# I Moon vs Earth for launch to Mars

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1. Jan 4, 2018

### Al_

Great idea!
To get the required infrastructure up there, may I suggest first sending robotic mining equipment to the Moon...

2. Jan 4, 2018

### Al_

We seem to be getting somewhere.
About a million for a small town gas station perhaps? And if I may be allowed to say that a trillion is too high, that gives us a range of 10^6 to 10^12.
Anyone got anything that could pin it down further?

3. Jan 4, 2018

### PeroK

There are two sorts of project. A project that essentially you have done before, perhaps many times, and for which you can accurately estimate the costs. And a project that is significantly beyond anything you have ever done before. The latter project comes not only with an almost unlimited potential for cost overruns - whatever budget you put on it - but also with the significant chance of eventual failure.

I wouldn't bet on an EU project that attempted to deliver a Moon base being an eventual success. As an EU citizen (for the time being at least) I might feel it was beyond the capability of the ESA and was a project with too high a risk of failure.

The only sense in which I would disagree with the $1 trillion is that you might spent all of it and still not have your Moon base. 4. Jan 4, 2018 ### Ken Fabos Historical examples of exploration and colonisation relied on proven, economically viable technologies that were in every day use. They also went to places where basic necessities already existed in familiar forms and in abundance; whilst the lunar "exploration" was purpose built technology, it also overlapped broadly with ongoing development of other aerospace technologies. And whilst the Moon landings certainly qualify as exploration it was never purely for that reason or done comprehensively by sending people there. Manned missions were never the best and most cost effective way of doing exploration. Other motivations figured highly. If there is a historical precedent for colonisation where everything had to be purpose built using technology in advance of what was in common use I'm not aware of it. Tourism to the Moon is not going to be a fantastic demonstration of the richness of the resources of the moon, I think it will be a fantastic demonstration of the richness of Earth. As a staging post for Mars the Moon would only work if there is already advanced industrial capability in place there and the people there want to send a mission to Mars - ie the moon has to have an advanced economy of significant size and complexity first, which developed for other reasons. Otherwise it's an extra complication to an already complex mission; it would add to the costs and difficulties rather than ease them. I don't think that kind of development will happen unless there are resources that can be exploited and exported to Earth at competitive costs and frankly I don't think there is anything on the Moon or Mars that cannot be mined, refined, processed and produced - and delivered - far cheaper locally. I think one of the most fundamental things that has to be in place for any large scale activities in space - including Moon or Mars - is a comprehensive and compelling business plan. One that demonstrates the potential for a good financial return based on exploitation of space resources - financial returns, not necessarily for the colonists but for the Earth based investors. Spin off earnings may help but I think that only if the economics of the core activities are compelling will it work - the spin off's won't be sufficient. Last edited: Jan 4, 2018 5. Jan 5, 2018 ### stefan r Here is a picture from 2012 of field tests Hawaii: Oxygen production is certainly proven. We do not see a lot of commercial machinery that extracts oxygen from rocks. That is because oxygen is available from in an atmosphere everywhere on earth. SpaceX claims that it can use the BFR for launch to orbit, land on + launch from the moon, and launch to Mars. They also intend to use the BFR for earth to earth traveling. (video) They currently plan to start launching in 2022. They drew us a picture of it on the moon: The plan for launching to Mars includes several rendezvous for refueling. (video, refueling at 2:20) SpaceX has not built a BFR yet. But the schedule will either be on time in 2022 or get delayed. The rockets will either work or fail. If we assume that BFR works then we can talk about the best source for the LOx. We can also contemplate which orbit would be best for the rendezvous. Phobos should be the destination IMO. Why do you say Phobos instead of Deimos? More generally: is it better to have the fuel depot/station higher or lower in a gravity well? Would that apply to Callisto vs Europa? How much of a detour is too much? 6. Jan 5, 2018 ### Noel 50 7. Jan 5, 2018 ### |Glitch| Building the First Spaceport in Low Earth Orbit Watch John Blincow from Gateway Foundation and Tom Spilker from JPL discuss constructing The Gateway, a spaceport through the method of "Block Construction." This lecture took place at the Keck Institute for Space Studies/Caltech on January 13, 2016. Even though this lecture was two years ago, it seemed pertinent to this thread. 8. Jan 6, 2018 ### Vanadium 50 Staff Emeritus Reason 1: I said Phobos because I didn't think people would get the point if I said "start on the Martian surface". My point (which seems to be missed) is that this is essentially the same as answering the question "How does one best get from New York to LA?" with "Start in Anaheim!" Reason 2: If I said funding a trillion-dollar moonbase with tourism is like Judy, Mickey and the orphans' "Hey, let's put on a show!" people wouldn't understand the reference. 9. Jan 6, 2018 ### Ken Fabos Stefan @55 - those are not pic of technology that are economically viable and in every day use. The technologies to get people to Mars safely, provide essential for them there and return them are not what I call proven and in every day use. This is probably stretching the discussion beyond the initial subject even if I didn't start the stretching, but - I remain very doubtful about the worth of manned missions to Mars or Moon - doubtful that it can be done except at great cost or that any of the proposed missions can deliver any financial returns that are not the recycling of Earth's wealth back to people on Earth. Especially, I can't see it as a viable pathway to colonisation in space - which I think can only be an emergent outcome of an enduring history of commercially successful exploitation of space based resources - those core activities being commercially viable in their right - in the service of a large and successful Earth economy. I don't believe that establishing colonies can work as a primary motivation; like I said in previous post, I don't think there will be anything on either Moon or Mars that can be turned into something that can profitably be exported to Earth. "Lifeboat" scenarios compete directly with Deep Bunkers and I think Deep Bunkers (many already in existence) will remain the preferred choice. Enduring survival of any space colony requires that it have all it's own, widely comprehensive industrial and technological capabilities; it needs to be a large, successful, resourceful and broad based economy, the equivalent (I suspect) of a large industrial nation's economy. Or else it's not going to survive long past when it's equipment wears out. But then, I don't count Mars or Moon as particularly worthwhile targets in the first place. Tourism isn't enough despite the hype and apparent willingness of some people to pay very large amounts of money. Souvenir Mars rocks won't be enough. The Reality TV broadcast rights won't be enough. Being able to make water and air or other materials for on-site use using equipment brought from Earth won't be enough. New patents developed along the way won't be enough. Proving the viability of mining of asteroids with actual refined ingots delivered to Earth cheaper than can be obtained on Earth would be a real step forward - and I suspect that is something still far beyond our current or near future capabilities. A tourist destination on the Moon or Mars would be like having a resort at the South Pole or at the top of Mt Everest - it may be viable as a outside owned, outside operated, outside investor profiting venture but it won't and can't make the backbone of a viable, self-reliant colony. Last edited: Jan 6, 2018 10. Jan 6, 2018 ### sophiecentaur This has been discussed many times, already. The Earth has readily available raw materials on or near the surface as a result of volcanic activity. The surface of the Moon is very different as there has been little or no such activity. Perhaps meteorites could be a source of some useful elements but where would the other elements and compounds come from for the chemical extraction processes? People seem to ignore just how totally different every aspect of life would be away from Earth. My comments would possibly not apply in the extremely long run but the OP is discussing the initial steps of planetary exploration. 11. Jan 6, 2018 ### sophiecentaur If people aren't careful, I can see Elon Musk becoming the 21st century version of Nicola Tesla in the minds of the public. I agree that he could very likely crash and burn because a space project would not be important enough or 'too big to fail'. Many of Musk's competitors would just be laughing up their sleeves (or out loud). 12. Jan 6, 2018 ### nikkkom What are you talking about? With his prices and accelerating launch rate, Musk is already killing Proton and ULA. Arianespace is next to the chopping block. What "crash and burn"? 13. Jan 6, 2018 ### stefan r I was hoping this thread could include more orbital dynamics. We have samples of rocks that got here from Mars. During the late heavy bombardment both the earth and the moon were hit by many asteroids. There must be both terrestrial and lunar meteorites on Mars. Can we estimate the ratio? Most of this happened 3 to 4 billion years ago. It is nice that we are not likely to see a major comet impact in out lifetimes. We can still talk hypothetically about the relative probability of a surface chunk making the trip instead of falling back down. 14. Jan 7, 2018 ### sophiecentaur Have they actually launched a Mars Project yet? Crash and burn doesn't only imply a financial fail. How many fails (or lost lives) will regular investors fund? The market doesn't have the same attitude to projects that JFK managed to instil into a whole nation. 15. Jan 7, 2018 ### nikkkom That was not my point. You said "many of Musk's competitors would just be laughing". As things go now, there *won't be* "many Musk competitors". At best, a few foreign launch providers will be surviving by subsisting on launching their governments' payloads. In US, NASA and ULA are becoming not viable as launch providers - the price gap is scary. Also, SpaceX success spurred a few private copycats, notably Bezos' Blue Origin looks technically promising (and it is backed by Bezos'$80B!). Even if SpaceX somehow fails, it already have shown the way how to make space much more accessible. Someone else will succeed.

16. Jan 7, 2018

### sophiecentaur

You are making the assumption that Space X will actually succeed. Fact is, to most people, it makes little difference whether or not it succeeds and the "competitors" I referred to will not necessarily cease to exist. They may have failed or just withdrawn from the field when they see they are not going to get any immediate returns

17. Jan 7, 2018

### nikkkom

They succeeded (wildly) as a launch provider. And fingers crossed, they may launch their first 64ton-to-LEO Falcon Heavy this month, making their rocket the largest, by the factor of 2.5, operational launcher in the world. For the price of one Ariane-5 launch!

Cost of launch was the largest obstacle for all of humanity's space efforts, Moon/Mars programs included. SpaceX dramatically lowered that. Now, even if SpaceX magically disappears right this day, it would not matter: now we _know_ how to make launch much cheaper.

I'm not emotionally attached to SpaceX per se. If someone else builds the Mars base, it's fine with me.

18. Jan 7, 2018

### sophiecentaur

I think the big difference between a Launch and an Expedition is who would pay for it. Customers will be queuing up for their satellites to be taken into orbit at a good price. Who is prepared to invest private funds in a project with a totally unknown return? How long term do investors, other than nations, work?

19. Jan 7, 2018

### Chronos

Looking at it from a purely physics standpoint, a launch from the moon is much easier than a launch from earth. The escape velocity from the moon is just over 2 km/sec whereas from earth you need over 11 km/sec The problem is in getting all the llaunch resources from earth to the moon. If the raw materials needed are already present on the moon. problem solved. [mostly].

20. Jan 7, 2018

### Staff: Mentor

There are two companies working on this radically better launch technology, and two more are looking into it. Or should I say "landing technology"?
Reusing rocket components is something we do now. SpaceX recovered the first booster just two years ago, now they have reflown a couple of them, reflown two Dragon spacecraft, and they seem to recover the fairings at least partially. Reusing the full rocket is something we can do in maybe 5-10 years. That is a leap as large as from expendable aircraft to reusable aircraft.
Exactly: There were never expendable aircraft. No one built them because they would have been ridiculously expensive. With rockets there was a market even for expendable rocket. Imagine how large the market can be if we can use the rockets like airplanes.
BFR can go to the Moon and back with a lot of in-orbit refueling - with something like 2000-3000 tons of fuel launched from Earth. It can bring back something like 200 tons of payload from the Moon, maybe twice that amount if it gets refueled on the surface. Using that payload for fuel wouldn't make any sense even if we would have free and unlimited tanks on the Moon.

From LEO you need 4.3 km/s to reach Mars. From the surface of the Moon you need about 3.5 km/s. If you want to mate a rocket from Earth with fuel from the Moon the fuel from the Moon needs 5.7 km/s delta_v just to reach LEO (3.2 of it can be done with aerobraking) and 5.7 km/s more if you want the system back on the Moon for the next trip - for a sum of 8.2 km/s for a Moon<->LEO shuttle. That is nearly what you need from Earth to LEO. And producing 1 ton of oxygen on Earth is much easier than producing it on the Moon. With chemical rockets, as long as you build the rocket on Earth and don't have a lunar space elevator or similar, it makes no sense to bring fuel from the Moon.
If we consider lunar space elevators, we can also consider concepts like the StarTram which can potentially launch things to space at basically the electricity costs once it runs. If LEO launches are as cheap as an airplane flight, there is no point in a Moon-based propellant production, you just launch more from Earth.
None of them will cease to exist. The US government wants to have two launch providers, Russia and the EU want to have their own rocket for government satellites. SpaceX will probably get an even larger share of the commercial market.

21. Jan 7, 2018

### stefan r

The rendevous in LEO might work poorly. Earth-moon Lagrange 1 looks a lot better. From EML1 it takes 1.2 km/s to reach mars. The launch from lunar surface to EML1 needs 2.5 km/s. Getting to EML 1 from LEO requires 3.8 km/s. So the astronauts, rocket, and luggage (and methane?) lose 0.7 km/s when they make a detour to EML1.
The worst part would be landing the methane needed to lift oxygen.

If we go solar the electricity costs are lower on the moon. No clouds or atmosphere to block sunlight. The StarTram itself would work much better on the moon. The magnetic sled does not need to leave the surface so magnetic breaks can recycle the electricity. There is no need for a heat shield. The cargo does not hit an atmosphere. The ship does not have to fit into a tube. A lunar StarTram would not need to be elevated so there is no active support structure. Refrigerating kilometers of niobium-titanium conductor drains a lot of power. I have not seen a suggestion for magnetic launch Earth direct to Mars would likely be thousands of km.

Anything that makes launch to LEO cheap or easier will also make establishing lunar colonies/depots cheaper or easier.

22. Jan 8, 2018

### sophiecentaur

Actually, there were several occasions during WW2 when troops and equipment were landed by (non-reusable) gliders. It made sense at the time, on an Engineering basis. Link.
There can always be a use for a non-reusable craft.

23. Jan 8, 2018

### Al_

Interestingly, Deimos has a 30hr rotation. This means that people and plants might be able to adapt to the day-night cycle.
Plenty of dust for shielding. A spacecraft that rotates for simulated gravity on the journey to Deimos would be able to continue rotating there, even with added shielding. Super low gravity means takeoff might be possible even with ion drives! Possibility that the interior contains water ice, and the low-g makes digging easier. From Diemos, it would be possible to control robots exploring the surface of Mars in real-time, virtual realty style.

24. Jan 8, 2018

### Al_

I think not. Elon Musk seems much more hard-headed than Tesla. His degree, if I recall, was Economics and Physics.

25. Jan 8, 2018