Thoughts on Elon’s Mars Architecture


Preface

In writing about any architecture for space exploration I have a set of fundamental philosophies that govern my thoughts on the matter.

The Economic Development of the Solar System

It is my considered opinion that the economic development of the solar system is the best path (along with the development of advanced nuclear energy sources on the Earth) toward maintaining and advancing our human civilization, whether on or off the Earth.  The issues that those who believe in a Malthusian dystopia (population growth, resource depletion, energy) are all solved by this great leap into space.  The graphic below was first put together by the Chairman of the Board of General Electric, Ralph Cordiner, in 1960.

Cordiner fig 3
The Economic Development of the Solar System

Cordiner gave a speech in 1960 that was transcribed into a book by Simon Ramo (One of the founders of TRW), along with several other writers on the subject of the then just emerging idea of space as a realm of human endeavor.  It is at the link above and is a good background on the pre Apollo program view of space that I largely agree with.

Must Have Government Support, but Largely Private Direction

The reason for this is clear.  Not only was the Apollo program an exceptionally government directed program, for the purposes of the economic development of the solar system, it was an absolute failure.  The Apollo program was a child of the state, used for the purposes of the state, then tossed away with the state purpose was fulfilled.  This was at a cost of what is today hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer treasure.  Had things evolved more along the lines that Cordiner envisioned, it is likely that we would have never retreated from the Moon. This is just the way that government is, it can change its mind when political forces move in a different direction.

Additionally to the above point, western society, which has produced, through capitalism, individual liberty, and limited government, the most prosperous civilization in human history, it is not the state’s role to regiment and implement something as profound as the economic development of the solar system.  Government simply does not know how to do that.  You need look no farther than the last 50 years of government authored space exploration plans, books, and conferences.  They all have been geared around science first and development as an afterthought.  This is taking the concept of the international or national Antarctic base and foisting that worldview on the rest of the solar system.  It is unsustainable in practical terms, and undesirable philosophically.

Private actors will screw up.  One need look no farther than the first colony in North America by the British, led by Sir Walter Raleigh, that failed at Roanoke Island (the “lost” colony).  However, if you look at the enthusiasm for Elon Musk’s plans vs the government plans, it is not hard to see which one has more adherents (Musk of course).

Must Have An Economic Basis

While this might seem redundant to the first basis above, it actually embodies and codifies it into something concrete.  Thus in order for any architecture to be successful, it must incorporate into it a plan for economic output in the form of technology/scientific development, trade, manufacturing, and industry.  That is it has to be more than lip service.  The Jamestown colony in the new world became sustainable because they developed an economic product (tobacco) that covered the costs and provided capital for continued growth and economic diversification. The same must be true of off planet economic development, whether it is a robotic mine on an asteroid run by a fleet of robots or a human development on Mars, the Moon, or anywhere else (including free space), in the solar system. No one’s wealth is sufficient to maintain an off planet presence indefinitely without such activity and thus any architecture must have that in the plan.

The Plan and Thoughts on the Plan

“The SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System: The Beginning of Mars Colonization”

I start off with a website at http://www.spaceflightinsider.com that has a great synopsis and some fleshing out of the ideas that Elon presented.  That site is linked here.  The website gets it and has a title that gives a flavor for what the architecture is. which is an interplanetary transportation system architecture. The site goes into some greater detail but from a philosophical viewpoint there is no difference between their presentation and Elon’s that he gave at the IAC.  First of all, the title of the presentation and the website tells you what the architecture is and is not.  It is not a Mars colonization architecture.  It is a transportation systems architecture designed to transship a certain number of humans to Mars, and to destinations beyond.  Elon’s presentation is linked here.  Lots of pretty graphics and his goal is outlined in this chart, shown here.

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-4-15-08-pm
The Goal of Musk’s Mars Architecture

However, there is absolutely nothing in the presentation itself about the city on Mars or colonization at all.  Thus it fails criteria three immediately.  However, by implication it meets criteria one in that the desired end result is a city on Mars, which one would hope would be sustainable.  It does meet criteria two above as it is obviously a largely private effort, with little actual input from the government other than the inevitable oversight that will come with it.

The Mars transportation architecture, which is what this really is, is shown below.

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-4-11-48-pm
SpaceX Mars Transportation Architecture

One would expect, with SpaceX being a launch company, that this part of the architecture would be the most detailed in its exposition. However, I am somewhat surprised that almost no effort was taken to describe what the city on Mars might look like or how its path to sustainability would unfold.  Its not in the plan or the website or in any other information that I can find.  Not to worry, my good friend Robert Zubrin has all the answers.

The above being said, I find nothing inherently wrong about the transportation architecture itself.  Lots of people will disagree on details and Zubrin will chime in regarding how to make it faster, better, and cheaper, as well as some of the downstream issues. However, I consider these details of the transportation system. It certainly has room for considerable improvement but so far it looks pretty good and makes a good baseline for further discussion.

The spaceflight insider website does delve into further detail that Elon would be looking for scientific and engineering stake holders who would go first, along with cargo to begin the development of their favored location on Mars, but without any detail beyond that.  This is ok too as this is not a bad idea and it starts to build stakeholders and allies who have their own ideas in plans.  It is not possible for Elon and or even him and his great team at SpaceX to have all the answers today.

Necessary, Yet Not Sufficient, and That’s Ok

I think that Elon’s plan, or some inevitable evolution of the plan is absolutely necessary for the economic development of the solar system, yet it is not sufficient in and of itself to achieve that goal.  That’s ok, Elon and his team are not gods and to me it makes it more fun in that it leaves space for the rest of us to add our own ideas, plans, goals.  I say that it is ok also in that I think that Elon’s plan delivered in one critical area the thing that is most needed in our day and time, which is hope.

I got to Mexico and the IAC the evening of the speech that Elon gave on his architecture.  The auditorium was huge, and set up to seat several thousand people.  I was told that it was absolutely full for his presentation.  There were 90 people who stayed in that room all night to get a good seat for the presentation.  When the doors opened in the morning there was a mad stampede for people to get to their seats!  When was the last time that happened for a NASA official?  The answer to that is never, and thus in a single question you have the reason.  What Elon was selling was hope.  Not hope based on complete illusion as some space advocates do, but based upon past performance and future willingness to put all his money and credibility on the table to make it so.

Whatever else people may think of the architecture or Elon personally, that is admirable, and it is hopeful, especially for the younger generation that hears no end to the doom and gloom and have to put up with a couple of idiots running for president this year further depressing them.

I am quite sure that Elon’s team at SpaceX continues to work on and extend the vision that was announced in Mexico at the IAC.  However, it is not all up to Elon nor should it be.  There is enough space for everyone, and room to grow with and around his architecture.  Of course anyone who reads my work knows that I seen value in the Moon and as time goes by I will continue to fill in how I expect that to unfold.  Others are going to the asteroids for the economic development possibilities and those are good as well.

So, good on Elon and congratulations for being one of those in our society with the upward look toward a positive future for all mankind.  I will add a few comments on something that Bob Zubrin pointed me two a few days after the event that bears commenting on as it pertains to Mars surface operations and the development of a “city”

How to Approach Economic Sustainability

Bob Zubrin, the author of “The Case for Mars” and other books on Mars, pointed me to an article by Bruce Dorminey that he contributed to that came out just after Elon’s announcement of his architecture.  The article is linked here and its title is:

Why Geothermal Energy will be Key to Mars Colonization

It is a good article in concept, discussing why geothermal (it really should be aerethermal) energy is a must for Martian development (I don’t like using the word colonization).  At the end of the day, ANY off planet installation, whether it is an educational cubesat up to a Martian city has to start with energy.  However, I have not yet seen on plan, in 30 years of looking at such plans for the Moon, Mars, or O’Neil colonies, that provides a proper amount of energy to accomplish the three goals above, much less provide for prosperity for the colonists.

In the Dorminey article he references Bob Zubrin’s claim that a city of 10,000 people on Mars would only need 10 megawatts of power.  Are you kidding me?  That works out to a kilowatt  per person.  That means that for each person’s air, heat, light, computers, and communications, you would only need a kilowatt per person.   Its 24 kilowatts per day or a kilowatt per person per hour.  That is much too little energy for that many people to do everything they need to do in order to survive and prosper, on Mars.  If you just look at what it takes to run a house in areas that need a lot of heat and or air conditioning, the demand is higher.

Mars is cold.  Lets say that you do find these aerethermal sources and can develop a system for distribution for the heat as well as the power.  That would help but you still have industrial activity that must happen and you have all the things that are needed for humans such as water purification, waste management and treatment, hygiene, agriculture, In Situ Resource utilization, all of these things.  There is no way that this amount of electrical power will suffice.

When I do these things, I always start with what you want to do at a site and then figure out how much energy that takes, then multiply by two because you have to have redundancy as no energy source works 100% of the time.  Then you can start to fill in all the other details and then continue to work backwards to a transportation architecture.  It is possible to go the other way as Elon has done in his transportation architecture, but it can be easily seen that there is a lot of need for an implementation plan that starts small and then builds toward a sustainable development on the Martian surface.

This is where we can have a lot of fun, and I can guarantee you, that the Moon will have a vital role to play in developing Mars.  However, I cannot fault Elon’s plans as they clearly state that this is the beginning of the plan.  It is up to us to help fill in the details.  Elon cannot do this all on his own and we also have to step up our game as space and planetary architects to fill in the gaps and to flesh out the plans for the economic development of the solar system.

One of those things, and probably the first one to be done, is an end to end power analysis of what is required for not just 10,000 humans, but also the industry that is required to support them.  One might say that with inexpensive enough transportation that this is unneeded but that is a recipe for disaster.  What are these folks going to do on Mars, sit and eat bon bons and code for a living?  Mars is going to be an unforgiving place, requiring the best talents of all of those that live there, that is if actually living there is the goal. I absolutely agree with Bob Zubrin that these people, in the course of learning how to actually live on Mars, will develop all kinds of interesting new tech, new processes, and new approaches that can generate economic value, and thus bring income to the Martian city.  However, without a sufficient surplus of power, this will never happen.

Fun times!

NOTE: Edits to correct an error I made yesterday in the power calculation.  Was in a hurry.

 

 

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21 thoughts on “Thoughts on Elon’s Mars Architecture

  1. Dennis, you got the power discussion scrambled. Megawatts are already in the dimension of power, MJ/s, so the 10,000 people would each get 1 kw of power, integrated over 24 hours would be 24 kW-hr/day total energy delivered. “Watts per hour” is not a useful unit.

    Looking at it another way, 24 kWhr is about 86 MJ, the energy in a kg of TNT is 4 MJ, so an energy budget of about 20 kg TNT equivalent per day doesn’t seem too bad. I know I could get into a lot of mischief with that…

    Human basal metabolic rate is about 60-100 W, so Bob’s power numbers do look pretty low. My own house with no lights on but with an idling computer, various wall warts, and other ghost loads draws about 250 W without any major loads. Good power discipline might let you get away with around 2 kW/person, and certainly the effective $/kWhr for power on Mars would be breathtaking, encouraging clever conservation.

    1. Doug, yep your right, My brain was somewhere else today.

      That is discipline, that is far too little to run propellant plants, vehicles. For example the NASA SEV (Surface Exploration Vehicle) uses 24 kW to support its systems and mobility. That is one rover. Its simply not enough to do anything useful. For 10,000 people you need at least a gigawatt.

  2. Its really disappointing that people cant use the correct units for energy… “1kw per day”, really? Its so bad, even the ‘EDIT’ was meaningless as it just changed the numbers.

    A kilowatt is a measure of flow rate, not a measure of an amount of energy!… Its like you are mixing up miles and mph.

  3. A good old-fashioned space elevator can be made out of commodity materials “on” Mars.

    Still need rockets to get you there, but once you are, everyplace in the solar system can be dirt cheap to access.

    A potential “killer app.”

  4. I’d like to see you along with Elon Musk, Bob Zubrin, Jeff Bezos, and Paul Spudis in a panel discussion. I’m also thinking of the 3-legged stool debate (moon vs. mars vs. asteroids).

    Interesting thought of Musk’s plan is beginning of a plan, and the rest of us can add and work the details. My question is can this scale up? Obviously Apollo could not scale up to routine use. I take it any plan that has everything brought from earth cannot scale up to a useful settlement (or development) so that can be dismissed. Then I guess debate will be where to get resources (i.e. water and power) from the Moon, Mars, asteroids? Which to do first (yes I’m biased after reading your Spudis’ books) but then the Mars Underground is a formidable force.

    1. It would be fun. In 1993, Bob, myself, and Peter Diamonds were at the ISDC in Huntsville AL. There was a big party in a room and it was too loud to talk and so Peter, Bob, and myself went out into the hall and sat in the floor and just started talking about Martian colonization. Within about 45 minutes, there was no one in the party, and everyone was sitting around us listening to the back and forth and contributing.

      It was a lot of fun.

  5. Dennis,
    Interesting comments on Musk, but I feel his proposal is off in never-never land. It’s too difficult and costly to do and sustain with chemical propulsion. I sketched out my thoughts for doing something similar (but not aimed at Mars) with NTR in my second book “The Nuclear Rocket: Making Our Planet Green, Peaceful and Prosperous.” I don’t know if you have read it.

    Essentially, I argue to start with a small-sized core, using a cargo plane/chemical lift to get it to 100k feet or so, then firing the NTR to take the payload to LEO. From there one builds a solar system transportation system, fine-tuning subsequent NTR generations to specific missions. Then, once experienced development teams and operational know-how exist, building larger core NTRs can start and the missisons they support, starting with space stations 10x+ larger than the ISS. Think of the old von Braun rotating space stations. Later, Mars fits in somewhere.

    A fundamental assumption here is that a solid-core NTR has a lot of development potential, much beyond what current NTR proponents think. Some old Rover-NERVA hands speculated 1600-1800 seconds, but unfortunately they are no longer around. Another fundamental assumption is private sources would fund this with the government making a contribution in kind. There would be a lot of money to be made from it. A lot.

    I’ll be happy to send you a copy of my book if you haven’t one.

    James A. Dewar

    1. James

      Would always take a space book! I completely understand where you are coming from and I have always been a fan of NTR. However, for now, what Elon has done is open the conversation. People are starting to seriously consider that going to Mars and living there is a possibility.

      As I said in the missive, its time for the rest of us to step up and show how we can make that plan faster, better, cheaper. I am a strong advocate of lunar resources and lunar development. It is my opinion that this has amazing leverage for the task at hand, which is larger than just Mars.

      What Elon did was good, and at least gets the conversation past NASA’s Antarctic base on Mars fallacy.

      1. Dennis,
        You can provide your mailing address here or I’ll give you my email address and you can provide your mailing address there. There may be other choices, but if there are I am unaware of them.

        Actually, now that I think of it, you could call David Livingston of The Space Show and tell him your address and then he and I would get in contact. That might be a very secure way. I trust David not to give it out.

        After you read the book, we can have a conversation. NTR requires a different set of basic assumptions than chemical propulsion.
        Jim

        1. Unless there is a major asteroid threat, the first NTR will be built either on the earth and launched empty with the uranium coming from the Moon, or a Thorium nuclear electric vehicle with 110 megawatt reactor. VASIMR makes sense then.

  6. In some ways I am looking forward to change in attitude/direction/whatever after the elections to include serious discussion about the Moon besides you and Spudis. I remember Moonfest at Ames Research Center in 2009 with presentations by Lawrence Krauss, Pete Worden. Also lots and lots of displays from stuff children can build and also play games, scientists and engineers hosting booths where general public have opportunity to ask questions, lunar rock display a nice 1/2 inch chunk where you can see the pock marks caused by micrometeorites. And the Ames Jazz Band playing songs that have “moon” in the lyrics, i.e. “Fly Me To The Moon.” What fun and very educational too.

  7. “What are these folks going to do on Mars, sit and eat bon bons and code for a living? ”

    It seems to me, that NASA would need people on Mars to explore Mars- but doesn’t need many
    people. With settlements what are all these people going to do.
    One thing a lot people do vs say less than 100 people, is they will drive down wages- more people
    than work to do. Or say what they do is something like retirement- don’t need a wage. But one still have people there who could get something done [cause they are bored]- so that drives down wage cost.
    It seems on Earth one could built a business faster than being on Mars. Or having existing businesses allows one to build a business faster.
    With 10,000 people one we needs a government on Mars and probably a Mars government on Earth. But anyhow doing government work is something some of Mars settlers could/would do.
    And it’s possible a large portion of the 10,000 will do governing type things- police, city plan, courts, etc. And it’s unlikely they have the same political views.
    The advantage of not having rapid population growth is a smaller group can develop a political system- they might try one thing and find that doesn’t work. Etc.
    And it’s anthropology theory that larger groups have more conflict. Or according to the theory
    people can only know at most about 500 people, so limiting social groups to less 500 people would tend to reduce conflict/stress. Or with primitive tribe in Brazil, these groups reach a population of about 150 people- despite fact that they are a warring culture and there would obvious a military advantage to having an even larger tribe. Or it has nothing to do biology it’s the development of social rules which allow larger human groups- software vs hardware.
    But with advanced social rules, one it’s easier being part of small group of 500 people or less [within civilization of hundreds of millions].
    Plus a 500 size group has system to reduce conflict which new settlers may going to Mars in order to get away from such systems.
    Or said differently a mars settlement are capable of devolving into primitive type societies- particularly if have silly ideas like the characteristics of primitive societies are something to attain rather than something to avoid.
    Now, the social ideas about work and work ethics are quite modern or very alien to primitive societies, and relevant to idea what are the 10,000 people going to do in general sense.
    But also there is the practical or more limited scope of logistical problems.
    So who going to make food, why are they going to make enough food. What is the price of food?
    If everyone are farmers, you have an economic problem.
    Though advantage of 10,000 people is one could have market for food- assuming everyone isn’t
    growing their own food.
    So before thousands go, they going need idea of how they going to live- cost of food, cost of living areas, cost of electrical power, cost of communication, cost of water and sanitation. Etc.
    And people returning from Mars will be more trusted as source of information- what is it really like living on Mars? Plus you will lies and rumors regarding living on Mars. People will die. There will be crimes and accidents and illnesses. All these increase when one has more people involve
    and are amplified when have more per year going to mars and with no history/cultural of dealing
    with it.
    In summary it seems like it would take a while to grow from 0 to 1000 people, but if well governed one could have exponential growth.
    And also think pretty close to impossible to have more than 1000 people on Mars and not be
    mining the Moon- and regardless if there is minable water on the Moon.
    Anyhow biggest problem with Mars or Moon is the lack of exploration.
    Perhaps Musk plan will make NASA realize it should do some exploration.

    1. Interesting discussion about political system for a Mars colony (or perhaps should use the word settlements). If settlement requires significant re-supplies from earth probably use authority system like on a ship or Antartica base. Also depends on kinds of people settling Mars, i.e. upper class astronaut types quite different than those settling the New World. But I see this as moot, first try something on the Moon. Then there is Wingo’s repeating the 1960 reference by Ralph Cordiner of GE… what could have been and what maybe we will revisit that trend.

      1. There is a large distance between “self sufficient” and “sustainable”. To take the baseline of what we do in Antarctica, none of our bases there are either one. They do nothing locally to offset the logistical burden (and in fact are precluded from doing so by treaty) and are completely reliant on their supply chain.

        There is no such thing as self sufficient here on the Earth. No city on Earth can stand on its own, nor can most nations. However, they are all sustainable because of trade and local productive activities that generates revenue. I do not see Mars, even done properly as being completely self sufficient. However, as here on the Earth, it should and indeed must, become sustainable. If it is the province of science alone, then it will be neither.

        1. That’s a very important point and it has a bearing on my comment about the age structure of a Martian settlement.

          If the settlement can never become self-sufficient then it can only survive for as long as it has trade links with Earth. It will always need to import some vital goods even if it is making a profit on what it exports. Therefore it will never need to generate its own population because it will always have the transport infrastructure to bring in new people from Earth. It will also have the means to deport people who don’t fit in or who can’t cope with Martian life, which is likely to be an important safety valve for social conflicts.

          But it also means that there will never be any need for anyone to be born on Mars, so all the practical difficulties of raising children in that environment no longer matter.

          It also suggests that it would always be unethical for anyone to attempt to have children on Mars. To do so would mean bringing a child into an environment where it would never have any companions of the same age and where the infrastructure required for child-rearing and education was absent. It would also be a danger to the rest of the inhabitants to have a kid running around who was too young to understand safety protocols and the importance of not playing with the equipment.

          Another ethical concern is that if the settlement was always dependent on certain imports from Earth there would always be a risk that it might have to be abandoned if those items could no longer be obtained. The reason for this could be as mundane as a decline in the demand for whatever the settlement exported to pay for its imports. But it might be impossible for someone who was born and raised in 0.376g to survive for every long under the 1g of Earth. He or she might have to choose between staying behind to face certain death on Mars or leaving to face a slower and more painful demise on Earth.

  8. It’s worth noting that the existence of a permanently-inhabited settlement on Mars doesn’t necessarily imply that people will be born there or be able to spend the rest of their lives there, due to the problems of childhood and old age.

    We won’t know how the lower gravity of Mars affects the human body until people have lived in it for several years. We won’t know if normal reproduction and growth is possible under those conditions until Mars settlers have raised several generations of animals that provide an adequate human analogue. It would be unethical for anybody to have children on Mars or to allow a child to travel there until we have evidence that its physical development will not be compromised.

    We do know what prolonged confinement and isolation might do to a child’s mental development. We also know that children are impulsive and irresponsible and might easily damage something important. A settlement that includes children needs very extensive living space and very robust life-support systems. It will probably take decades of development to reach that point.

    Old age is equally problematic. The first Mars settlement will require lots of construction and maintenance work. Experimental systems to extract resources from the environment will require constant attention. It’s unlikely that the settlers would have enough time to look after people who could no longer fend for themselves, or have medical facilities that could treat all the degenerative conditions of old age. It’s even less likely that anybody would want to travel to Mars just to work in a rest home for the elderly with the living conditions of a submarine.

    The only practical solution is to restrict the early population to healthy adults. Settlers would travel there as adults and then leave before the effects of old age set-in, and while they were still fit enough to adapt to normal Earth gravity again. They would also need to have useful technical skills so the viable age range would be around 25 to 50.

    But in some ways this is a good thing. There aren’t that many people who would be willing to commit to a one-way trip and some of them would later regret it. If there was no way back some settlers would become rebellious or suicidal. Even getting enough qualified people to commit to a 25-year contract would be a problem, especially if you were trying to build a proper Mars city instead of just filling a few tin cans in the desert. Going to Mars at 25 is awesome but trying to start a new life back on Earth at 50 is not.

    But if you could go and work on Mars for a few years, with the option to then come back to Earth or commit to another term, then recruitment would be easy. It would be a similar deal to joining the armed forces – a multi-year commitment and an element of danger for the sake of doing something important.

    It would also transform how people saw Mars. If going there was a one-way trip it would be seen as a vocation suitable only for the most dedicated explorers. But if you could spend some time there and come back then it would come to be seen as more like a foreign country than a distant planet. The more people who could be sent there the greater the impact would be. So we should dismiss any vision of Mars settlement that involves the settlers having children and spending the rest of their lives there because it won’t be possible for decades to come. The best approach for the near-term is a permanent settlement that is constantly expanding and improving its living conditions, with as many people as possible passing through for short stays of a few years at a time.

  9. It’s also worth considering the question of global economic governance. Dennis, I’m not sure how much your work has already covered this so apologies if I’m preaching to the converted.

    But any economic plan for an off-world settlement must consider the extent to which international trade is now governed by global bodies setting global standards. For example, CODEX Alimentarius sets global standards for food safety and the International Maritime Organization sets standards for shipping. There are many, many other bodies in just about every industry.

    The standards that are agreed at a global level are passed down into national law and the laws of transnational organisations like the European Union . Any nation that wants to participate in international trade has to accept these standards. Any off-world settlement that wants to trade with the existing nations of Earth will need to conform to them too.

    For example, if Mars exports Unobtainium to a factory in Germany then it will need to conform with EU regulations on the import of Unobtainium which in turn will conform with the relevant World Trade Organisation rules about the trade in that class of minerals. If their standards say that the ore must not contain more than 2% Nogoodium and the Martian ore contains 3% Nogoodium then the shipment will be rejected.

    To some people this may seem like bureaucratic obstructionism or some obscure detail of implementation that is irrelevant to the glorious vision of the conquest of space. But if we want to look at the economics of space settlement then it is absolutely crucial – if you need to trade with Earth, you need to conform to Earth’s trading standards. This means that the factories and mines of Mars, indeed its whole economy, cannot just be designed to supply the needs of Earth. They must be designed to meet the specific standards that will allow their products to be imported by the nations of Earth.

    If you haven’t considered this issue before then it’s a huge can of worms. Once you look into it you might conclude that it’s some kind of infinite worm cannon. But it’s an absolute bottom line for the economic viability of any off-world settlement that it must conform to the Earth’s emerging system of global trade standards, like it or not.

    1. A very well considered position. I do think that you make a good point, but one at this time that is fairly far down the list of problems. It does make the list though.

      However, if those rule are too onerous, then there are plenty of countries that are not part of that system that will play handsomely for unobtainium 242.

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