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Peter Diamandis Cooking
How can a man top the creation of X Prize, X Prize Cup, X Racer and Zero G Corporation, International Space University, Starport.com, Students for Exploration and Development of Space and Space Adventures?
As keynote speaker at the International Space Development Conference last night, he forecast that he would be making a major announcement this year about a private foundation to support spaceflight to Mars. His expectation is that he could privately raise $3 billion dollars from 10,000 people willing to commit $100,000; 1,000 people willing to commit $1 million and 100 people willing to commit $10 million. He thinks with the right fund managers, this could earn 15-17% returns and double every 5 years. Within 10 years, the money would be sufficient to finance two or more human Mars missions.
These people would then play a game to determine who would be in the 100 person astronaut corps. That corps would be rigorously trained and tested and down-selected into 12 colonists for the first crew. These crew would then undertake a one-way colonization mission to Mars.
Earlier would come private exploration missions. Later would come private pre-placement missions pre-placing supplies, power generation equipment and habs. Then a cycler would take colonists to Mars who would use a lander to get to their pre-placed equipment. The bulk of the mass would head back to Earth to be refurbished, resupplied and reused if economical.
He calls it the 'Mars Citizenship Program'.
Peter, I said it last night. I am in for $100,000. I am also willing to run a game for you to select from 100,000,000 people putting in $10.
Peter also motivated his goals for space development by saying that the world was running out of things. For example, "iron". Nope. I rolled my eyes at the geophysicist sitting next to me. 5% of the Earth's crust is iron. Steel production in 2002 was 900 Mt. Edison perfected a way to pull high grade iron ore out of low grade ore, even beach sand in 1891. It was not economical then and not the way ore is mined now, but we could easily do so if the price when up. Why go for plentiful deposits of ore containing 30% iron when there are deposits with 50% ore and higher? Pig iron cost $400/ton in today's dollars in 1900. In 2002 it cost about $600. Per capita GDP in the US has gone up by a factor of 10 in the same time from about $4,000 to about $40,000 in current dollars. We can afford more iron every year, not less.
Peter also said that there are "trillion dollar checks" flying around in the asteroid belt. That is moot. Extraterrestrial minerals will have extreme difficulty competing with high value cargo. It would only cost $100,000 per pound to get the asteroid mass to the Earth. We need to get that down to less than $1/lb before it is competitive for iron. Even platinum sells for only $20,000/lb. Until the price to orbit gets much lower, those "trillion dollar checks" will bounce.
Stick to Elon's "Back up the biosphere" message and our drive to explore and expand.Posted by Sam Dinkin at May 07, 2006 07:34 AM
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"Is the surface of a planet really the right place for an expanding technological civilization?" - Gerard O'NeillPosted by at May 7, 2006 08:09 AM
I would opine that O'Neill is correct in the long term. Shorter term, Mars simply is the second safest place to raise children after the Earth, of course.
Start there and then move on to free space.Posted by Bill White at May 7, 2006 08:47 AM
Why not both?
To me, seeing as how we already know how to live on a planet, targeting another planet with a hostile but workable environment is a sensible next step. If Diamandis' vision includes developing cyclers and other permanent infrastructure in space in order to make this happen, we should end up with a twofer: both planetary and space settlements. Building and servicing cyclers and such would develop technology and experience that would enable space-based settlement, just as the cyclers themselves would support the surface settlement of Mars.Posted by T.L. James at May 7, 2006 01:03 PM
If I saw a plan that I thought would work, I'd go in for $1000 to have 100 chances in the pot. One thing you could do to make it more attractive to families (which it would have to be if you want to stay there) is to have individuals put in at $10 and families put in at some other amount, say $50. You win, the whole family can go.
How can a man top the creation of X Prize, X Prize Cup, X Racer and Zero G Corporation, International Space University, Starport.com, Students for Exploration and Development of Space and Space Adventures?
Well as far as I can tell these organisations do exactly nothing, so it shouldn't be all that hard.Posted by at May 7, 2006 07:58 PM
He thinks with the right fund managers, this could earn 15-17% returns and double every 5 years.
I may be incorrect, but he didn't actually technically raise the money for the X-Prize, didn't he get an insurance policy to underwrite it?
Also... 15-17% returns from a Fund Manager for that length of time? That's highly unlikely. He'd be better with 9% from the market average trackers. At least you can pretty much rely on that.Posted by Daveon at May 7, 2006 11:28 PM
You really want to pound the heads of people who have this Heinleinian fantasy of "ordinary guys" with high school educations, who operate their own small scale Space Salvage companies, consisting of a self-maintained little space ship, prospecting for tin or plutonium in the asteroid belt. This article pretty much puts that fairy tale in perspective. The reason to go to Mars is to see what's there, not some antiquated 19th. century vision of settling the Wild West. With what we learn about Mars there may eventually be some good reason to exploit it, but it probably won't be to move large commodities of mass from planet to planet. It's probable that the only exchange of goods will be one way to Mars, for a very long time. It may be that only human beings themselves are valuable enough to move back and forth between planets.
Much as I'd like to see humans go to Mars, it seems pointless to rush the thing. I want to learn as much about the place as possible, as fast as possible, and focusing on moving people there and back will only slow the proces at this time. The program suggested, to raise a vast amount of money for a manned flight, doesn't take into account the practise missions, for instance. I don't actually think $TEN billion would be enough unless the imagineer behind the idea thinks that all that needs to be done is computer generate a perfect design, build one foolproof spaceship, and successfull send a man to Mars and back on the first try! I'd wager it would take most of that ten years to properly (and safely) develop the launch system alone, and that it would further require at least several vehicles be built just for the test stage. But once again we have the Heinleinian fantasy that all it takes is some business-know-how and money to get ANYthing done -- toot sweet! It's the American Way!Posted by Taral Wayne at May 7, 2006 11:37 PM
"One way colonization" means few if any take the return trip. And while iron etc. may be cheap on Earth, in space there will be no endangered mouse/owl/snail darter or other environmental challenges in obtaining the ore, nor in refining and processing it. I think it makes a solid case in terms that environmentalists can understand; Mother Earth Was Not Harmed In Creation Of This Material.Posted by Stewart at May 8, 2006 08:17 AM
I agree with you, Stewart. Most advances / colonization attempts by mankind have not been for gold - they have been to escape perceived or real oppression. And anyone trying to compete against a government contractor surely has seen oppression!
Heh, but I do agree that escaping politics will be the reason for many. There are many materials that can not really be produced economically because of environmental concerns.
Hm. At what price per barrel does it make sense to refine it in orbit? (On the order of 150 kg, so $1M/barrel today? But in the future using unobtainium at $10/kg, only $1500. At the current price growth rate for oil, that is only 8 years away!)Posted by David Summers at May 8, 2006 08:54 AM
The futures price of oil is lower five years out than today. It will take a long time to build up orbital assets. A 25,000 mile train ride is a long way and there is no housing or food or services at the other end. It will be many years after the building of an elevator or a cheap launcher before things you can do on Earth at all will be economical there for export.
Green is unlikely to be the driver. Hybrid demand is low. Green power demand is low. Carbon abatement demand is half what was predicted only a few weeks ago. Don't bet on refining or any other heavy industry.Posted by Sam Dinkin at May 8, 2006 09:26 AM
Were we to discover the Wellsian "world of the miniscule" on Mars, I'm sure the self-styled environmentalists will find sufficient reason to become offended by our endeavours. I have a hunch we will be careful not to interfere with the progress of any indigenous life form, no matter how inconsequential, but the very nature of the radical pessimism, which has for decades masqueraded itself as 'liberalism," will likely not alter in outlook in the relevant future. - joePosted by only jo at May 8, 2006 09:58 AM
Taral, I don't see anything particularly wrong with the "Heinleinian fantasy". It's basically a pair of predictions, namely that space industry will be profitable at some point and that the barrier to entry will be so low that even an "ordinary guy" can get in. Doesn't mean it'll happen, but I think it's a worthy goal to shoot for. As you note, the US excels in industries with low barriers to entry. Further, the US has a history of creating industries with low barriers to entry.
In your second paragraph, you write:
I don't actually think $TEN billion would be enough unless the imagineer behind the idea thinks that all that needs to be done is computer generate a perfect design, build one foolproof spaceship, and successfull send a man to Mars and back on the first try!
Nor do I. The single perfect spaceship is a recipe for extreme expense. You might fail to build one for ten times that price (witness what happened to the ISS). Instead, I think a better goal is a large number, say a few dozen or more simple but reliable spaceships would work. I won't bother putting a price out since it largely depends on launch costs and how much money you burn in R&D.
Forgot to add to the last sentence, "and because I don't sufficiently understand the economics to throw out a price."Posted by Karl Hallowell at May 8, 2006 10:56 AM
Put a process out there and "Go when we pay". I.e., keep the endowment growing to cover higher R&D and manufacturing cost. There would be a reserve for operations once we launched.Posted by Sam Dinkin at May 8, 2006 11:42 AM
Shubber, what don't you like. The low price tag? The ambitious time line? The audacious fundraising proposal?Posted by Sam Dinkin at May 8, 2006 11:44 AM
In response to this funding paridigm, the problem I see is a disgreement on what is feasible (as in, what do you invest in). There are many people right now that say that if they had the money you are talking about, the objective would be achieved. Some may be right, some are certainly right - but how do you tell which is which? More specifically, how does the person operating this funding source best represent the interests of the investors? Invest in Burt Rutan, since he is the only one that has previously done it? Invest in Armadillo, because they have a process that is likely to succeed in the end? Invest in me, because I am WAY cooler than any of them?
Has that been thought through? What was decided?Posted by David Summers at May 8, 2006 12:25 PM
Averaging 15%-17% gains per year?!
Who needs to worry about anything? With fund managers who could do that, money will magically appear and solve all our problems.Posted by Alfred Differ at May 8, 2006 08:14 PM
Why not make Mars the new Australia?
Populate it with prisoners! Instead of rotting in a prison cell they could be "free" to hack out a life on the red planet.Posted by Krispi at May 9, 2006 05:28 AM
Why not make Mars the new Australia? Populate it with prisoners! Instead of rotting in a prison cell they could be "free" to hack out a life on the red planet.
Why encourage crime?Posted by at May 9, 2006 06:12 AM
Not prisoners, patients! I have a hunch that many of the early settlers may be people with conditions that are crippling or painful at a full G who find themselves functional in the lesser G-field of the Moon or Mars. We know something of the harmful effects of zero (or micro) G; we haven't a clue of the effects of Lunar gravity beyond that of a 3-day visit.Posted by Stewart at May 9, 2006 07:35 AM
And what ailment would that be? (Wait for it...) FAT people! America is facing an epidemic of overweight - and Mars is the answer!
Send money now for my newsletter, detailing how this is to be accomplished!Posted by David Summers at May 9, 2006 08:56 AM
Hey Sam, why not have something like this for the Moon also? I propose that 20 people be sent to the Moon, the location I think should be somewhere along the equator, because that is the best place to launch and you can use a space tether.
I think the sports shows and dance shows will be cool. Start offering Lunar colonization commercially and we'll see if we can put together a game to finance it.Posted by Sam Dinkin at May 9, 2006 06:12 PM
In fact, reality shows about lunar colonization is something I plan to do in the future... If my Space Champions reality shows are successful as I imagine they will be.Posted by Rocky Persaud at May 9, 2006 06:25 PM
David, I edited out of my post above the condition primary on my mind; my family seems prone to degenerative disk disorders with fusions and residual nerve pain. In lower G the weight of vertebra on nerve root will be lower, and less cushioning would be required of the damaged disks.Posted by Stewart at May 10, 2006 03:02 PM
I would like to comment on the fact that, although the idea of populating Mars may have come from Diamandis, some (all?) of the plans were worked out by Talmon Feuerstein in 2003, at the time a student at the International Space University in Strasbourg. His thesis, bearing the very same name, can be found at the ISU library:
Right now Mr. Feuerstein is the vice-president of a German company, NSD-Fusion GmbH
An open letter to Peter Diamandis, The Mars Society, and all supporters of the Mars Citizinship Program (wether one-way or round-trip)
Reading this column, Alan Boyle, The Mars Society, et al, & the posted comments, one is led to say there is an ark-load of people ready, willing, and anxious to journey to Mars, either one-way or round-trip. For Science, Frontier, Escape, Novelty, whatever reason. If there were such a Mars Citizinship Program fund established, where individuals can put their (any-amount) dollars into (and get themselves on the go-list), there'd be a tremendous amount of money to finance the venture, including the cycler, the habitation, the initial Mars industry (materials mining & processing), as well return trips. I haven't got 1 million bucks. Nor 10 grand. Come to think of it, I spent my last buck on a box of Cheez-its (they steal all my money). But let the big guns pay the big bucks to be the first-to-go, and us lighter-pocketed peoples would match their contribution dollar-for-dollar in volume, if not more. Every dollar helps, and if 1 million people contribute $100 dollars, wouldn't that get the plan in motion?
Mr. Diamandis, Mars Society, et al: How about a Mars Citizinship Program Fund open to all?
Considering Diamandis's comments relating to his admiration of the nazi war machine and light hearted commentary about the famished, enslaved victims who built the V-2, one can't help but wonder if Diamandis hopes to see swastikas flapping in the martian breeze.Posted by X at May 11, 2006 05:56 AM
Yes, the V-2 comment went over like a lead balloon.
Diamandis prefaced his remarks by asking the room who would go 1-way to Mars. Many hands went up. He asked if they would be willing to go if they would risk a 1/6 chance of failing. Hands stayed up. They staying up again for a 1/4 chance of failing.
What he proved before he made the slave labor comment is that there were people willing to undergo a substantial risk of dying to go. There is a big difference between a labor of love to colonize a new world and forced labor.
If you don't like van Braun, showing up at ISDC at all is a bad idea since he founded one of the parent organizations.Posted by Sam Dinkin at May 11, 2006 06:46 PM
I will combine the 10,000 people with $10 into one person with a $100,000 Mars Citizenship.Posted by Sam Dinkin at May 11, 2006 06:47 PM
As the audience's reaction showed, the story of how the V2s were built is widely known (if little discussed) within the space community. It's stunning that someone as well informed as Peter is wouldn't know this, especially since he had detailed information about the V-2 production run and unit costs. Add in the fact that he co-founded a university that embedded humanities into its curriculum early in its existence, and this becomes all the more mystifying.
His apology fell a bit short. The slaves were not simply "held". They were murdered in large numbers. Upwards to 20,000 died in this concentration camp/production facility. This is something the space community has a hard time acknowledging.
That's a good attitude, Sam. If you have any criticisms at all, however valid, go away because we who opening up space in order to free mankind can't bear to listen to you exercise your freedom of speech. Real good. One has to wonder what sort of free societies you will be creating out there.Posted by at May 13, 2006 09:48 AM
>Diamandis prefaced his remarks by asking the room who would go 1-way to Mars. Many hands went up. He asked if they would be willing to go if they would risk a 1/6 chance of failing. Hands stayed up. They staying up again for a 1/4 chance of failing.
If they could have put a capsule on top of a V-2 and done a suborbital flight during World War II, von Braun would have happily accepted such odds to become the first person in space. At the same time, he didn't do anything to help any of the prisoners who were dying en mass to build the damn thing. That tells you a lot.Posted by at May 13, 2006 10:07 AM
"If you have any criticisms at all, however valid, go away because we who opening up space in order to free mankind can't bear to listen to you exercise your freedom of speech. Real good."
I have been rhetorically murdered.
The related point that NSS was co-founded by slavers (as was the US I might add) still stands. Let's air the dirty laundry and get on with life. Personally the cadre willing to risk their lives at high probabily (25%!) on a one-way trip to Mars is willingness to die is more interesting. That risking martyrdom is less interesting to most than insensitivity to the historical hot buttons of willingness to be enslaved is telling.
"One has to wonder what sort of free societies you will be creating out there."
Another fatal blow! I'll stand up to say that I would prefer a Roman dictatorship on Mars to nothing on Mars. I'd pay more to set up a Mars Settlement and go if it had more civil liberties. My loyalty is first to the species and second to liberty, but for now they are one and the same and I always expect them to be (check out Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End or Joe Haldeman's Forever Peace for scenarios where they diverge).Posted by Sam Dinkin at May 13, 2006 10:13 AM
>I'll stand up to say that I would prefer a Roman dictatorship on Mars to nothing on Mars.
Why wait? China has a budding space program and planetary ambitions. Move there and live under a real dictatorship. Who knows? You would probably do well there.
>I'd pay more to set up a Mars Settlement and go if it had more civil liberties.
If you could do it on the cheap, you would regardless of how people would live. That's interesting.
>My loyalty is first to the species and second to liberty,
Yep, that's exactly the problem. Advance humanity no matter what the collateral damage. That's been the cause of much suffering in history, especially when what's best for humanity becomes what's best for a particular race.
> but for now they are one and the same and I always expect them to be.
Right. I think what you will choose when there's a choice between the two of them.Posted by at May 13, 2006 10:47 AM
Would you choose to kill off humanity a la Patrick Henry? It's hard to throw off the yoke of slavery and be free again if there is no one around.Posted by Sam Dinkin at May 13, 2006 11:26 AM
"China has a budding space program and planetary ambitions. Move there and live under a real dictatorship. Who knows? You would probably do well there."
Come out of the shadows of anonymity oh rhetorical braveheart! You have me on the run! China is about 30 years behind the US and Peter Diamandis. I am a patriot, but not if the US decides to kill all of humanity. Then, it's every patriots' duty to bring down the government, no?Posted by Sam Dinkin at May 13, 2006 11:30 AM
Oh, Sam. Run away from your own remarks here.Posted by at May 13, 2006 11:39 AM
>China is about 30 years behind the US and Peter Diamandis.
So, if they weren't so far behind, you'd consider it, huh?
>I am a patriot,
Well, good for you.
>but not if the US decides to kill all of humanity.
>Then, it's every patriots' duty to bring down the government, no?
I guess. If only von Braun had believed as you do. He didn't. "In times of war, a man has to stand up for his country, whether as a combat soldier or as a scientist or engineer, regardless of whether or not he agrees with the policy his government is pursuing," von Braun said.Posted by at May 15, 2006 11:14 PM
If China had a Mars base, I'd volunteer to go. If there is a market, I will offer orbital flights on Russian hardware. If the latter was made illegal for US entities, I would consider opening a corporation off shore. If travelling to Mars with the Chinese was illegal for US citizens and I was offered a flight, I would be in a bind. Would you turn down a billion dollar flight from a hostile foreign government?
Re: liberty vs. survival
Patrick Henry's "Give me Liberty or Give me Death!" works great for individuals (me included), but not so good for species. The point of the sacrifice is to make the world a better place for family, relations and for the truly altruistic anyone. But if the issue is to risk humanity's future to stop tyranny, then that is throwing the baby out with the bath water.
In Vinge's scenario, tyranny is seriously considered by one of the characters to save the world from world ending technologies in the hands of terrorists. Haldeman's scenario has universe ending technology in the hands of cultists.
In both cases, it takes a contrived scenario to put tyranny within reach of anyone.
My goal is to spread humanity throughout the solar system, galaxy and beyond to put extinction out of reach. In that case, tyranny and survival will never be in contention. It is likely that they never will even if we stay only on Earth for the next million years.Posted by Sam Dinkin at May 16, 2006 05:30 AM
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