SpaceX Mars – 2022 Unmanned, 2024 Manned and 2050 Independent City

SpaceX is still targeting 2022 for an unmanned Mars cargo mission and 2024 for a Mars manned mission.

One dozen fleets of Starships sent every two years will then creating a self-sustaining colony on Mars by 2050.

Mars Colonization Details

Elon Musk wrote a 16-page article that described a plan to reduce the cost to bring one person to Mars down to $100,000. Elon Musk has a ballpark assumption that allocating one-ton of mass is enough for the passenger, supplies, and luggage.

In 2017, Purdue University engineers created a 331-page analysis for the Mars City. They looked at Mars food production, mining and the use of large cyclers.

Purdue’s Project Destiny was to validate the claim that a colony of 1 million inhabitants
can be feasibly established on the surface of Mars within 40-100 years using the SpaceX
architecture presented. They accomplish this by developing a colony that minimizes cost and the number of launches to build the actual colony. We then will evaluate 3 different methods of delivering this colony based on SpaceX architecture. The plan would need to be updated with more recent SpaceX Starship Super Heavy designs.

Purdue restricted their Mars City Colony design to reject the use of future technologies that are not likely to be in production within 30 years.

The initial 300 colonists consists of a skilled construction crew whose primary objective is to layout and deploy the larger colonies architecture prior to the larger population’s arrival. Once the cargo has been confirmed as to have landed on the Mars surface and is awaiting crew arrival, the initial 300 colonists will board either the next Mars vehicle.

They had a high cost of about $4 billion for each SAFE-800 nuclear reactor for cycler power.

The cost of nuclear reactors for space could be greatly reduced with the Kilopower reactors and the Los Alamos Megapower reactor which could be built as the Westinghouse eVinci reactors.

The eVinci could have about thirty times the power level as the SAFE-800. The eVinci could produce 25 megawatts instead of the 800 kilowatts of the SAFE-800.

Purdue’s Cary Mitchell has led efforts to improve human ability to grow food in space for over 40 years. He has improved lighting for crops to testing the ability to grow leafy greens, fruits and vegetables that will keep astronauts nourished and satisfied on their long trips.

SpaceX architecture for Mars are:
* Fully Reusable Launch System – This could be achieved in 2020-2022 with the Starship Super Heavy.
* LEO refueling – NASA has just funded a SpaceX-NASA project to develop this capability.
* Propulsive Landings – done
* Direct flight – this is just the plan for Mars flight
* Hyperbolic Trajectory between Earth and Mars
* Return capability of landing vehicles through fuel production on Mars Surface using a
methane/LOX fed propulsion system.

Low Gravity Solution

Dr. Joseph Parker presented a gravity solution for living on the moon or Mars. We need to have people live in one gravity pods on a circular hyperloop like track.

A one-kilometer radius track going at 360 kilometers per hour provides on one G. The actual moon or Mars tracks would have pods or trains going a bit slower and on an angle to get the right gravity. It is a 70-degree angle on Mars.

People and their children would live on these large trains. A smaller train will dock with the habitation train and they will load supplies. People will go onto the docking train to go to work in the lower gravity and then return to one G living and sleeping.

This train solution aligns with Elon Musk’s development of the Boring company and Hyperloop.

So Technically Feasible But What About Economics and Why Mars Colonization Will Happen

Clearly, it is technically feasible to build a Mars colony and city.

Elon Musk and SpaceX are headed for massive income and revenues.

SpaceX has successfully deployed 420 production versions of the Starlink Satellite. This will enable SpaceX to generate a lot of revenue for service to North America, Europe and Asia. The revenue will be from reducing latency in financial trading communication and providing rural areas with broadband.

SpaceX and Elon Musk will be made financially secure by 2023 and will have the $20 billion per year budget of NASA. If Elon has a 30X on his 54% share of SpaceX, then with Elon would have 30 times $10 billion in 2024 (50% of $20 billion in 2024). This means Elon would be worth over $300 billion without including any valuation for Tesla.

SpaceX will start generating substantial revenue in 2020 and 2021.

Elon Musk is a true believer in Mars Colonization. Elon and SpaceX with $50-100 billion per year in revenue will be able to fund a Mars colony. Just as Jeff Bezos is funding Blue Origin with $1 billion per year from his Amazon wealth, Elon Musk would be able to sustainably devote $5-10 billion per year for Mars colonization.

This amount of money will be able to fund a dozen SpaceX Super Heavy Starships every year that are fully reusable. Each individual Starship would be able to transport and support 100 colonists on Mars. The colonists could live in the Starship.

The politics in the US will flip. The $4 billion per year that currently goes to United Launch Alliance will start going to SpaceX. This will happen when SpaceX makes the first moon and Mars missions.

I think it will end up being the following funds every year at the start.
$5 billion of SpaceX funds,
$5 billion of NASA and US funds.
There will also be $1-4 billion from the European Space Agency, Japan Space Agency, Canada Space Agency as they tag along for Moon and Mars missions.
There will also be tourism, entertainment and other revenue.
Blue Origin and Bezos could shift to focus on developing industrialization on moon and Mars.

SOURCES- SpaceX, Elon Musk Twitter, Purdue University, Brian Wang Analysis
Written by Brian Wang,

109 thoughts on “SpaceX Mars – 2022 Unmanned, 2024 Manned and 2050 Independent City”

  1. My thinking was that with human lives at risk, having NASA take the lead somewhat insulates SpaceX if lives are lost. Not perfectly, but enough that they aren't permanently shut down or maybe nationalized. This seems to have worked for the contractors who built the space shuttle, for example.

    And of course there's the national pride angle – NASA is going to WANT the lead role, and will pay SpaceX well for that.

    Also note who SpaceX sent to space on their first crewed mission – they didn't train their own crew for that. So there's precedent.

  2. I’m not condemning social safety net. And I called it quasi-communist. The penalties for not carrying your own weight will be significant, because resources will be scarce and most would have a hard time pushing someone out an airlock if they insist on being dead weight. It might be more like a military organization where failure to perform duties carries stiff penalties…

  3. The water and oxygen are recycled, though not 100%. See ISS for reference. I don’t think any sane engineer will send a crew without those systems. Same on Mars: the life support systems are top priority, and until then it’s personal (space suit), rover, and ship-level life support. They won’t be spending any significant time without it.

    But there are losses, and they still need the food and other supplies.

  4. Assuming you are commenting about the Starlink/SSP tech advantage point, that is why I am pointing it out, to interest Musk in LSP.

  5. Dan, methinks that the O’Neill cylinder is more Bezos’s style, along with LSP. He’s the dude who wants to export heavy industry to Cislunar space… Aren’t you glad to be spoilt for choice?

  6. Solar power sats aren’t much more viable for Mars colony scale-up than nuclear power. Too much would have to be imported from Earth. Both will probably need to wait for Mars (or at least in-space civilization) to get close to 1M people. Maybe 100K, with the advances in automation that space colonization will help accelerate over the next few decades.

    The best case for an early Mars colony would be to locate a good geothermal heat source close enough to the surface to be worth drilling into.

    But barring that, concentrated solar thermal is about the only form of energy that an early Mars colony would be able to get close to scaling up locally. And they’d have to significantly over-build that to convert and store enough fuel to stay alive at night and during dust storms.

  7. Sorry, GG, but you have to compare apples to apples, and comparing a *cost* to a *price* is not at all the same thing… As any Chicago School economist will tell you. The only thing they have in common is the unit of measurement ($).

    Of course, it could turn out that the cost is indeed unrealistic; I haven’t seen the numbers, after all. But the argument has to speak to cost, not to value.

  8. I am on the same page, bud.

    Even in the more optimistic down–10-up–1 scenarios, our intrepid crew will be consuming ¾ kg of O₂ per person per day. ¾ kg × ¾ year × 365 = 200 kg/trip one way. And that’s for the on-board part of the trip. 

    Until the oxygen-from-CO₂ generators kick in, all the O₂ for ‘living there awhile’ also are needed.  And the O₂ for the return trip, if that’s in the cards. 

    Still, compared to those blazing engines, not much oxygen at all. On a Biff’s Fluffing Rocket, what … 50 people and all their tunnage?  


    50 people
    250 days
    90% down, 10% uptime
    ⅔ kg when down, 1 kg when up (90% of ⅔ + 10% of 1.0 = 0.7 kg/day mean);

    1,000 day stay, no torpor modes;

    250 day return trip, 90:10 mode again.

    +50% for contingencies. Leaks, emergencies, out-of-whack framistats.

    50 × 250 × 0.7 
    50 × 1000 × 1.0
    50 × 250 × 0.7
    = 50 × 1,350 before contingencies
    = 67,500 × 1.5 contingencies
    = 100,000 kg

    Hey! 100 tons of oxygen.

    Wonder about the H₂O, and foodstuffs. I know 2,000 kcal/day is uptime-nominal for smallish people. No Nordic 2.2 meter types, much more likely tiny, tiny Vietnamese blokes or lasses. 40 kg per person, tops. 

    Still … foodstuffs.  
    Lots of beans, rice, (bad goat, stereotyping), SPAM.  

    ¼ kg dry rice = 1,000 kcal, more or less. 
    requires ¼ kg water. 
    Daily water … hmmm…

    Just saying, a lot of supplies. 
    I’m doubting the $100,000 per transit bit.
    You know?

    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  9. Ah, OK. Personally, I live in an area where 200 square meters is an average to largish house. But I don’t think you can really equate a house with a vehicle you’re going to occupy for 3/4 of a year in order to get someplace, and then get out of. Yeah, being stuck in something the size of a sleeping car for that long would suck, but I’d suck it up in order to have 100kg more baggage in an instant.

  10. 100 k from Brian’s comment-on-the-original-article. 
    200 m² from medium-to-small houses around where I live. 

    The point isn’t to compare the living AREA of a minimalist house to a minimalist Mars Ferry, but rather …. hmmm … why not? … hmmm … 

    OK, I can’t elucidate a basis for that statement. Maybe one should. Maybe a better contrast would be comparing a trip on the Mars ferry (given to be $100,000), against the cost for flying from NYC to Beijing. United Airlines lists tickets for $700 a go, for a 13.5 hour non-stop flight. You get fed peanuts and $7 a throw beer. 

    The airplane is, however, a many, many million dollar cylinder with wings. And magic motors, and miles of cables, and cubby holes for steward and stewardesses to hide-away and sleep. (There’s a new video on Netflix of a total tear-down-and-refurbish of a Boeing 777 by Air France… fascinating.) Somehow, your mean economy class ticket is $700.  

    I guess its ‘cuz it flies no fewer than 500 flights a year, with 300 passengers, each.. $120 million revenue there, or more with business-class and first. Hmm… and the Mars Ferry?

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  11. Oh yah, the levitating frog.
    Forgot about Fergie. 

    The real problem in turn is the SIZE of the magnetic field, coupled with — one assumes — the volume of the spacecraft that would need the kilo-tesla field to ‘push’ humans ‘down’ (relative to up, of course) to simulate gravity.  

    It’d be easier to spin pods on cables around a central axis.  
    A LOT simpler.
    Note the subtle enhancement to the siggy…

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ Old GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  12. The truth is, if you actually do need centrifuges for health, that weakens the case for Mars a lot, and strengthens the case for the Moon and L5, because truly huge centrifuges are a lot easier to pull off if you don’t have any atmosphere to deal with.

    The case for Mars becomes strongest if lunar gravity isn’t enough for health, but Martian gravity is.

    But, mainly, the mission architecture is so dependent on the answer to this question that it’s just insane to be talking about colonizing Mars, the Moon, or anywhere else in the Solar system, (Except maybe Venus, of course.) without getting a good answer ASAP.

    I calculated that you could put a workable long duration human partial gravity lab in orbit with one Falcon Heavy launch, using Bigelow modules hanging from each other by cables, and using the faring as a counterweight so that the two modules could be at Mars and lunar gravity. Then you could have people moving around and working at both accelerations for months, maybe a year or more. Using early Starship prototypes bolo style might be better now that Bigelow is DOA.

    It has to be human testing, because we’re not proposing to colonize Mars with mice, and mice and humans are too different to assume the results will translate over properly.

    The first testing of reproductive success will have to be in lower animals, but since we’re already subjecting people to zero g at the ISS, there’s no ethical objection to going straight to humans with the rest of the testing.

  13. Aluminum is ~5-10 times more energy intensive than steel, so it doesn’t give you an advantage in that regard.

    It may be possible smelt iron ore with electricity. It’s certainly possible to process refined iron in an induction furnace. Otherwise, you can use the methane as fuel, though that may be less efficient. You get oxygen as a byproduct of making methane. The hydrogens from methane end up as water vapor, which is easy enough to separate from the outflow, and reuse. So here too, the hydrogen and water are catalytic.

    Both steel and polymers would start from splitting water, which is a major energy input. Sabatier to make methane is exothermic, RWGS to make CO is probably also. Burning the methane for steel is definitely exothermic. So far the big difference is how much methane you need in each case, and therefore how much water you need to split.

    Converting methane or CO to ethylene, polymerization, and plastic forming probably take a mild energy input. OTOH, refined iron still has to be heat processed to get the final product. So overall, you’re probably right that polymers would be less energy intensive.

    The proposal discussed here assumes nuclear power, in which case, they won’t be energy starved. But more realistically, nuclear power won’t be available for a while.

    The other limiting factor is mining and processing equipment, but that’s a limiting factor regardless of what they’re trying to make.

  14. Rather than building a test station, we could first tether and spin up a Dragon tethered to a spent upper stage and then have some mice in partial gravity before re-entering.

    But there is another intermediate option than a huge circular track. An indoor centrifuge (e.g. 7.5 meter radius) can get crew to a full gee for several hours per day provided the crew do activities that don’t turn their heads.

  15. It’s really a question of what takes more energy, isn’t it? Colony siting can assure a decent supply of water, and CO2 is everywhere, (So’s iron oxide, admittedly.) but Mars is going to be energy poor for a long while, and colonizing a planet without a pre-existing biosphere you can rely on is going to be very energy intensive.

    I think they’re probably best off using polymers, not steel, where possible, because they have to have the Methane plant anyway, and polymers are easy to produce if you have that. Remember, no Oxygen atmosphere, no coal, means you need to directly produce all the energy being used to produce the steel, not just spend energy obtaining it. You aren’t going to be building huge blast furnaces on Mars.

    Steel has uses that polymers can’t substitute for, like magnetic applications, or use at high temperatures. But you can run a small scale steel industry off aluminum production and occasional use of the thermite reaction, to the extent you can’t rely on steel space ships traveling to Mars at their end of life.

    I’d concentrate on polymers, and the first metal I’d try to produce would be aluminum, not steel. To be clear, I’d do aluminum first because it’s relatively straightforward to start small.

  16. One of the reasons it’s a favored material is that you can literally dig up reduced carbon from the ground, and are immersed in an oxygen atmosphere. You’re not having to start from expensive energy and all oxidized compounds. Blast furnaces are going to be hard to pull off on Mars. Maybe electrolytic reduction of the oxide, which you can do on a much smaller scale without extreme temperatures. I’ve seen experimental processes of that sort where you alloy by mixing the oxides in advance.

    I would expect at least some local steel production to start early, though it’s not going to have to be part of the initial colony package with incoming end of lifecycle Starships. Mars has practically no atmosphere, and is quite dry, and is close to the asteroid belt. I wonder how hard it is to find metallic meteors on Mars? Harder than the Moon, I suppose, where you just run a magnet over dirt, but easier than on Earth.

  17. I honestly can’t see running the colony on solar, unless maybe it’s SPS’s. And, when you life literally depends on an uninterrupted power supply, you kind of want it at hand where you can easily fix it if it breaks. And it’s nice if it’s something you can locally increase, in fact for the colony to be self sufficient it eventually has to be that.

    I think there will be a mix of power sources, solar and nuclear. I’d go heavy on the nuclear, because it’s reliable and low maintenance. Musk wants to go solar, I assume to keep down the opposition from the watermelons. If it’s going to be solar it should be SPS’s, Mars is well suited for the, with the lower synchronous orbit, and getting the collectors out of those dust storms would be helpful.

  18. Before we start building huge centrifuges, shouldn’t we just find out how people respond to partial gravity by testing it? It’s absurd that, this long after Apollo, we STILL don’t know the biological effects of partial gravity, because nobody has ever bothered building a test station in orbit.

  19. Sure, i have no problem with that. there are alot of options to consider at that point. Well see what happens if were still alive at that point.
    Maybe were uploaded in a matrix or something.

  20. There’s a handly little feature called “mute” in the menu that pops up under the 3 dots to the right of an article.

  21. I would expect energy might be a big issue for making steel on Mars?

    The Purdue study assumes a LOT of nuclear power apparently – one of the less realistic parts of their plan, if I’m correctly reading that table that apparently says they’d import 26,250 SAFE-800 reactors.

    OTOH, I think Elon wants to run the colony just on solar… If so, the colony’s going to need to make a LOT of solar concentrating mirrors (and heat engines and generators and motors, etc). That’ll take quite a bit of metal production – though maybe less than building all your habitation out of steel.

  22. I expect when it comes to Mars, it will be NASA coming along for the ride on SpaceX missions, rather than the other way. But more likely, NASA will prefer their own mission infrastructure and hardware, which will take longer.

    That being said, assuming each SpaceX mission is several Starships, they can do what you propose and whatever SpaceX wants to do, in parallel.

  23. The question is, why do you want to settle Titan? If you want an industrial base and refueling station in the outer Solar System, Ganymede or Callisto (near Jupiter) seem like better options. Both of them have a rich mix of ices, organics, and various useful minerals. The Jupiter system is easier to reach, and is closer to the economic activity of the inner Solar System. And if we have fusion rockets by that point, we can mine hydrogen from the upper atmosphere of Jupiter (though we can do same on Saturn).

    On Titan, perhaps a better option would be an orbital station, with any mining and industry done remotely from there. For a refueling station, you’d want it in orbit anyway.

  24. I suspect NASA is going to ask/tell Elon to go just a bit slower.

    2022 to attempt a cargo landing – fine. In fact, NASA should pay SpaceX to send a tanker Starship to Mars orbit with enough fuel to get a Starship in orbit back home. Include fuel production and a robot packed to survive a ‘mild’ failed landing (ship gets to surface but hits a bit hard or tips over, left-over fuel explodes).

    2022-2024 SpaceX tests/improves crewed StarShip for long-term habitation in transit and on Mars surface. Include testing 2 ships tethered to spin for Mars gravity, see how people do with that for at least 6 months.

    2024 – NASA mission on Starship(s) to Mars orbit, with enough fuel to enter orbit even if it doesn’t succeed or maybe doesn’ succeed at an aerobraking maneuver. Rendezvous with the Startship tanker waiting in orbit in case extra fuel is needed. Likely a second Starship tanker is also sent to Mars orbit to provide extra fuel security for this critical first crewed Mars mission. Cargo ship that was paired with the crewed Starship for spin-gravity attempts to land – a tanker takes its place pairing with crew Starship. Use robots on surface to select and improve a landing zone for future crewed Starship.

    2026 – NASA mission on Starship(s) to Mars surface, paired with a cargo ships. SpaceX has crew on board also, who will focus on base infrastructure and colony-oriented tasks like prospecting and running ISRU tests, while NASA crew focus on science.

  25. There is also alot of advantages with an cold atmosphere. cooling towers from nuclear can be made very small, presurizing gases is less of an isue. The high pressure atmosphere makes a suit for out door puposes less of an isue, it needs som heeting. Not a very big problem to solve.
    Yes metals become britle, but rockets stores cold and pressurised gases. a settlement may need to be made of a diffrent set of alloys.

  26. 4 years until a manned mission to mars is almost certainly not happening. The earliest I see is 2026, with 2028 being most likely. I do see a couple non-essential cargo launches to Mars in 2022. Maybe send out a few rovers and some satellites.

  27. Space factories are more of a pipe dream than space solar. Is it easier to just build out solar on earth? Yes but that’s not the point. If SpaceX wants to accomplish its goals on Mars without having to completely rely on NASA, then space solar is almost a requirement in order to generate enough revenue for a colonization effort of Mars.

  28. That’s what I meant about shooting the Tsar. United against a common enemy only works till you actually take control of the place and kill the enemy (Or, you know, a little girl who is vaguely related to the enemy. Same thing to some people.)

    Which is why the USSR was able to get its act together in WW2. Say what you like about failed landscape painters from Vienna, they make a great common enemy.

  29. Errr… yes?

    The islamic expansion pushed from Arabia through to France, the Balkans, and all the way into Western China. Christian nations were driven out of the middle east and north Africa entirely, and despite trying to push back (the crusades) remain so.
    Islamic armies raided into France from the South and into Russia from the East and South.
    The Eastern Roman empire finally fell to Islamic Turks. The city of Vienna was besieged, and trade between Europe and Eastern Eurasia was largely cut off.

    Meanwhile, they also provided Europe with algebra, the hindu-arabic number system, much of the basis of modern mathematics, pyjamas, and (most importantly) coffee.
    Much of the technological development of Europe since the depth of the dark ages involved ideas and techniques flowing back and forth between the Christian and Muslim nations.

    Muslims aren’t a 20th century invention.

  30. A key point here is that Musk isn’t assuming NASA safety standards. He’s assuming age of exploration safety standards. When he starts recruiting people for the first manned mission, I wouldn’t put it past him to just run that apocryphal ad attributed to Shackleton:

    “Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.”

    Notoriously, when asked whether he’d like to be on the first ship to Mars, he replied that he’d like to visit Mars, not impact it.

    So, yes, I could see supplies shipped out during the 2022 launch window, and people during the 2024 launch window, if everything goes well. If everything goes well.

    I’d find the manned mission in 2026 more likely.

  31. I can’t speak to the plan Brian links to, most of it is beyond a paywall, but I would guess that the $100K number assumes flying steerage, and living on a hot bed in a dorm when you get there, so that you can work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week to earn better lodgings. Not a largish comfortable home and a desk job.

    And, yeah, if I were 30 instead of 60, I’d jump at a deal like that.

    Where’d you get 200 square meters and $100K, so I can look it over?

  32. Why exactly do “we” think people need to live at 1.0 G ? After all these decades of pouring money into 0-G space stations, has NO ONE ever tried raising generations of mice at Martian or Lunar gravity ?

  33. After someone pays the first mover cost on a Starship, reusing it by pointing it at Mars costs a minimum of the cost of the fuel. 

    The median household income in Sacramento is over $70k, lots of people want to live there and are willing to pay $700k for a median house. 

    Just about no one(me) is willing to pay $100k to fly to Mars until Six Senses opens up a resort there. if you can get a 100 ppl to pay $100k for a Mars trip, they should be able to turn a profit using a fully amortized Starship. Or a loss leader to build a market.

    All of Musk’s past cost projections were predicated on full amortization of development costs, even if it wasn’t explicitly stated.

  34. Sorry to hear Musk is making another blunder, even tho it is far less important than the Mars blunder.
    Thanx for affirming that you not only have not read O’Neill but are remaining volunatrily ignorant. This matches the things you say.

  35. You are right! (Only if you make the incredibly bad assumption that O’Neill colonists won’t be able to build anything out of Space materials.)

  36. 1) I think that cost is aspirational, if we are lucky, it could end up being 1 order of magnitude larger and it would still be a bargain.

    2) The trip you pay for is just that, a trip with the basic requirements for your arrival. Sans the high Martian taxes, sans your own Mars rover and sans your own Mars villa. Either you pay for those things before you go to have them paid/ready when you arrive, or you go to make a job there and accommodation will be provided for you (just not a nice Martian home, most likely just a bunk, a shared cafeteria table and a shared bathroom.

    3) Those paying the trip from their pocket and staying without having to do a job there would need to be rich, but the workers won’t have to be rich, just smart.

    4) People risking their necks to do a job there could be paid in money back on Earth, or in money and goods there on Mars. More than a few would be willing to go if they will work for having their own multi-million USD Mars villa at the end, provided by the companies making business there. But I bet they will transition to a free real estate market very soon.

    5) Workers could do the trip, their tour of duty and then return, without having to pay a dime. Except whatever they chose to buy in situ.

  37. Technology. Technology is the most valuable resource that will come from space exploration. Mars will be a testing bed for the type of technology not easy to develop on Earth. I could see Mars being self sustaining just through technology exports.

  38. ⊕5 if I could. Excellent reply from a mathematical-rocket-physics perspective.  

      № 1 — Trip time … proportionate to Δv or ‘speed’.
      № 2 — Δv … proportionate to reaction mass fraction AND the Isp of the exhaust stream
      № 3 — Isp … related to √(power) and √(energy) invested , … sadly
      № 4 — Reaction mass … is exponentially related to desired Δv / Isp.  
      № 5 — Trip cost … linearly to Mre, Isp², √(Δv) and fraction of trip time. 

    Also to be noted that transiting probe ‘size’ is related to a nonlinear multiple of the transit time, payload (blobs of people), auxiliary payload (equipment, food, water, feedstock, toiletries, equipment, housing, and attendant multiplicative support services). 

    So, while it might (say) take 100 kg of ship-and-fuel to transport 1 kg of spacewoman in a 100 day journey, it’d take 200 kg to transport 1 kg of spacewoman on a 1 year trip. And maybe 500 kg per kg to transport 1 kg of spacewoman, spaceman, and decent tenting. The factor isn’t f(x), but more like f(x to the 1.3 to 1.4 power).  

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  39. Nope.

    There are only 3 ‘force fields’ that attract all the molecules in one’s body fairly uniformly. Gravity, linear acceleration and rotational centripetal force (centrifugal acceleration). Magnetic, no: we’re not magnetic to any significant degree. Electrical, no: it is a surface effect, and high electrical fields cause all sorts of other issues. Pressurized tanks, no… the force of gas (or liquid) pressure surrounds you.  Only with one of the 3 forces above does your body also retain buoyancy, or a notion of UP versus DOWN.

    Might want to find that TED talk, and reply with a nice Youtube linkie!

    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  40. Me too.

    I’d at least want to see a 2 year mission of whizzing around Luna in the SAME tin can that is supposed to get to Mars safely. With blokes on board. I mean, if anything goes wrong, they’re no more than a few days from the Third Rock. And whizzing around Luna is way better than just hanging out in Earth’s Goldilocks Zone (MEO), because of all the science that might be afforded as a near-freebie. 

    Even to get this to happen, I really can’t see doing that until a fairly good number of manned and unmanned similar craft have extended stays in the Goldilox zone.  Not for years, but at least many months. Gaining confidence, ferreting out problems. Getting the EU to float grandiose funding schemes, and the Swiss to profit from them.  

    All that.
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  41. Late to the discussion? 
    So what!
    Lemme ask a leading question:

    “Why does a median house in Sacramento cost $700,000 and Musks’s trip to Mars only $100,000?”


    I’ve found that it is important to ‘test’ highly popularized numbers against common-place things that everyone can get a grip on for reality. 

    With this example question, doesn’t it seem just a wee bit unlikely that Elon’s Magnificent Rocket is going to be able to deliver well heeled passengers, their equipment, their food, their oxygen, their tooling, habitation, medicines, clothing and space suits for ⅐ what it costs to buy a house outside of a fairly typical 1st world state capital?

    Again… seriously!

    Even assuming I already own the land, it already has plumbing and sewer, power, water service … I don’t think I could contract to BUILD a 200 m² house for less than $250,000. And the toilet seats ain’t made of titanium.  

    So… how is it that Elon projects to make a triply-redundant, completely hermetic, well stocked, tolerably humane, efficient, healthy environment — including the fuel and mortgage on investment — for less than ⅐ of …

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just asking, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  42. Well, Titan has no shortage of hydrocarbons and water.

    It’s very cold, though, and with a high pressure atmosphere, which will make thermal insulation of any settlement and machinery (e.g. the Starships themselves) a lot more difficult. And we know frozen machinery parts get more brittle and tend to fail, so probably landing a ship meant to return there is a big no no.

    In the Saturnian system, Titan may not be the easiest target for visitation and eventual settlement. But it can assist in other way: by acting as an atmospheric brake for spaceships in fast trajectories.

  43. Any potential colonists should have to answer this question:
    How well did you do during the quarantine on a scale of 1-10?
    Only 10’s would be considered for future Martians. 🙂

  44. As I say, people we may be trying to recruit, or at least give no reason to kneejerk oppose. Have you read “The High Frontier”?.

  45. Presumably:
    – 2 years to prove cargo Starships, scale up Starhip production, and develop and build all the initial gear, in time for the 2022 launch window.
    – 4 Years to (from now) to develop and prove crew Starships, and build more gear, in time for the 2024 window.
    – If the 2022 mission goes well, by 2024, the cargo is waiting in Mars, so they can send the first colonists.

    Given their current tempo, I can believe this schedule for the Starships. But all the other gear in just two years seems unrealistic.

  46. That Starlink gold doesn’t exist, never did. It’s not an state-granted monopoly, so if it ever were to be capable of delivering those profits, other companies will send their own constellations (antitrust authorities ensure that SpaceX can’t discriminate and refuse to launch them, and even if they did Blue Origin and Ariane would be delighted to do it, even at a premium those constellations would be highly profitable).

    Starlink is going to be profitable, but not monopoly-grade profitable, so forget about colonizing Mars with Starlink, the Mars effort needs to be ensure their own steady funding.

  47. Plastics require a lot more hydrogen, meaning more water. Until they can substantially scale up the water ice mining, that’s a resource they’ll want to conserve. For steel making, the water and hydrogen are catalytic:
    H2O -> H2 + 1/2 O2
    H2 + CO2 -> CO + H2O (RWGS)
    CO + iron oxide -> CO2 + iron

    There’s plenty of iron oxides on Mars, and they’ll likely get a bunch of them as a byproduct of digging up and baking out the water ice (which is likely mixed with a bunch of regolith). The iron or steel isn’t likely to corrode much in a CO2-rich near-vacuum. Though stuff exposed to internal atmosphere still can.

  48. Criswell LSP includes power balancing and transmission worldwide, and further, without lines. Loss LSP is factored onto the cost projection, which is a big factor in the end. Check it out!

  49. Same with settler, but sounds better overall, is clearer, implies family, not conquest, and is far less possibly offensive to people, perhaps those we are trying to recruit. On another question, which I don’t remember where, I think you said Starlink electronic design was outstanding. Would that not give Musk a big advantage for Space Solar, which is really just a *type* of comm sat, after all.

  50. There seems likely a “apples v pears” going on here, because “settlements” on Mars are the same generation or difficulty as large, Bernal Sphere O’Neill things. Seeing whether there is water on Moon is also O’Neill. Seeing if a few kg of Lunar dirt can be processed is O’Neill. Starting Space Solar is O’Neill. Then we can start talking humans other than for set-up. By then Mars will be easy, to visit.

  51. I’m merely complaining about Mars First/Direct/Only plans, 1977 on. Other later Mars stuff is just worse (except, of course, robotic science), not different in effect. Wait 20 or more years to see if we can get to Mars 0 g. All other activities do NOT NEED this info! You’re thinking may still be planetarian, perhaps, as this is clear if you understand O’Neill. At least is was to me in 1977 and ever since. Please don’t tell me the Moon was equally on the agenda! (and please, settlement, not colony)

  52. I disagree. What is identity politics if not a religion? The only question is how to harness this is space. Bring a few token republicans that you can have as objects of hate? But then the “oppressed masses” just kill the “rich” and they are out of something to hate, i.e. being back to square one….

  53. One-way is actually part of the definition of “colonist”! If you’re planning on coming back, you’re not one.

  54. Polyethylene, like most polymers, is susceptible to UV. Which is why you’d bury it, or paint it, or include UV stabilizers. My primary thought here is that manufacture of polyethylene is a natural add-on once you’re making methane, a lot of equipment commonality and ability to prioritize one or the other depending on needs. But making steel, while it can tap the Sabatier for CO, requires radically different equipment.

    Here’s something interesting on the topic:

  55. It seems to me that this line of discussion is misrepresenting history. While there has been a substantial amount of government spending on projects related in various ways to Mars, my recollection of what has been done is that none of it had the aim of colonizing Mars. Even the work in support of manned missions to Mars did not have colonization as the aim. The aim was some hands-on science, but mostly flag-planting (for prestige, not for colonization). Am I forgetting some that were primarily for colonization?

    There might have been some conferences or small study grants that had colonization as a theme, but none of the projects of substantial size were aimed at colonization, were they?

  56. The main purpose of ISS is to prove humans can live thru the trip to Mars, and on Mars too, perhaps. Otherwise a simple spin g starting device would have skipped that step as easily avoided in O’Neill Space. SLS is all about Mars. No rovers on Moon for even simple assays. On and on.

  57. There have been sustainable, and not horrible, communist societies throughout history that have had populations up to several hundred, sometimes even low thousands.

    They were all based around being members of a religious community though, which gave a basis for self sacrifice and a group focus you can’t get once the “revolutionary spirit” dies. Which is typically about 1 week after the Tsar is executed.

    For some reason, modern communists don’t seem to be forming religious orders, despite it being the only known way to achieve their (alleged) aims.

  58. Isn’t there a strong argument that the USA is remarkably individualistic in part because their frontier was unusually cushy and easy to survive?
    So an individual, or small group, could head off into the wilds of unsettled Pennsylvania or somewhere, and equipped with a few muzzle loaders, a couple of axes, a saw, and a mule they could make a self sustaining (mostly) settlement in the middle of the wilderness.
    Try that in Siberia, or Africa or somewhere and you’ll find that a much more co-ordinated and larger group with more support from back in civilization would be needed.

  59. Um, all gov money has been spent on Mars for decades, none whatsoever on O’Neill.

    How much government money has been spent on Mars colonisation? AFAICT the answer is $zero.

    Meanwhile, the US gov has spent 10s of $Billions building an… err make that a couple of… inhabited space stations and running them for years. And zero doing any human habitation stuff on Mars.

    So they’ve been (inefficiently, and with much pork barrelling and distraction) putting their money into space station development, and non into Mars.

  60. Well … Queen Issy never financed Chris to find the Americas. She financed Chris to find a cheaper, faster, muslim-free way to China/India/South-East-Asia. (The geographical distinction of these places was vague to Europeans at the time.)
    Which they already knew was chock full of silk, spices and other desirable trade goods.

    It’s just that CC didn’t believe all the existing geographers who told him that it was a 30 000 km trip to China going west, as opposed to a 10 000 km trip going east. He assumed it would be shorter heading west (and to be fair it was muslim-free).

  61. We have literally thousands of years of experience in dealing with steel, and even today it’s the favoured material for all sorts of applications, in part because the properties can be so easily varied by very small changes in alloying composition, along with different heat treatments.
    Anywhere that has lots of iron available, steel will be a good choice of material for many uses.

    Mind you, concrete is too.

  62. Yeah, but it seems more difficult to build a lab purely to synthesize polyethylene building material. I phrased it wrong in the first part, I didn’t mean transporting building blocks but rather the infrastructure to make them. Regolith based building only requires some biomaterial from plants aboard the Starship and regolith, then you get some pretty sturdy concrete. I’m not sure what plans are for polyethylene but the intense UV light on Mars would really do a job at breaking down polymers, I’m not sure how viable they’ll be.

  63. Are you responding to me or a general feeling? I never comment on Musk business, just gov expenditure. He is late comer to Mars exclusivity, and is now going to Moon, so I’m trying to get things started already!

  64. I don’t think Mars has any bullshit either. The transport cost from Mars to Earth is very high. And we are not so blind. Are you saying there might be some magical extremely high value density product we can’t predict that only Mars can produce and sell to Earth?

  65. Also, what is the current tech on creating artificial gravity or its body-sensing equivalent on ships with walkable and stand-able spaces between orbits. There must be some tech on magnetic, other uni-directional attractors, fields, pressurized tanks, or other limited range forces beyond centre-based artificial gravity – even in theory or hyper-small scenarios – witness the old Ted talk on quantum-locking of an object to a track from a few years ago.

  66. I think that we have to assure colonists that it is doesn’t have to be a one-way trip. Tours of duty of 1 – 3 cycles of two-year(?) windows for 25 – 50% of then-current colonists will ensure a diverse personality of people and a more family-oriented interest. A return system including launch and orbital transition station should be part of the early stages. Also, more of a generational-ship/ cruise-liner in the early stages will provide a more desirable staged approach to Mars – just trip, just orbit, temp landing, long-term landing, permanent. Having this multiple scenario will also likely attract greater funding and professional interest. Less major-colony and more robust-multi-stage journey.

  67. For colonists, increasing payload will almost always be preferable to reducing the trip time, especially when payload is good rad shielding.

  68. Who was suggesting transporting hydrocarbons? You’re going to be converting native water and CO2 into methane and oxygen, methane is a good feedstock for making polyethylene.

  69. As a lifelong libertarian, I do not support welfare for the rich. I do prefer current purchase from private plans for Space over old style cost plus to spec.

  70. Starlink would make billions with its reliability. As for your pipe dream of space solar, most of the energy would be lost beaming through the atmosphere and it would be cheaper to instead use regular panels. Starlink is projected to make tens of billions alongside the space factories Musk plans to build, even if he couldn’t afford it Musk isn’t beholden to shareholders so he doesn’t need to worry about maximizing profit. I think Musk wouldn’t really start the Mars colony until at least late 2030’s, I think the Moon and it’s resources are top priority.

  71. Mars actually has a lot of iron in its makeup, when they send the expeditionary bots there to build I think they’ll make foundries there. Transporting hydrocarbons is expensive, what Musk plans to do is make concrete out of regolith with plant matter (it’s stronger than concrete) so there isn’t a need to build the whole house out of polymers. There are ways to make steel without coke and I think in one of Musk’s conferences it was discussed.

  72. “Elon and SpaceX with $50-100 billion per year in revenue will be able to fund a Mars colony”
    That is an excerpt from the post about spaceX projected revenue, not Mars base cost.

  73. I hope you don’t support and other business on its feet right now with the huge bailouts. Pretty much all business, including Bezos’ and to Boeing, got plenty of government money just for having a bad business model.

  74. The most obvious that Mars will help us do is make more efficient tech, Mars will produce some amazing shit. Just the missions to the moon made a bunch of spinoff tech we use everyday, imagine the advancements if we actually live on the planet for years on end.

  75. Is steel, setting aside that delivered in the form of Starships, really a smart structural material on Mars? The output of the Sabatier reactor can, with a bit more processing, be converted to higher hydrocarbons like polyethylene. In it’s oriented form, Spectra, polyethylene is a VERY strong polymer.

    Polyethylene is good by itself for pressure vessels, so long as they’re not cryogenic, and combined with dirt that’s been baked dry and properly screened for a high packing fraction, can be used to make bricks. I think polyethylene and bricks made in this way are going to be primary building materials on Mars.

    I’m not saying they won’t be making some iron. You need steel for some things. But it’s definitely going to be a niche product on Mars for a while.

  76. I think musk will have a good chance of adding some billions to the launch monies and billions more in R&D once Starship is proven. Via the US military. Consider the US is gearing up to buy >100 B21 for roughly 500mil each that can carry ~10-20 tons of ordinance per mission. A Starship will be able to pack 100 ton potentially per mission, and keep in mind that ordinance dropped from space would come in at near unstoppable hypersonic speeds from a platform that would be much harder to intercept than a B21.

  77. 30 times $10 billion is not viable.
    Elon and SpaceX with $50-100 billion per year in revenue will be able to fund a Mars colony. Where from?
    SpaceX should have got into the solar from space business instead of starlink. That would have been beneficial to earth with even greater revenue potential although the technical challenge is bigger.

  78. I do believe E. Musk will have his Mars city, even if he pays for it, in the same way Michael Jackson had his own amusement park. That’s the power of having enough money, freedom and a goal.

    I’m not sure it will be attractive for the masses to migrate there, though, beyond those of government employees, scientists, adventure seekers and a few fringe paranoid rich people seeking for a safe haven out of Earth.

    And of course, the people that will be paid to do some job there and then return.

    What I mean is the Mars settlement can exist and be working OK, but the dream of having another autonomous human world with millions of people by 2050 can still fail, by lack of people wanting to move.

    People will go wherever they see an opportunity to improve their lot in life, be it in terms of reputation, money, safety or freedom (any combination of them or all).

    If the Moon and LEO/MEO develop a lot of businesses in the coming decades, then there’s where people will tend to go.

  79. $5 billion of NASA? What happened to self funding with Starlink gold?
    SpaceX is a business and not a charity. To date, they have demonstrated self-funding of r&d for their core businesses. No paying customer(NASA), no mars base,
    no red Dragon, no red Starship.

  80. The similarities between Bezos and Musk are amazing. Both had Space dreams, and built *normal* companies primarily to do the dreams. Now that Musk is at least thinking of the Moon, as are many others, the next step for both is the Moon, as I have argued should be the case for over 40 years. Now, the question is whether the sort of things Musk proposes for Mars can somehow be made to work in Space. The circular hyperloop looks particularly easy, and that is where people will actually live.

  81. It will require significant bootstrapping. I’m not clear on what Mars would be able to offer in trade to Earth. Even if it is self-sufficient in materials, advanced technology will still have to come from Earth until Mars economy has scaled significantly. And then there is IP (medicines, technology, software services, etc.).

    Mars can trade with Earth in services. It might just have to be quasi-communist internally, maybe a bit like Cuba.

  82. It will probably happen because he lays the groundwork for settlement by others.

    When there will be rocket launchers and interplanetary ships that can land and return (that SpaceX built) and reliable communication of several Mbps between Earth and any place on Mars (that Starlink and its derivatives provided) and several modules on the surface with solar panels and nice electrical rovers (courtesy of Tesla and Solar City), and boring machines doing tunnels (also a courtesy of Musk), that is, with the table already served then the rest of the world will find irresistible to come to the party.

    Even if the guy will accept other’s help and money along the way, he is really thinking about enabling a second human world before he passes away, with or without the help and money. That is, he wants to give that gift to humanity, even if he has singlehandedly to pay for it.

    That’s some admirable dedication to a big cause.


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