. This derives from the fact that no earth gov including the US would have any authority to tax or regulate or out law anything the private colony does. The “Bank of Mars” (think Cayman islands in space). People could wire money to their account in the said bank gathering interest tax free. The bank would have confidentiality as to clients money earned etc, not gov would have the legal or practical means to force the colony to open its books so to speak. The Ultimate tax shelter.

      1. Tim,

        Actually the settlement would be governed by the laws of the nation which its incorporated under and which registers it with the U.N. under the Registration Convention. If that is the U.S. then the laws will be the same as the U.S. including tax laws. If its incorporated under another country then it will be governed by that country’s laws. As for the U.S. forcing it to open its books, its powers would be the same as with current tax havens overseas so being on Mars would give you no advantage.

        1. Why would it have to be incorporated under any nation? I simply said a private colony on mars, who says it would have to be registered under any gov? The owners of the colony would be the colonists no need to register or seek any gov approval, since no gov on earth has title to any land off planet or authority to grant ownership of any land off planet.

          1. Tim,

            Read the Outer Space Treaty and the Registration Convention. The county you are a citizen of on Earth is deemed responsible for your actions in space. So YES, the settlers will need approval from some nation to at least launch their hardware to Mars. And the laws of that nation will cover the facility, unless its incorporated under the laws of another nation.

          2. If they are permanent colonists on Mars and declare their indenpendence from earth they are defacto renouncing their citizenship from whatever countries they were native of. Futhermore, when the colonist start having children even that tinuous tie to earth would be gone. No country could claim “responsibilty” for the actions of ex-citzens who have native born martian children with no ties to any country on earth. The responsibility provesso refers to a private entity of the US or some other country owned by citizens of said country’s actions in space, does not cover independent colonist permanenly renouncing their citizenship.

          3. Tim,

            Nice theory. It will be interesting to see its interaction with the real world.

            But as for kids on Mars being born stateless, that is incorrect. Just as on Earth when a child is born on a ship at sea it either has the citizenship of its parents or of the nation the ship is registered in.

          4. Thomas you seemed to be refusing to accept the premise of the permanent mars colonists renouncing their citzenship of country of origin. The children born of such parents would indeed be “stateless”. They (or their parents acting in their behalf until they reach their majority) would be able to act legally independent of any earth nation which by international law can’t claim ownership/soverignty over any off world land or body. It almost as if you are saying you can’t renouce your citizenship, I assure you can. Its not like Mafia membership, once your in you can get out.

          5. Tim,

            No, I am just recognizing what the current state of space law is which you ignore.

            As for renouncing your citizenship there is indeed a procedure for doing so, but if you are American it requires going before a Consul to do so. A couple thousand of ex-Americans do so each year.

            However you need to study up a bit on the different between Real Property Law and Personal Property Law. You may have one without the other. And read up a bit on Space Law.

        2. the settlement would be governed by the laws of the nation which its incorporated under

          Nope, and why mars being so far away is the right destination.

          A ship transports people to mars. Those people are from nations all over the earth. The ship does not land on mars. The people do.

          Those people have sole authority over their own lives.

          Ok, the landers were purchased in a black market deal having no flag.

          All of which is BS. People are not chattel.

          1. Ken,

            But hardware is. And unless those folks renounce their citizenship before they leave Earth they will be covered by the laws of the nation they are citizens, since it will be held responsible for their actions.

            And Mars is not too far. If private entrepreneurs are able to make it so will government troops. Remember, they have deeper pockets and there are more of them 🙂

          2. Yes and said government troops would be acting illegally under international law(outer space treaty) and national law. The colony composed of people who have renounced citizenship of any earth nation (and later their native born children) are legally not bound by any countries’ laws. Whatever hardware they launch from earth would be bought and paid for and therefore owned by them not the citizens or govenrnment of the country where the launch facilities are located.

          3. Tim,

            Nope. The hardware doesn’t need to be own by the government for the government to have legal jurisdiction over it. And the OST specifically states “Launching State” which means the country the launch site is located in, unless there is an agreement between that country and the one which has legal jurisdiction over the hardware.

            And legally they would be operating as law enforcement officers rather then troops arresting those breaking the law. If its an international group they will probably be operating under UN control as peace keepers. Read “Moon War” by Ben Bova and learn.

            There is a right way to become independent and a dumb way. The right way is less painful and more likely to succeed.

          4. The UN doesn’t have jurisdiction over space or other heavenly bodies either. The Moon Treaty not ratified by any space power would have tried to give it such with its “Common Heritage of Mankind” language. The UN has no authority to “arrest” anyone for anything off planet. The launch site country doesn’t have jurisdiction on the payload owned by non-citizens (the colonist) once it is launched into space (suppose if it crashed and damage/killed someone that might be different), certainly not if it was on Mars. If it is the property of a non-citizen. The UN(or designate) couldn’t legally act as peace keepers off planet, the colonist haven’t broken any laws anyway and are not bound by any laws once they declare independence renounce citizenship. Exactly what peace would the peace keepers be allegedly keeping? The colonists aren’t pirates they are not attacking seizing the property of any country there only declaring independence.

          5. Tim,

            In case you didn’t notice the Moon Treaty is in force and several members of ESA and well as Kazakhstan where the main Russia launch site is located have ratified it. And yes, the launching state does indeed have jurisdiction over the payload, why do you think you need an ITAR permit to launch outside of the U.S.? So its more relevant then you think and why I suspect no commercial lunar ventures will be launching from Kazakhstan, Australia or French Guinea. Beside the OST gives the UN all the opening they need since you would be in violation of the OST which is why the peace keepers would be going there to ensure you Martians keep the peace and obey the treaties.

            Please go read some textbooks on space law and the UN and stop believing what you hear at New Space conferences and websites. Its folks like you who thumb your nose at existing laws that make it more difficult for real space entrepreneurs to be taken seriously.

  9. It is my opinion that the key to Mars hinges on the following.

    1. Energy

    Without sufficient electrical energy doing anything on Mars is a dead end. Solar won’t cut it, it has to be nuclear and in the megawatts.

    2. Living Space

    You have to have tens of thousands of square feet of living area. Little puissant modules sent from Earth is not going to take you very far except as a temporary expedient.

    3. Resources

    Mars has LOTS of resources, and probably more nickel/iron asteroid fragments than the Moon does. Literally everywhere Spirit, Opportunity, and not Curiosity has been there is metal. This is good as processed and poured metal gets you your living space and radiation shielding and is easier to do than trying to find lava tubes that are more than likely not going to be in the areas where the other resources are, though this assumption is open to question.

    4. Advanced tech

    All of the basics are fairly easy to deal with except for high tech stuff. There has to be some form of supply chain from the Earth if there is going to be any growth. To get a cost effective supply chain you are going to have to pretty much have lunar resources. An Earth/Moon/Mars triad would be a powerful way to truly open the solar system to development with Mars being our second big time outpost for humanity.

    We have the technology to do this, we just need the money…..

    1. Energy is the key and they should have nukes, but it’s not an initial requirement. For industry they only need the energy during the time they are doing a process, not necessarily continuously. Solar is sufficient to produce methane and oxygen which can be stored and replaced for industrial processes.

      But if humanity were not so shortsighted we’d have huge nuclear facilities on mars.

    2. The supply chain is a portion of the colonists travel allotment purchased by current colonists. Assuming we are smart enough to include wealth (a one sq. km. property claim) in the assets all martians take possession of on landing.

      1. Ken,

        Land is wealth only if you have a clear title to it banks recognize. They won’t recognize squatters on Mars as having title to the land. You will need to find some other way to generate wealth to pay for it.

        1. On earth that is true, if I build a house on earth I better have title to the land it sits on or someone else surely does. But the 1967 Outer space treaty does not recognize any claim of soverignty (or land ownership) off planet by an nation or individual. A colony does not need earth to recognize its ownership of the land upon which it rests as long as no one else can legally claim the land, which they can’t.

          1. True but as I said you don’t have to own the land upon which the colony rests as long as no one else can. They could own any minerals for instance that the colony mines. EXXON does not own the oil resting in the seabed in international waters (no one or nation does/can). Does not mean they don’t own the oil once it is mined and in the environs of their tanker or oil drilling platform.

          2. Tim,

            You have to have clear title to it.

            And no one is drilling international waters specifically because of the lack of ownership. Firms like Exxon are drilling in the “Economic Exclusion Zone” of specific nations who owning the resources on and under the sea floor in that zone sold Exxon the right to drill there and develop them. There is clear title in other words showing who owns the oil.

            Sorry, No clean title, no wealth, no loan.

          3. Yes there would be no “clear title” to the land on mars upon which the colony sits. On Earth you have to have clear title because if you don’t someone else probably/almost certaintly at some point will. But unlike earth there is no way for anyone to get clear title, since no country or countries or the UN can claim authority to grant/withhold owership claims, so there is no chance for anyone to take it away from you. In any case if the investors think it is worth the risk(to say nothing of the risk of a mars colony in the 1st place), with the incentive of the ultimate tax free haven, that might not stop them.

        2. Land is wealth only if it actually produces something someone will pay for, What Anthony is advocating is called a ponzi scheme.

          1. Would not be unkind enough to call it a Ponzi scheme…perhaps premature, you would need lots of infrastructure, etc to mine space for minerals or build powersat etc. But what do you think about about my idea?
            ” A private colony on Mars consisting of SpaceX launched Bigelow inflatable modules and other supplies with a few hundred colonists could be provitable right away. The one thing Mars has to trade on right away(as well as a private Lunar colony) is its location iself. A private indenpendent off-world colony on the moon or mars has one immediates source of income. This derives from the fact that no earth gov including the US would have any authority to tax or regulate or out law anything the private colony does. The “Bank of Mars” (think Cayman islands in space). People could wire money to their account in the said bank gathering interest tax free. The bank would have confidentiality as to clients money earned etc, not gov would have the legal or practical means to force the colony to open its books so to speak. The Ultimate tax shelter.”

          2. Tim,

            But no one will recognize it as a private independent colony, least of all the banks which are very sensitive to such matters.

            If you want to set up a tax haven on Mars will will need to get one of the tax havens on Earth to front for you, or it just won’t work. And why would any on Earth front for you? Where is there percentage in it?

          3. Their “percentage” would be the money they are able to shelter from the tax man. There are many concerns on earth who would love a way to hide/shelter money from the gov, and if the bank of Mars paid tax free “interest” so much the better. Not that they necessarily need it, but how do you know that no country on earth would “recognize” the independence of said private Mars colony? What would stop some country, say the one that maintains the complex communication array (the one handling the terabytes of data being sent between earth and mars) from saying it recognizes the colonies independence? Say they get a percentage from handling the transactions? What would stop them? Or other countries selling supplying launching supplies/equipment to the Mars colony? You saying the US would invade sanction any country that did so just because it is pissed at the idea of people sheltering their money off planet? Why even would the UN be on board in the first place? Why would it care about America being angry at people hiding money it can’t tax?

          4. I think the idea of Mars based reality TV as a money spinner has some merit, But I also think people hugely underrate the cost and difficultly of the whole Mars colony thing, even with far cheaper interplanetary flight from SpaceX it’s going to be billions of dollars, which means hundreds of millions of dollars in profit each year for it to be a commercially competitive investment. another problem I see is who puts up the money? Because whoever that is will effectively own not just the colony, but also the colonists.

          5. Yes Normally that is true….but if the “owners” are on earth, then they could be subject to arrest/trial for violating the laws (tax or otherwise) of the countries they are citizens of. Only if the colony is private independent and owned by the non-citizen of any country independent colonists themselves would the tax-shelter idea work. The investors would make money by being able to shelter their money, and the interest the bank of mars would pay tax free.

          6. Tim,

            I don’t think you have to worry about the U.S. all that much. Look how it tolerates the many tax havens in the Caribbean. Its other countries which may take exception to it. Or to the perception you are claiming Mars. As for the UN, it would be UN treaties you are breaking which gives them there in unless the someone in the Security Council vetoes it.

            But again, what exactly is the advantage of tax free interest in the Bank of Mars when you have a choice of tax havens on Earth, including the Grand Caymans and Bahamas, where you may actually bank in person (no electronic trail) while deducting your vacation as a business expense?

            So why spent billions to do it on Mars and rub nations like China and Russia the wrong way by claiming it? Or by declaring yourself outside the system? Being a rebel might be fun in the movies, but lawyers weaving their way through the law make the real money. Just look at the two twins (both rich Harvard lawyers) running for President…

          7. “I don’t think you have to worry about the U.S. all that much. Look how it tolerates the many tax havens in the Caribbean. Its other countries which may take exception to it. Or to the perception you are claiming Mars. As for the UN, it would be UN treaties you are breaking which gives them there in unless the someone in the Security Council vetoes it.”

            I have never said the colonist would be “claiming Mars”, only their independence from Earth. Your the one fixated on the idea that you have to claim the land(or planet) the colony sits on. Why would China and Russia or the UN care if a colony made up of people from many different colonies said they were independent of Earth? Who’s to say that China/Russia/US/India or anyone else wouldn’t at some point setup their own bases/colonies on Moon/Mars? My understanding is that the screws are slowly being tightened on tax havens that Americans(don’t know about other countries) use to hide their money from the tax man, that the Obama administration has been aggressive in that respect.

          8. Tim,

            Actually you are the one fixated on the fact that just because they are not on Earth they may just throw decades of Treaty Law and common law aside and claim they are not covered by them. And such claim of independence will be treated about as serious as the claims of the “Conch Republic” being independent.


            Unless of course the Martians actually take themselves seriously in which case they will get a quick lesson in International Law.

            As for cracking down on tax havens, the government has been doing that for decades and the lawyers always find loopholes to restructure them. But given that the cycle of crackdown is on the up swing makes it even less likely you would get the launch licenses and permits needed for your plan to turn Mars into one 🙂

  10. We shouldn’t overplay this government versus private thing. From COTS, we can see that government money can help risk-taking companies develop technology of benefit both to he government as well as to markets. I believe that SpaceX will eventually fly humans on their Dragon after the bugs have been worked out doing a number of cargo runs (again, on the government dime). The solution is for government to put up the funding and for the commercial companies to get paid set amounts after achieving milestones. It’s working fine. We should continue what is working.

    So, let’s just apply this approach the next logical step. A Lunar COTS program Kuls incentivize companies to develop a cis-lunar transportation system based on the telerobotic harvesting of lunar ice. This would have value to both the government as well as to private companies – so its a good fit for a COTS approach.

    Eventually those lunar landers will likewise have enough flight experience and will have been man-rated so that we could deliver people on them. Should the first ones be NASA astronauts or just NASA paying for private astronauts (insured privately) to perform a contracted service for NASA. Or…might the first return lunar astronaut be strictly funded privately? SpaceX would be able to afford that.

    I would like to point out that there is discussion for an additional milestone is for SpaceX to send up a private astronaut. So there could be prescedent for this.

    As for Mars, if a cis-lunar infrastructure exists, and if private astronauts are traveling to the Moon, then a relatively low-cost, NASA-funded Mars COTS, even to send government-funded contractors, would be a feasible possibility.

    Again, let’s not be too strong in setting the government against private. There is a way where they can accomplish more together (in the near term) than if they were to work separately.

  11. You are right about COTS and SpaceX sending rovers to mars on NASA’s (the tax payers) dime. But NASA-funded Mars COTS is the danger zone where you are inviting govt. to take over and make demands. Liberty demands private ownership and choices that govt. always takes away.

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