Norm Augustine

A conversation with him. The transcription has a few problems, but it’s interesting. His thoughts on space tourism:

Much like the airlines once you get more people you got to fly the cheaper the flight, the tickets cost or the more tickets you could sell the cheaper it is to operate an airline and you get this happy, just the opposite of the death spiral that some people talk about. So I think that there are a lot of people today, and I don’t mean billionaires, who would pay a fair amount of money to uh… I don’t mean just go up on a rock and come back to L.A. I mean go into orbit for a day or two and look through telescopes and have lectures on space, experience weightlessness and get to get sick and all these great things. But I do think that that will be the change agent. I don’t see anything that’s going to reduce the cost of space transportation by a factor of 10 other than a much higher volume…

And if we can get people involved, and I think we can, in tourism it will make a lot of difference. I’ve had the good fortune to, I’m kind of an amateur explorer or whatever and I’ve been to the South Pole three times and the North Pole once I’ve rafted the Grand Canyon and I you know you go through this long list of stuff. And people say well you know not many people want to go into space. Who would want to do that? Well I think back when I rafted the Grand Canyon I think there were 14000 people a year going through the Grand Canyon on a raft at that time. If you’d ask Wesley Powell the first person to do if, what 75 years later 14000 people will be into the canyon he would say you’re crazy if you’d asked the Wright brothers that the population of Detroit gets on an airplane every day and complains because they’ve already seen the movie and the food’s bad. The Wright brothers would have thought you were bonkers or something. You know there are many other examples one can go through of that kind of thing and people do want to experience these things and I think that will be the biggest change agent of all.

I’ve been preaching this for three decades.

46 thoughts on “Norm Augustine”

  1. He’s quite right. But this will require a private space station and some kind of cheap transportation to LEO, rather than just some suborbital flight. I think there will be room for those too but the market should be more limited.

    1. With FH on the horizon, how many people could it launch? Can they stack Dragons in there?

      FH can launch the mass equivalent of 7 Dragon 2’s. If they could do between 5 and 7 Dragon Crews, that’s 35 to 46 people at about $2 to $2.5 million a seat using current launch prices. Doubling the price, that’s still around $4-5 million a seat.

      Anything in the millions will prevent regular people from going but it does open up the market to a lot of businesses, governments, and colleges.

      1. It seems too dangerous to me to launch people in Falcon 9 Heavy. Too high a chance of failure. But it would be perfect to launch space station modules.

      2. If Falcon Heavy has a place in this equation it will be more likely in helping launch LEO stations as destinations for those Dragons.

        If you want a greater volume of people in each launch, it is going to have to be something more like ITS, if and when it happens.

  2. Pundits come up with all kinds of reasons why people will never emigrate to Mars, usually boiling down to, “No one will want to live in a tin can in a frozen radioactive desert!” Which neatless bypasses the point that living in a shopping-mall like colony on Mars won’t be worse than living in a Manhattan apartment, and probably better than living in LA.

    1. Which neatless bypasses the point that living in a shopping-mall like colony on Mars won’t be worse than living in a Manhattan apartment, and probably better than living in LA.

      Just many orders of magnitude more expensive. Colonizing Mars is not just a transportation problem.

          1. It would be interesting to calculate how much it currently costs to build a large building in NYC then compare it to building something on Mars.

            While cost is an issue, the question is whether or not they can get a return on their investment.

            What I was getting at is that developers are willing to spend immense sums of money. In the case of Mars, how expensive would building apartments be? Not the cost of building an entire settlement, just part of a settlement. Break it down into bite sized pieces, with different groups responsible for their own piece.

      1. That kind of reply is pretty much what I’m talking about. It’s clever and facile and sounds like it means something significant, but does not. Is there anyone here who thinks that when the Dutch bought Manhattan from its prior inhabitants, New York City was already built and just waiting for ten million people to move right in? No? I didn’t think so. It took 300 years for NYC to become what it is today. So, yes, it is more than just a problem of transportation, but it’s dismissive to raise that as a cardinal objection. Everyone except New York Times reporters knows what it will take.

        A good rough approximation of what it will take is to compare the colonization of Australia by Britain in 1800 with the colonization of Mars “any day now.” You can get rough numbers by comparing the nation budget of the UK in 1800 (around 8 million then-pounds) with the US budget now. Then compare a transport comparable to a spaceship (I used the contruction costs of a Napoleonic era frigate with an equivalent modern warship). What you eventually discover is, the cost of transporting a prisoner to Oz back then (under truly horrific conditions) is similar in real terms with the cost of shipping someone to Mars as “Spam in a can.” If ITS one day works out, it’ll be more like going from California to Australia on a China clipper, but that’s neither here nor there. Because it’s hard but not impossible to work this out rationally.

        Another interesting exercise is to go to Jamestown, go aboard the Susan Constant and stand in the empty cargo hold. Try to imagine a hundred people in there. Crowded, right? Then remember they were in there with the ships cannon and a full load of cargo. After four months at sea, I bet the smell alone was enough to kill you. And yet.

        1. Is there anyone here who thinks that when the Dutch bought Manhattan from its prior inhabitants, New York City was already built and just waiting for ten million people to move right in?

          It’s these analogies to North America and Australia that are facile. You can live in North America and Australia under very primitive conditions as the Indians and aborigines demonstrated. To live on Mars you need access to very advanced technology and a means to pay for it from day one and so far there is only one way to do that. That way is unfortunately convincing thousands of people on Earth to subsidize each and every person on Mars.

          That’s a tough sell and lame analogies with the past just won’t cut it. If there is life on Mars, it is at the microbial level and that tells you everything you need to know about the difficulties of living there.

          There’s a reason why Musk’s long anticipated presentation last year stopped when his ITS landed on Mars. That was the easy part.

          1. “To live on Mars you need access to very advanced technology and a means to pay for it from day one and so far there is only one way to do that. That way is unfortunately convincing thousands of people on Earth to subsidize each and every person on Mars.”

            The answer is to give them (people back on earth) something to invest in. “The Bank of Mars”, an interest paying privately owned entity setup up by the colonists themselves. The Colonists need to make maximum advantage of the one product/service they can instantly provide, the economic opportunities their own declared sovereign independence provides. Be it an interest paying/tax free tax shelter from maybe “questionable” sources back on earth, no extradition treaties etc. all the way to “ex-patriots” who immigrate to mars ahead of the indictment (or bail jump); all avenues need to be taken advantage of.

          2. To live on Mars you need access to very advanced technology

            Great soundbite J.D. Are you willing to put it to the test? Let’s stipulate the difficulty of getting to mars and just focus on what it takes to live there. I assert that everything required was invented before 1900. Prove me wrong. Don’t give me a laundry list. Pick one thing that’s a showstopper and I will show it’s pre-1900 solution. Then we can continue from there.

            That’s the problem with complexity. If you don’t break it down it’s ‘obvious’ that a complex problem has no solution. Just like it’s pretty obvious you can’t write a computer program with just ones and zeros… except now we have proof you can. It’s the same thing and those that argue against will look just as foolish in the future.

          3. Jim,

            You are of course completely correct. It’s instructive to examine why the historical analogy is so screwed up.

            Way back then, economic activity was much more localized. Individual settlements could and did produce much more of what they needed to survive.

            This changed with the industrial revolution. As transportation costs dropped, it became economical to centralize production, exploiting economies of scale, and allowing a much larger range of products to be economically produced. Today, very little of what we consume is produced locally. National, and transnational, economies are far more integrated.

            The techology needed for surviving on Mars is the product of not a village or small city, but an entire integrated global economy. The materials are made in massive plants scattered across the world. The components are from a web of suppliers.

            What would be needed for settlement on Mars is not just technology for getting there, or suviving there, but a reinvention of the entire global economy to work in miniature, or at least well enough to produce the technology needed for the martian settlement to be able to sustain itself. Just making all the materials used in the settlement’s equipment would be a very tall order.

          4. The Colonists need to make maximum advantage of the one product/service they can instantly provide, the economic opportunities their own declared sovereign independence provides.

            But no one can make a compelling case that Mars has economic opportunities. Musk doesn’t seem to know of any.

            Your own personal convictions are just personal. They are not compelling to anyone (the vast majority) who don’t happen to share them.

          5. I assert that everything required was invented before 1900. Prove me wrong. Don’t give me a laundry list. Pick one thing that’s a showstopper and I will show it’s pre-1900 solution. Then we can continue from there.

            Ken, the issue is not whether something is required or not but whether it can be provided at a cost colonists are able and willing to pay. Everything can be made available at some cost but the costs are orders of magnitude higher on Mars than on Earth.

          6. Just making all the materials used in the settlement’s equipment would be a very tall order.

            Here is the foundation of a Mars’ economy.

            Mars might have all of the raw ingredients it needs to fulfill those needs but the one thing that it doesn’t have is humans. With no humans, there is no market and there is nothing to create things that other humans value. So it is correct to say there is no pot of gold but only because the pot of gold isn’t some thing just waiting to be plucked from the ground and shipped to Earth. The pot of gold is humans.

            And Mars isn’t compelling to a lot of people. Just like every person likes a different phone or sports team, we all have our different interests. This makes it hard to compete in the federal budget. But the main drivers behind any successful settlement wont be the government but the people that want to go.

            This is why Musk’s stops. His contribution is transportation. But he says the rest of the settlement is an effort involving government, individuals, businesses, and other groups. Because space isn’t important, much of the work will be done by the individuals and groups that it is important to.

          7. “And Mars isn’t compelling to a lot of people.”

            I think it’s compelling to a certain small, adventurous cohort of people. It is hard to quantify because right now colonizing Mars is a theoretical exercise. But I think can posit that such people exist, and their names are not limited to “Elon Musk.”

            But it’s likely to be a very limited pool of people, no matter how much the cost of moving there ends up being. It’s uninhabitable by humans without extensive life support – you would be stuck underground or under domes, with surface EVA’s very limited to limit radiation exposure or other risks. The low gravity means being unable to ever visit Earth (or not without major physiological effects). As JD says, comparisons to Virginia and Australia limp eventually. If Mars *were* successfully terraformed that might change the equation to some degree…but obviously that’s a development that’s millennia away.

            I think a self-sustaining Mars colony of the sort Musk has in mind is certainly feasible, over time. The thing is, it is hard to point anything unique about it in terms of resources or other advantages that would make building a self-sustaining colony there worth it. The draw would have to be the intangible of high adventure – or, perhaps, a negative pull of oppression or disaster on Earth that makes it look more attractive in relative terms. Would the harsh reality of Martian life dissipate that draw?

          8. “The low gravity means being unable to ever visit Earth (or not without major physiological effects).”

            Well if you walking and can run on Earth, one going to get about 2 gees. From this, an earthling could probably go to world with 2 gees, though would have to be bit careful in terms or “sport activity”, but within year on 2 gee world, might be able to be less cautious and be fairly safe.

            Now if you living on Mars and can’t experience 2 gees of force, you could be a pretty pathetic Martian. Or a couch potato.

            One of advantages of Mars, is people can travel fast, or speed limits on Mars might be over 200 mph- with pedaled bicycles. Planes are going to go about 1000 mph, and if longish sub-orbital, faster. Train also about 1000 mph or faster if long distance train. Or a healthy Martian might be considered someone who can handle the gee forces that jet fighter pilots on Earth are supposed to be able to handle to qualify.
            Or some people on Earth spend a lot time jogging [I don’t] but with Martian they could be likewise obsessed with exercise which allows them to operate at high gees.
            So returning to Earth, might require adjustment just as Earthling going to 2 gee world would require- mainly related to accidents because not accustom to environment- or simply walking up or down stairs could quite different on Mars as it is on Earth. Or not so much about muscles but trained muscle response in terms of what you are use to. But you have same thing going from Earth to Mars- a Earthling might attempt to do what Martians are easily doing and have problems.

          9. making all the materials used in the settlement’s equipment would be a very tall order.

            Basic economics: “All materials are limited and have alternate uses.” But some material are so useful and flexible, like iron, that the limit is nor material but imagination.

            So what do you do when you have no unobtainium? You use something else. This is always true everywhere.

          10. Ken: yes, it could be possible to redesign things on Mars to use a smaller range of materials. and also of basic components.

            But that means just about everything needed on Mars will have to be specially designed. Terrestrial designs can and will take advantage of the full range of materials and components that are available here.

            So, living on Mars will have huge engineering costs, over and above the cost of just getting there and setting up habitats. Most of the goods there will be different from the goods on Earth. The factories there will have to be designed from scratch for the same reason.

            In reality, I don’t expect this to happen soon. I expect habitation in space to be a very long, drawn out process, if it happens at all. It would happen by gradually and incrementally converting the equivalent of offshore oil platforms and antarctic scientific bases into more self-sustaining enclaves. There will have to be good reasons for these things to be out there even when they start as just appendages of the terrestrial economy.

            Given this, it will be important to reduce transportation costs so the flow of support products from Earth will not be so expensive. And this (and the potential for production of goods/services for sale to Earth) argues for activities in cis-lunar space, not on Mars.

        2. William, not only are you right but you only scratched the surface. We should talk about the rest of the story. Have you got a website?

    2. I doubt there’s much comparison between living in a typical apartment in Manhattan and a martian colony. I don’t live in Manhattan but have lived in European and Asian cities where apartments tend to be much smaller than a typical American home. One can still go outside and spend the day in a park without a spacesuit.

      1. One needs about 2.5 psi or more in order to not need a spacesuit/pressure suit.
        Or:
        “Disregarding hypoxia, the lowest atmospheric pressure the human body can withstand is around 6 percent sea level pressure, or 61.8 millibars, below that pressure the water and blood in your body starts to boil. Harry George Armstrong, a physician, and an airman, was the first to recognise this limit, which on Earth occurs at an altitude of roughly 63,000 feet, beyond which humans absolutely cannot survive in an unpressurised environment. The limit was named in his honour and so is called the Armstrong Limit. The lowest atmospheric pressure humans can breathe in, with a pure oxygen supply on hand, is roughly around 12.2 percent sea level air pressure or 121.7 millibars, the pressure found at 49,000 feet. Or, as a slightly madder alternative example, in a terraforming Mars situation, which might arise one day; a fit person could in theory walk around outside without a spacesuit on, but breathing from an oxygen tank, only when the atmospheric pressure got above about 120 millibars, and hope to survive for long.”
        61.8 millibars = 0.8963332 psi
        120 millibars = 1.74045 psi
        So make 2.5 psi – and depend less on hope.
        So might have living quarters at 8 psi- on Earth thousands of people live in such pressure [have been doing for centuries]. Oh what heck search it:
        “Despite the lack of oxygen and health risks, high-altitude locations are home to at least 140 million people around the world. From Bolivia’s El Alto to Lhasa in Tibet, what’s urban life like at such dizzying elevations?”
        [I going to say millions:) but thousands, at least] and:
        “Another interesting challenge I found out is that water boils at 86C in La Paz, which means that starch doesn’t really break down, and that rice, potatoes or wheat are generally overcooked on the outside and crunchy on the inside: not nice. So there is a lot of pressure cooking and sous vide going on.”
        https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/feb/08/where-world-highest-cities-altitude
        So water boiling at 86 C is what pressure-
        90 C is about 10 psi so around 8-9 psi.
        Anyways one could go thru a door [rather than air lock at about 2 psi difference. So rather than that extreme, one could doors having about 1 psi difference. So design door to withstand greater than 5 psi, though use it for 1 psi difference. Or have door which can be opened if 2 psi difference but not if higher than 2 psi difference [it locks- which could be unlocked but alarms are ringing with lights flashing]. So living quarter “might have” difference of 8 to 12 psi. Or someone might want to sleep at 12 psi- or 15 psi. Anyways outside “an apartment” or “office” hallways going to airlock or garage could be 8 psi and don’t need any supplemental oxygen until you get “outside”. Outside could greenhouse at 2.5 psi [need supplemental oxygen] and greenhouse might be 50% CO2. Plants need oxygen when not making oxygen [night time- when making CO2 rather making O2]. Or if going to greenhouse at night time, one might not need much supplemental oxygen.

        I was going to discuss living underwater on Mars, but already long post.

  3. I mean go into orbit for a day or two and look through telescopes and have lectures on space, experience weightlessness and get to get sick and all these great things.

    There needs to be activities for people who are not nerds. Some people need to get sick from drinking too much too.

    1. You often see depictions of a honeymooning couple, having zero-gee sex in a cupola setting. My second wife made me take her to the Poconos, to one of those places that have en suite swimming pools. The novety wore of quickly, and I bet zero-gee sex is just as tiring as swimming pool sex. I wound up sandwiching her between me and the pool ladder, whilst holding on with arms and legs. And I still kept floating off…

    2. “There needs to be activities for people who are not nerds. Some people need to get sick from drinking too much too.”

      Think the adventure vacation market for the well-heeled; like a century ago people used to go on African safari; thinking something like Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” sort of thing.

      http://www.standardsinstitutes.org/sites/default/files/material/winter16_ela_9-12_day_2_session_1-macomber.pdf

      What a rich egotistical guy will do to show off to his chums; playing “astronaut” in orbit (or the moon) instance. Space walks, rocket belt excursions from your 30 Day adventure vacation staying out your Bigelow inflated habitat. That will help get the from earth to orbit infrastructure established, sufficient traffic to lower the cost. Once your in orbit your “half way to anywhere” as Heinlein said. Ten’s of thousands of people a year to orbit as opposed to fewer than a thousand people who have gone into space currently.

      1. Those are much better suggestions than sitting in a lecture you can watch on the internet 🙂

        There are a lot of things that could be done and many of them haven’t been imagined yet because it will take the spark of inspiration from people who have been in space. I say that taking into consideration that many people have spent countless hours imaging things to do.

        Some people will say space tourism or colonizing Mars is unattractive but they just lack the imagination to see what isn’t in front of them. They can’t get past the risk of an uncertain future or trust that other humans will do what humans have always done, create and innovate. Its hard to give up control and let people pursue their desires. Free market capitalism works on Earth, it will work in space or on Mars.

  4. A LEO space “hotel” would be a great tourist destination. The economics of such don’t seem as daunting today as it did in the days before reusable rockets.

    To keep space in the mind’s eye of the public at large, I’ve been big on the idea of tele-operated robotic rovers on the moon, accessible to high school aged students as part of an overall NASA lunar exploration program. I wonder how much of the surface could be explored by clusters of these operating on the moon, if they could be made plentifully and built, delivered and operated cheaply…

    1. It’s definitely *not* your grandfather’s space program when *you* are operating the joystick and wearing the Oculus Prime googles…

  5. Could Mars be attractive to large number of people?
    Can Martians pay low taxes?

    Why do Earthlings pay taxes?
    Public education.
    Welfare for elderly [Social security and medical care]
    Military
    Roads
    Police and emergency services.
    Prisons or mentally ill
    Welfare for disabled or for other reasons unable to work
    and include unemployment.
    What else? What are biggest Federal dept:
    “As of June 2007, those departments were:

    Department of Defense: 611,658
    Department of Veterans Affairs: 205,542
    Department of Homeland Security: 128,791
    Department of the Justice: 103,479
    Department of the Treasury: 101,146”
    So other Treasury I included those.
    And with Treasury got to include Federal Reserve which
    quasi government and some might imagine it has “no cost”-
    it’s banks given a monopoly and is government central bank.
    Let’s ignore that- lot’s potential disagreement possible.
    But we have CIA and State Dept, Energy dept, and big one of
    Agriculture with all many subsidies- sugar, ethanol, farm credits.

    So maybe I am missing something significant- postal office, PBS, etc
    don’t amount to much except for it’s monopoly aspect [like Fed only smaller].
    So does Martian need roads- or road built by a government.
    Not really. Public education? Why?
    Welfare for elderly, again, Why?
    Military. Nope.
    Police and emergency services. That seems like something needed and maybe government should handle that. Fires are going to be different with Mars. Open airlock, and fire is out.
    Oh yeah what about sanitation, sewage and water, and flood control [e.g what Houston government failed at].
    Don’t need flood control- and sewage might more like recycling soda containers- but better. Continuing down list:
    Prisons and mental health [loony bins]. Well some mentioned
    Mars could importer of Earth’s criminals [and insane]. Or that could
    be a net profit rather needing tax money.
    How about an agency for star exploration?
    Maybe later.
    Anyhow, it seems taxes could be low. or at least lower.

    1. If Mars had military, what would it do.
      Can’t have navy. Air force, could be handled from orbit.
      Marines – no navy.
      Army- use robots. So, need a robot army?
      How many. Not going to invade Earth, and Earth unlikely to invade Mars.
      Could we simply nuke from orbit- if needed?
      Nuclear weapons. Nukes aren’t very exciting on Mars.
      How about military for or related to potential impactor or impactor
      misuse. That’s seem more likely.
      But still doesn’t seem like much costs involved. Or it’s like a different
      kind of police force. Police force with some small nukes [just in case] and robots [if you think they are needed]

      Advantage of Mars is it lacks rain and severe weather. And problem is dust storms. Do need a government to do something to stop dust storms- I mean, so just don’t have them anymore?
      How about governmental agency for mineral exploration of Mars [including finding more water] and so it would involve deep exploration- rather just the Mars surface [within a mile of the surface].
      Other advantages is the thin atmosphere which travel quickly thru, plus it’s low gravity which other getting off planet is related to allowing fast travel thru atmosphere [less lift needed or less gravity loss].
      Well Mars probably has a lot meteorites- more than Moon and far more than Earth.
      A space elevator should work- if wanted one. Satellites are cheaper to put into orbit, and so thing like SPS and all other things satellites used for on Earth. Oh and mechanical tethers should easier [taking suborbital trajectory, adding orbital or escape trajectories].
      And suborbital travel is great for Mars- though it is slower travel if want to go half way around the world [compared to Earth].
      But Mars does a lot better when you got the Earth’s moon doing stuff.

    2. Really hard to say what taxes would be like. Politicians always want your money.

      I suspect you would still see taxes helping to fund education, utilities, roads/transportation, social services, building codes/permits, waste management and all the usual stuff. Mars might not need a military but it will still need law enforcement. Emergency management services will probably be a big ticket item for the government.

  6. But it’s likely to be a very limited pool of people, no matter how much the cost of moving there ends up being.

    I agree but a limited pool of people out of a large group can still be enough to have colonies. One percent of the population in the USA or on Earth would be enough. Over time, Mars could be more attractive if it has appealing places to live. How to construct such places is a major challenge considering how ugly and cramped many buildings are today.

    In the near term you have the early adopters but its really uncertain how to get past that stage. Producing things of value is a tricky one because there isn’t anyone there right now to produce anything. Very few goods will be returned to Earth on a rocket ship but anything digital would work just like on Earth.

    Personally, I think prior to any serious effort to colonize Mars, we will have stations in orbit around Mars for telerobotics within the cognitive horizon. It could be that robots remove much of the need for humans on Mars or they could greatly help the colonization process.

    With the capability to put a station at Mars, we could likely send them to the asteroid belt, Jupiter, and Saturn, all places where there are immense resources that could be used in space and are easier to ship back to cislunar space. Here again, robots could play a huge role but for humans, it could mean long tours in space before returning to what will always be our Garden of Eden.

  7. Ken, the issue is not whether something is required or not but whether it can be provided at a cost colonists are able and willing to pay. Everything can be made available at some cost but the costs are orders of magnitude higher on Mars than on Earth.

    J.D., what is the cost of anything? Predominantly it is human capital which is the education and experience of people… Materials and labor.

    Transportation costs are only significant if we presume things need to come from earth. Which mostly they will not.

    Many materials will be so abundant they will cost almost nothing. The dominating cost factor will be human skill and time. Getting humans to mars has high cost but once there, their time trades with others at a near equal rate, nullifying that cost.

    Assuming high cost for things martian colonist can make for themselves from abundant local resources is just not reasonable. Basic economics (“price gouging”) ensures the less common things will also be as abundant as required with people motivated to focus on learning the related skills.

    The guarantee is that the raw materials are available.

    Arguing that some things will be rare is both true and invalid. Some things are always rare and has very little limiting effect on life. I don’t have a jetpack but somehow life goes on.

    1. J.D., what is the cost of anything? Predominantly it is human capital which is the education and experience of people… Materials and labor.

      This is exactly right, Ken. It just takes much, much more labor on Mars than it does on earth.

      If you want an example, take a light bulb. The cost of a light bulb in labor to the consumer on earth is measured in minutes. The cost of a light bulb to the consumer on Mars is orders of magnitude higher if imported from earth. It is incalculable if made from “abundant local resources”. If you don’t believe this, then just try making a light bulb from scratch here on earth, just like you would have to on Mars. It’s hardly even relevant that the basic chemical elements are available somewhere on Mars. That’s just a necessary condition; it’s not a sufficient one.

      The colonist on Mars is being crushed from both sides. His expenses have increased enormously while at the same time his earning power has greatly diminished, both due to the extreme conditions in which he must live.

      You’re attempting to romanticize a place that makes a slave labor camp look like an exclusive yacht club.

      1. In reality, I don’t expect this to happen soon. I expect habitation in space to be a very long, drawn out process, if it happens at all.

        And…

        The colonist on Mars is being crushed from both sides. His expenses have increased enormously while at the same time his earning power has greatly diminished, both due to the extreme conditions in which he must live.

        I think you two are focusing on different things, or phases of maturity. Of course there wont be a complete supply chain for anything overnight. With the first people on Mars, there wont be a self sustaining economy. The first building wont be an entire city.

        Any single government, individual, or company isn’t going to be able to magically plop down a fully functioning society in a single launch season. This is why Musk wants the converted effort of many different groups and individuals each focusing on their own bit.

        Looking at all of the challenges and thinking you must have an instant solution to all of them is a really pessimistic outlook. A single person isn’t going to have all the answers or do all of the work. You have to have a little trust in your fellow humans to solve the underwear gnome dilemma.

        Ken might be a little overly optimistic but he also comes across to me as focusing on a stage of development slightly farther beyond the stage you are focusing on, where nothing exists.

        You are right that any colonization would take a long time. The early stages of this process would help solve a lot of the challenges you bring up. You can’t game out every single challenge before hand either. There is an element of learning, and discovering, through doing.

        There is no reason life on Mars has to be like a prison camp rather than a summer camp. Life on Mars certainly wont be as simple as living on Earth but that doesn’t mean it is fated to be a horrible experience either.

        1. Ken might be a little overly optimistic…

          You think?

          ….but he also comes across to me as focusing on a stage of development slightly farther beyond the stage you are focusing on, where nothing exists.

          No. Ken is indulging in romantic fantasies.

          There is no reason life on Mars has to be like a prison camp rather than a summer camp.

          Yes, there is a reason. The latter will be much, much more expensive than the latter and hence much less likely.

          From the vantage point of 2017, the best we can hope for is an Antarctic-like research facility with a comparable staff. If we want colonists that actually make their homes on Mars it will take breakthroughs that can’t even be foreseen at present.

          1. Yes, there is a reason. The latter will be much, much more expensive

            We don’t know what the costs will be or if they will all be losses or if there will be profits funding them. Musk, an optimistic person like Ken, is using profit producing business to fund his larger goal.

            I don’t think Ken is ignoring early challenges but focusing on a stage of development slightly farther down the road from landing the first human on Mars. Bringing a product to market ten or twenty years from now isn’t a process that focuses on today’s technology but of timing the release to what technology will be capable of ten or twenty years later.

            Cost is certainly an issue but the bigger issue is what activities cover those costs. I think this plays into your comment about things taking a long time.

            From the vantage point of 2017, the best we can hope for is an Antarctic-like research facility with a comparable staff.

            This is a good first step. Prior to that, we probably need a station doing telerobotics to prospect sites. If a station in orbit around Mars or on its surface can also support the activities of people other than the government, they could both be profit generating endeavors for some of the groups involved.

            it will take breakthroughs that can’t even be foreseen at present.

            I agree. The challenges we know exist have to be solved and there are challenges we don’t even know exist yet. But many of them can’t be solved before hand and require learning through doing. Your position isn’t one that supports doing nothing but one that supports doing something.

            I think it will take longer because going straight to Mars isn’t the best route. I like the notion of base walking our way there and expanding economic spheres of activity as we go. But this can also support many of the early prospecting and even Antarctic type of bases long before we get to the point of setting up a colony.

          2. “From the vantage point of 2017, the best we can hope for is an Antarctic-like research facility with a comparable staff. If we want colonists that actually make their homes on Mars it will take breakthroughs that can’t even be foreseen at present.”

            The breakthrough needed for Mars is finding abundant and cheap to extract water.
            The breakthrough needed for the Moon is finding lunar water which not more than 100 times the cost of minable water on Mars.
            Or Lunar water at $500 per kg and Mars water at $5 per kg.
            Or 1/2 million per ton and $5000 per ton.
            But on the Moon one needs a lot less water “found”- so 10,000 tons of Lunar water at 1/2 million per ton being 5 billion dollars of water.
            And say 1 million tonnes of Mars water being 5 billion dollars worth of Mars water.
            Lunar water at $500 per kg lowers the cost of going to the Moon. Mars at $5 water lower the cost of living on Mars.

            Let’s talk fantasy, say someone had money to burn- say US govt. Say US committed to providing water shipped from Earth to the Moon or Mars [spend vasts amounts of money to do it] and sold it to whomever wanted on lunar and Mars surface at $500 on lunar surface and $5 per kg on Mars surface.
            Within 10 years of time, how much water could US govt sell and where would be sold [Moon or Mars]?

            If you wanted a Mars settlement it seems what you should do is give 5 billion dollar to US govt for a million tonnes of water delivered to Mars. Or it’s 5 billion in escrow and once put the a quantity of water on mars surface the money is transferred to US treasury which pays for that quantity delivered.
            And rather than sending people to Mars, the problem would how fast could US government send the water rather how fast one send to people to Mars. And you might want to buy more water than 1 million tonnes at 5 billions.

            With the Moon, a person wanting to make rocket fuel might want to buy less than 10,000 tons of water at $500 per kg.
            Instead they might buy say 2000 tons for 1 billion dollars.

            With the Moon one might worry that others will buy the US provided water. With Mars, it’s not same concern.
            But I don’t think it’s much of problem if 5 companies each bought 2000 tons of water on the Moon, of even if 10 companies each bought 1000 tons. Basically because more rocket fuel on the Moon, means it’s cheaper to go to the Moon. And the other part is it would expensive to split 100 tonnes of water per year. Or in near term there is a limit to how water you need, and price of water on the Moon could drop lower than $500 kg by someone mining lunar water.

            With Mars a lot of water low price water “makes a settlement” and a settler would be crazy not to buy a lot of water at such a low price- or one settler for “personal use” could want to buy 10,000 tons of water before going to Mars. Or how much should buy at $5000 per ton in terms of
            one time offer, 1000 tons at 5 million dollars or 10,000 tons at 50 million. It seems a minimum would 5 million dollars worth water. But one take a risk and only buy as 1/2 million dollars and could survive on Mars for several years with only 100 tonnes. And if 20 people want lowest of only 100 tons it’s 2000 tons totaling 10 million dollar of water.

            So just to deliver 2000 tons of water to Mars, how does it cost the US government?

            I would say 1 crew is equal to 10 tons of water and the water would/should not need to be returned to Earth
            10 tons of water is about 1 crew if it’s one way ticket to mars.
            If you want to return the crew from Mars then it’s equal to about 100 tons of water. Or 2000 tons of water is equal or less than Mars exploration program in terms the cost to send a send a total of 20 crew to Mars- and 20 crew number includes whatever number of crew is merely doing flyby of Mars. Or whatever you think is cheapest one could do a Mars exploration program it should cost more than sending 2000 tons of water to Mars surface. Say less than 100 billion?
            Or 2000 tons or 2 million kg at $1000 per kg is 2 billion dollar, so 2 to 100 billion dollar.
            But I don’t think 2000 tons of water is enough for a mars settlement- rather it’s more like 500 times more than this.
            But let’s instead say 100 times more and 1 to 50 billion:
            100 to 5000 billion dollars.
            Or roughly it’s like US govt giving a gift to some Mars setters of 100 to 5000 billion dollars.
            Or likewise if there was million tonnes of water minable at $5 per kg- it’s enormous gift to mars settlements.
            With Moon someone mines or someone delivers 10,000 tons of water and sells for 5 billion dollar. This could more than anyone can use within 10 years. One might want to buy how much you need per year, which could be 50, 100, 200, 400, and 800 tons per year. And at some point one going to need cheap lunar water to use the water. Or cheaper water to expand the market for rocket fuel, and “you should be able to get water cheaper- because you lowered to cost of mining the water or simply getting anything to the Moon. Or if bought 2000 tonnes by time you used it, the next 2000 tons should cost less than first 2000 tons.
            Or by the time you used 200 to 400 tonnes of water, you probably exporting to lunar orbit the LOX. by time you used 1000 tons of lunar water, probably exporting LOX to high earth orbit [and could be sent to Mars orbit]. And by time you used 10,000 tons of water, one might to exporting rocket fuel to LEO. Also by time you mined first 100 tons of water you could exporting stuff to Earth surface.
            Things you could export to Earth surface is any lunar dirt [worth more than gold, currently and with less than a total 1000 tonnes of lunar dirt sent to earth, it could be around the price of silver- it will depend on price of lunar rocket fuel or some other way to get stuff off the Moon]. One also ship a limited amount of He-3 to earth surface. And one could find and mine PMG metals on the Moon and ship them to earth surface- if lunar dirt somewhere close to silver, than start sending something more valuable.

      2. The cost of a light bulb to the consumer on Mars is orders of magnitude higher if imported from earth. It is incalculable if made from “abundant local resources”

        We don’t really know what any costs would be since there is no way to deliver items to Mars yet. Would a light bulb be delivered or just the materials to make them? Would LEDs be enough or would other types of light bulb be required? LED’s would be an efficient thing to ship considering their weight and volume. The components of a light bulb could also be efficient to ship.

        Other components might be very easy to manufacture on Mars. It could be that the ease of certain materials dictates a lot of the early Martian economy. The reason that this is incalculable isn’t because it is a high number but because the activities are not happening yet.

        Making glass is probably pretty easy. But would you count the sunk costs of the glazier moving to Mars as part of the unit cost of any given item? Just as any other business, some of these costs will factor into pricing and others wont. But another part of pricing is what people are willing and able to spend.

        You will have two competing economies. One dictated by manufacturing and shipping from Earth and one dictated by manufacturing and shipping from Mars. A Martian economy doesn’t necessarily have to be more expensive and it wont always be in the same state.

        It is a situation really fun to day dream about. But what I want to know is, what replaces toilet paper?

        1. If a light bulb factory weighs more than the light bulbs it produces, it will be cheaper to just send light bulbs to Mars rather than send a factory there. Labor and various inputs will be far cheaper on Earth.

          This is a general property of ET settlement schemes. The in situ processing equipment can’t be too heavy or it doesn’t make sense.

          Someone proposed here that the moon would be a good place to mine uranium for use in space reactors. I asked them to compare the mass of a uranium mine, and a uranium enrichment plant, to the mass of 235U they’d produce for the reactors.

          At best I could see a settlement producing some very simple but heavy items, like propellant and maybe some simple structural elements.

    1. –2 psi difference over a standard-sized door is over two tons of force holding it closed.–

      It would be similar to opening a door with 4 feet of water behind it and 1 psi would be like 2 feet of water.

      A well sealed door would require a lot force to open it, but once you opened it a little bit, then it requires much less force. Or leaky door would require less force. So you could design a door to be well sealed and then have them leak a lot whenever you want to open them. And with such door, one could design it to open even when there was 5 psi behind it.

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