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Space Technology

Company to Settle and Mine Mars 526

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the places-i-would-like-to-be dept.
Rutgersen writes "Wired is reporting that a new startup is planning to colonize and mine Mars by 2025. From the article: 'The new company, 4Frontiers, plans to mine Mars for building materials and energy sources, and export the planet's mineral wealth to forthcoming space stations on the moon and elsewhere.'"
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Company to Settle and Mine Mars

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  • by phaetonic (621542) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @01:57PM (#13501587)
    This is the kind of news I expect to read in 2005. Cool.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      What news? All I can see is "You need Macromedia Flash to view this shite.".

      1. Learn what a website is.
      2. Colonize whatever
      3. ???
      4. Taco's a fag!!!
    • There has been plans (even written down to level of details, like methods of aquiring methane and converting it to water) of colonizing Mars short after landing on Moon. So, this "kind of news" is present in media since early 70-ties.
      • There has been plans (even written down to level of details, like methods of aquiring methane and converting it to water

        OMG thank you so much for that info. I'm showing that to my g/f tonight to explain the streaks in my underwear.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @01:57PM (#13501589)
    I hear this company is using the following computers:
    6.8GHz 1TB RAM and 2TB HDD Laptop
  • Numerials! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tachikoma (878191) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @01:57PM (#13501592)
    Something about companies that have numerals in their names just makes them seem so reputable and trustworthy! I'm gonna sell my house and buy a butt-load of stock in them!!
    • by Bearpaw (13080)
      Something about companies that have numerals in their names just makes them seem so reputable and trustworthy! I'm gonna sell my house and buy a butt-load of stock in them!!

      It's safer to diversify. May I suggest that you invest half in them and half in our company -- 69ers Incorporated?

      (It's a mining company, of course.)

    • by Proaxiom (544639) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:03PM (#13501654)
      I myself am a bit wary of investing in a company whose business plan consists of collecting lots of cash and taking off to Mars with it.
    • I know you are being sarcastic, but still I would have liked to have been an early investor in 3M or 3COM. Maybe its something about the number 3 as opposed to other numbers.

      Also, never invest in any company with one X in the name. (I worked for two failed startups with an X in the name.) Two Xes is OK.

  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @01:57PM (#13501596)

    Today bleak despair swept across our fair world when it was revealed by the Council that the invaders from the evil blue planet have formalized their invasion plans, and may arrive in force in as little as ten years.

    K'Breel, Speaker for the Council, stressed that there was no cause for alarm:

    "Noble Citizens, I tell you that the disgusting inhabitants of the evil blue planet will not find us easy prey. We will never surrender. We will never give up. We will fight them on the dunes. We will fight them on the plains. We will fight them in the cities. We will fight them in the canals. We will fight them to the edge of the empire, but we will never, never, Never, Never, NEVER SURRENDER!"

    During the hyper-patriotic riot that followed, several Citizens were trampled. In its infinite Wisdom, the Great Council has posthumously decorated them as war heroes.
    • Official Statement of the Unified Resistance Front of Mars (QKTLM):

      Ah, K'Breel, I see that the cowardly gne'el spawn still lives. How is that prosthetic forelimb serving you? Doesn't have quite the senation that your real one did, didn't it? Let me assure you, we still have dozens more martyrs-to-be waiting in your security services, many of whom are better shots. I swear on this beloved red soil, the QKTLM shall wrest control from you and your sycophantic toadies!

      K'tah nrglah tn hk'tah ginr'l Marstv'k
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman @ g m a i l . c om> on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @01:58PM (#13501602) Homepage Journal
    As the old saying goes, "if it's too good to be true, it probably is."

    Still, it's nice to see someone attempting to hold to their dreams. And I'd dearly love to believe that they will carry out such dreams. Unfortunately, I (and many others here) understand what a massive undertaking it is to reach Mars at all, much less place a settlement there. Nearly every company in existance bases itself on existing infrastructures. This company would be able to leverage very little infrastructure, if any at all! (Especially if they chose to use the wealth of undeveloped space technology.)

    I'd love to see their breakdown of exactly how they plan to make this mission happen, and on what buget they think they're going to acheive it on. Will they use existing rocketry technology, or will they develop their own? What are the precise economic goals? Will they be relying on any other efforts (e.g. the CEV) to achieve their goals? Just how do they think they're going to get approval for nuclear propulsion? (See the Jobs page under Engineering.) Do they have any experience in these areas, or are they making it up as they go?

    No. There are far too many variables to count for me to take this on face value. There simply isn't enough info. Perhaps others could shed some light on their long-term plans?

    Update: It looks like the partly plan to make their money by building the technological infrastructure themselves. According to this document [4frontiers.com], they feel that they could be turning a $29.7 million dollar profit by 2010, 15 years before they establish their settlement! This document [marshome.org] supposedly shows their plan of attack, but it seems so preliminary that it suggests that the company plans to make it up as they go along.
    • by over_exposed (623791) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:05PM (#13501682) Homepage
      From their site: Development of intellectual property applied to the four frontiers, R&D programs, educational and demonstration programs for students and the public at large will frame the uniqueness of 4Frontiers.

      How exactly is "intellectual property" going to be enforced once you leave the confines of our planet? Assuming they (or someone) can create a viable, long term colony on mars, the moon, a space station, wherever, no laws will apply to them. They could manufacture anything they want. Want a SpaceBose stereo? How about a copy of MicroSpace Windows? Who wants a MoonPorche?

      I really hope the US doesn't assume the role of pushing our laws and practices into the 'final frontier.' But the question is, who gets to start the process? Do we leave it up to private companies? Whoever has the strongest military?
      • I'd like to see your military make it to Mars. He'll I'd like to see your space program make it to Mars.

        Ain't gonna happen.
        • He'll I'd like to see your space program make it to Mars.


          Hey, man, our space program is on Mars right now. Just because the current vehicles only carry cameras, don't think we can't send over the heavies [gizmag.com]


          Damn uppity Martian settlers, next thing you know they'll be declaring independence and throwing Coca Cola into the harbour... ;^)

      • by brokeninside (34168) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:21PM (#13501849)
        ``they (or someone) can create a viable, long term colony on mars, the moon, a space station, wherever, no laws will apply to them''

        As long as they need to trade with Earth for at least one essential items, Earth will be able to browbeat them into accepting copyright conventions.

      • Why? Because they don't have plans for actually leaving. My guess is the "going to mars" thing is a way to attract attention from starry eyed (pun not originally intended) investors and scientists to work for them. Then they'll just develop technology in many fields (mining, aerospace, medical, communications, robotics???) and just lease out the rights to use the tech. I bet Bruce Mackenzie doesn't really expect to make it there any time soon, but wouldn't mind helping others eventually get there (and p
      • The simplest way to enforce intellectual property is the ban the import of goods that flaunt the law. No need for interstellar police forces, or invasions, or anything dramatic--just good old-fashioned trade embargos.

        And remember, you can be sued in US courts for actions anywhere, even on Mars. So if these Martian people have any assets or business presense in the US, it's pretty simple to prove the relationship and use the local assets as a proxy to inflict punishments on the offenders.
      • "How exactly is "intellectual property" going to be enforced once you leave the confines of our planet?"

        Don't you think that 10 years (2015) is quite long enough for the RIAA, the MPAA, Sony, and Microsoft to attain space travel -- combine MSFT's bankroll, **AA's militant in-your-face attitude, and Sony's robotics, and I would say that that represents one heck of a potent capability (almost Borg-like.)

        Of course, by 2015 the USA government itself will be an ineffectual basket-case, having wasted all its reso
    • by garcia (6573) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:07PM (#13501703) Homepage
      I'd love to see their breakdown of exactly how they plan to make this mission happen, and on what buget they think they're going to acheive it on. Will they use existing rocketry technology, or will they develop their own? What are the precise economic goals? Will they be relying on any other efforts (e.g. the CEV) to achieve their goals? Just how do they think they're going to get approval for nuclear propulsion? (See the Jobs page under Engineering.) Do they have any experience in these areas, or are they making it up as they go?

      They are betting on the fact that people don't require any of that to give money away. They are "hiring" people for a company that is full of freedom and is pro-exploration but gives no solid foundation of how they will remain employed.

      Making plastics is great and all but how do you expect to get people there and start the colony so that people can actually make these items w/the materials that are so readily available?

      Update: It looks like the partly plan to make their money by building the technological infrastructure themselves. According to this document, they feel that they could be turning a $29.7 million dollar profit by 2010, 15 years before they establish their settlement! This document supposedly shows their plan of attack, but it seems so preliminary that it suggests that the company plans to make it up as they go along.

      Just as I pointed out before, without actually saying it, this is very similiar to any dotcom startup in the 1990s. No true business model, no real plan, and no real company. Just a bunch of money and the web.

      This is nothing more than an advertisement to gain capital.
      • by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:47PM (#13502086) Homepage Journal
        You're right, but I think there's a business model to be found there. The first thing that comes to mind is the same defense that many use regarding space exploration: innovation. While the goal and long-term plan might involve getting to Mars and setting up shop there, along the way they'll need a lot of technological advancements. Licensing that technology, the patents, etc. would make the journey just as profitable as the destination.

        Sure, this is a fund-raising PR move. But if they come anywhere close to their goal by that time, I'd guess they'll be an awfully powerful and rich company by then simply from their patent portfolio.
  • mine Mars for building materials and energy sources

    Proof of an extinct alien life form then - fossilized bricks and dynamos.

  • by abes (82351) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @01:58PM (#13501606) Homepage
    Great, there goes the neighborhood!
  • NASA (Score:2, Funny)

    by xlr8ed (726203)
    Someone should inform NASA so that they can remove any of their probes on the Martian surface. They cost a lot of money and I'm sure NASA would want to know if they are in danger.
  • Right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mukaikubo (724906) <gtg430b@NOSpaM.prism.gatech.edu> on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @01:58PM (#13501608) Journal
    I know the typical Slashdot geeks will wet their pants over this, but this simply isn't reasonable, guys.

    Mine WHAT? The economics and physics of the situation are such that Martian material is valuable for using on Mars or in Mars orbit. That's IT. And even then, what does Mars have? The only really importnant thing is organic chemicals and suchlike, because otherwise it is boring mineral slag.
    • Re:Right (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Eggplant62 (120514)
      Good point. Another good point to consider is that when they do go and look around and start mining all this material, who's going to say it's safe for import to Earth? We have no idea if there is life on Mars, but I'd bet my slim fortune that if there is life on Mars, it's microbial and probably not too friendly with our own biological systems. For all we know, it may even be downright dangerous, highly infectious, and could wipe out all life on Earth.

      Who's going to be in charge of ensuring the safety o
      • The bigger concern honestly is contaminating Mars and ruining a search for life there. That could be an unprecedented scientific screwup and definitely one I could see a private company doing.
    • You are asserting things about which you have no clue. For example, it's much easier to get to the moon or the asteroids from Mars than from Earth. And I'm not sure why you think Mars' minerals are any more "boring" than Earth's.

      Take a look at Zubrin's "The Case for Mars" to get a clue.

    • Re:Right (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NardofDoom (821951)
      There's no reason for us to believe that Mars doesn't have the same minerals as the earth does. And they haven't been exploited like Earth's have, so they're in easily accessible locations.

      Since Mars has water, CO2 and a 24ish-hour day, everything exists to create fuel and oxygen and grow food. Mars has lower gravity than earth, so launching is significantly less energy intensive, and transfer of raw materials back to Mars just requires reaching escape velocity and falling back toward the Earth.

      Everything

    • If you'll cast your minds back, about 65 million years ago, the Chicxulub crater, (that's the one that was left from the impact that wiped out all the dinosaurs,) was a mere 145 to 180 km in diameter (70 to 80 miles for the metrically challenged.)

      Imagine that you want to be the BIG ASS BOSS of everybody and everything, no lip from anybody, period. And they can even make lots of bucks doing it.

      You know what damage a 145 to 180 km kinetic weapon can cause. Extinction! Bad for business. Now think small. Real s
  • by geomon (78680) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @01:59PM (#13501610) Homepage Journal
    All of these future claims are just investment ballons floated to fleece the easily duped. There are plenty of technological problems associated with mining Mars including lifting the mined material off the surface. Bob Park wrote in his book "Voodoo Science" that it would cost more than $800USD to put ~$300USD of gold into orbit. His conclusion was that if gold were available in low-Earth orbit, it wouldn't pay to go get it. That is the first thing they teach in an economic geology course.

    The materials on Mars are no different than here on Earth, only the abundances are different. So you mine a bunch of aluminosilicates [anl.gov] and then what? Do these people realize how much energy it takes to break those bonds? Where is their proposed power source? The amount of solar energy reaching Mars is less than here on Earth. I hope they weren't counting on that source. Nuclear energy might be useful, but I don't know of anyone who has done a uranium assay of Martian ores. Are we going to ship power to Mars? How is that cost effective?

    Unless these people have gone through a complete analysis of what it costs to go to Mars then I can't see how any of them can make any claim of profitability, let alone put a target date on their venture.
    • Without doubt there are many logistics (and technology) to work out. So while perhaps it is very (if not extremely) forward looking, it might not be without merit either.

      For example, with our progression towards automanufacturing, it might possible for self-constructing robotic colonies (in the far future) to not only collect of resources, but creating the necessary products, tools, etc. as well.

      Why bother on Mars? Well, assuming that we don't care about possible life forms there that may or may not exist,
      • Not just mining, but think about manufacturing processes.

        Yes, but what will you make and how will you get it to market?

        That is the same problem that faces these folks who want to move far away from civilization here on the EARTH. They pick some lonely stretch of highway, put a trailer on the side of the road, and open up a store. The number of potential customers is 5 per month. They wonder silently why they are going broke.

        This plot is right out of the Martian Chronicles.

        As for energy, there are the obviou
        • Duh! After landing on Mars they'll change their name to Union Aerospace Corp. Then they'll begin some high end weapons research - specificly working out how to let a normal guy hold a chain gun without ripping his own arms off.

          Once they've mastered that, they'll litter the place with chain saws for reasons passing understanding and begin dimentional rift research.

          Don't you people know anything?
    • Gerald Bull [wikipedia.org] was actually on his way of getting payload into orbit with a gun, as opposed to a rocket. I'm pretty sure he would have succeeded, were he allowed to continue his research.

      Finally, what about the space elevator [wikipedia.org] ?

      My point is, reaching orbit is going to get cheaper, one way or the other

      • My point is, reaching orbit is going to get cheaper, one way or the other

        Possibly. But to formulate a business plan on the slimest of possibilities sounds like a scam. We might be able to levitate the stuff into orbit; want to invest?

        And Gerald Bull was killed in Belgium because of his obsession with building his space cannon. I don't think I want to end up like ol' Gerald.

    • So you mine a bunch of aluminosilicates and then what? Do these people realize how much energy it takes to break those bonds?

      It really doesn't matter, because they've already developed and implemented a method to make a profit by seperating the bond between a fool and his money. The only resource they're going to tap into are the rich supply of suckers readily available here on Earth.
    • by jwdb (526327) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @04:09PM (#13503055)
      it would cost more than $800USD to put ~$300USD of gold into orbit. His conclusion was that if gold were available in low-Earth orbit, it wouldn't pay to go get it.

      Maybe I'm misreading something, but isn't it significantly more expensive to put something into orbit than to get it back down, and if so, what's the cost of putting gold into orbit got to do with going there to mine it and bringing it back?

      It may cost $80 billion to get $30 billion of gold into orbit, but if it only costs you half a billion to launch the shuttle into orbit then it is most certainly worth going to get it.

      Jw
      • It may cost $80 billion to get $30 billion of gold into orbit, but if it only costs you half a billion to launch the shuttle into orbit then it is most certainly worth going to get it.

        If the shuttle was still allowed to take a load back from orbit (or it was even allowed to fly at all), it could carry 40,000 pounds back to earth. There's 14.58 troy ounces in a pound, and gold runs int he $450 an ounce range these days. 40,000 * 14.58 * 450 = ~262 million.

        If gold ingots were available, 99.9 pure, in

  • Reak site (Score:5, Funny)

    by pr0nbot (313417) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:00PM (#13501622)

    Hmm... their real website seems to be slashdotted:

    http://www.ua-corp.com/ [ua-corp.com]
  • This is one of the better ideas for a startup company I've heard, but then again I've spent the past 15 years or so on the Internet.
  • Wow.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by angst7 (62954) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:02PM (#13501641) Homepage
    Welcome to BS day on Slashdot. Although by 2025 they may well have a 6 gHz laptop with 2TB of disk space to take along.

  • Can be found here [sfy.ru].
  • by yimitz (469911)
    Anyone got a Martian calendar? I bet it says "April 1st."
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:08PM (#13501708)
    Until we see a declaration like the following from a country that pays at least lip service to property rights (and that has sufficient weapons to back up said property rights on behalf of shareholders) any attempt to privately colonize Mars and sell its resources for profit, is doomed.
    The first person to land on Mars, and to live there some specified minimum duration (such as a year), and to return alive owns the entire Red Planet.

    Who Should Own Mars? [capmag.com]

    Think of it as the ultimate X-Prize. An entire planet for the taking.

    The day anyone comes up with a viable business plan (which the guys in the Wired article, unfortunately, haven't done yet - and probably can't do so long as there are no private property rights in space), put me on the first colony ship of homesteaders.

    • by Johnny Mnemonic (176043) <mdinsmore AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:44PM (#13502058) Homepage Journal

      Think of it as the ultimate X-Prize. An entire planet for the taking.

      Good point. I'll let you colonize Mars, build up some nice infrastructure--then I'll drop rocks on you from orbit. The first person can plant their flag--but unless you can defend it, too, that doesn't do you a whole lot of good. And the value of the Mars settlement is directly proportional to the interest a marauder would have on taking it away.

      There's not a lot of legal protection, either, as naturally all of our treaties encompass only earth territories. Even a formal declaration, should there even be one, from the UN that the first person to the New World gets to lay claim to it is only as good as long as it's enforceable--the French planned to take the Louisiana territory back from us, even though we had legally bought it.

      So go ahead, lay claim all you want. But you better look over your shoulder, too.

      • by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @03:19PM (#13502476)
        > > Think of it as the ultimate X-Prize. An entire planet for the taking.
        >
        > Good point. I'll let you colonize Mars, build up some nice infrastructure--then I'll drop rocks on you from orbit. The first person can plant their flag--but unless you can defend it, too, that doesn't do you a whole lot of good. And the value of the Mars settlement is directly proportional to the interest a marauder would have on taking it away.

        Which is why I added two caveats in my original post.

        1) The country that makes the declaration has to pay "at least lip service" to property rights. That barely knocks China off the list. Japan's fine. Most European nations (EU or otherwise), as well as the current USA are also probably OK.

        2) "...and that has sufficient weapons to back up said property rights on behalf of shareholders. " In other words, the Principality of Sealand doesn't count. Neither does Canada.

        The weapons I spoke of are those currently operated by Earth-based governments, and currently employed to defend the interests of the Terran shareholders, not the Martian homesteaders.

        > There's not a lot of legal protection, either, as naturally all of our treaties encompass only earth territories. Even a formal declaration, should there even be one, from the UN that the first person to the New World gets to lay claim to it is only as good as long as it's enforceable--the French planned to take the Louisiana territory back from us, even though we had legally bought it.

        Correct.

        Not to bring the French into it again -- but the French could have use force to defend their economic interests in their oil contracts with Iraq in early 2003. They chose not to - and probably for everyone's benefit. Had they chosen to defend those assets with force, the US would have been placed in an... interesting position, to say the least.

        > So go ahead, lay claim all you want. But you better look over your shoulder, too.

        Exactly.

        But with all that in mind -- let's go back to your original rock-dropping proposal: Whether MarsCorp's Terran assets are protected by the nuclear weapons of the USA, China, Great Britian, Russia, India, or France, or whether they're simply defended the rock fortresses of Switzerland and Japan, wouldn't it be cheaper (in terms of not having to rebuild the devastated infrastructure from scratch) for the Mnemnonician government to simply tax its citizens and authorize itself to simply buy a 20% interest in MarsCorp?

        The better parallel isn't so much the French taking back the Louisiana Purchase, but the Chinese government (through CNOOC) attempting to purchase oil and gas assets by proposing mergers with Western producers.

        It's better to pay dollars (even if those dollars are immediately exchanged or gold or Euros) for Western oil and gas assets than to risk war by taking them by force. The rising price tag of our own adventures to secure Gulf oil assets is but one example -- considering the current price tag, we probably should have simply outbid the France/Germany axis and bought the goddamn country out from under Saddam, with all its oil assets intact.

  • by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:12PM (#13501744) Homepage Journal
    Mark my words, the minute anyone gets anywhere close to something like this happening, the governments of the world will shut it down. Mars is a completely unique environment, and the environmentalists will make sure Mars gets put off limits "temporarily" to colonization while they do "further studying before human contamination."

    Of course, the temporary ban will eventually become permanent.

    Can't happen? It already has -- See Antarctica. No one owns it. Most of the countries of the world have a treaty not to exploit it.

    Think they'll just say, "Let them try and stop us? We're there, they aren't. We have guns." Please. Get over your frontier fantasies. That was possible when you had frontiers with fairly hospitable terrain (even if harsh). With Mars, there's no way you can set up a self-sufficient colony right away. They'll HAVE to have support from Earth. If Earth wants to shut them down, they'll just stop the supply rockets from going.

    Planetary colonization will NEVER happen in this solar system. Look to asteroids and colonies in space for your space travel future.

    • mining antarctica [coolantarctica.com] is not worth it. History shows us no government will stop mining or extracting resources from a country because of environment reasons. If the oil in antartica was cheap enough to extract, and that was not harmful for our planet (as mining mars is not) the USA or another country would probably already have done that by seeking for some WMD. :)
  • Here is how things turn out [imdb.com]. So don't come crying to use when your astro robot dog goes psycho and destroys all your hard work and plans.
  • by OzPhIsH (560038) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:13PM (#13501757) Journal
    C'mon guys, this news is WAY old. All of the plans have been on display for fifty years at the local planning office on Alpha Centauri.
  • by vertinox (846076) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:14PM (#13501770)
    I had planned to lead a Miners Revolution on Mars in 2026. That and deformable terrain ;)
  • funding... (Score:3, Funny)

    by number6x (626555) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:17PM (#13501803)
    For funding we will leverage our current investnments in the golden gate and brooklyn bridges, which we just bought off some guy.
  • I am so glad to see capitalism working the way it was intended. To him who gets there first is rewarded with the spoils. Yea! Lets rob another planet of it's resources and destroy it in our wake! I am sure it looks great to the corporate pillagers who take glee in the fact there are no current residents to sue them for the environmental damage they intend (sorry, inadvertently intend) to cause. Won't we ever learn from our past mistakes?
    • by joelsanda (619660) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:31PM (#13501929) Homepage

      Won't we ever learn from our past mistakes?

      We learn plenty from our mistakes. We have numerous State and Federal departments whose intention is soley the protection of the environment.

      What we don't do is implement what we learn.

    • by Ingolfke (515826) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:47PM (#13502083) Journal
      I am so glad to see capitalism working the way it was intended. To him who gets there first is rewarded with the spoils.

      Other than the fact that the company is private/public and not a government agency, this has nothing to do with capitalism. National property boundries are purely political.

      Yea! Lets rob another planet of it's resources and destroy it in our wake!

      Explain this. Who is being robbed? Although the entire plan is ludicrous, isn't it better to use resources on an uninhabited planet in a way that cannot impact the earth's environment, where evereyone lives... of course you probably believe the the removal of the minerals from Mars will reduce it's mass, resulting in changes in gravitational balance in the solar system, resulint in use moving closer to the sun, resulting in more global warming...

      Won't we ever learn from our past mistakes?
      I'm tyring to remember the last time we mined something from another planet... must have missed that in my history books. Got a link?
      • " this has nothing to do with capitalism. National property boundries are purely political."

        ...And your point is? It's still capitalism and I don't see where national property rights or boundries have anything to do with this one.

        "Who is being robbed?"

        The planet, as I stated. Are you fimiliar with the term 'personification'? Nobody lives in the ocean on this planet, does that mean it is ok to pillage it of it's natural resources?

        "I'm tyring to remember the last time we mined something from an
  • .... oh never mind
  • Anyone else notice? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gruneun (261463) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @02:30PM (#13501925)
    On the Bios page, the company's IP attorney is listed before the scientists and advisors.

    Maybe, it's nothing.
  • by ChiralSoftware (743411) <info@chiralsoftware.net> on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @03:07PM (#13502332) Homepage
    Ok, in all these proposals for mining Mars and the asteroids, they talk about looking for water, carbon, building materials, etc. It seems like the most important thing they should be looking for is uranium (or thorium). Yes, you need water to make fuel and oxygen, but you can't get fuel from water without power. Same with all the other projects. How are you going to run mining equipment, provide power for the habitations, etc?

    Also if you can find extraterrestrial (not from Earth) fissionable material (uranium or thorium) that means you can avoid the risks and expense of having to launch it. A lot of people get upset if there's a proposal to launch a 100kg RTG. Well, to power a mining colony, they will need a lot more than 100kg of fission fuel. What kind of public reaction would there be to the proposal of launching several tons of uranium? It would be much better if they could dig it up on Mars and use it on Mars.

    Some of the terraforming projects require moving asteroids of ice to Mars. Again, the only way you can do that is with a nuclear-powered mass driver on the asteroid, and it would be nice to not have to launch that much uranium from Earth.

    So when my company starts its Mars base, the first thing we're going to do is find the uranium, and then we'll sell electricity, H2 and O2 to all the other companies that want to (effectively) sell dirt and water. I suspect there's a lot better markup on electricity than there is on dirt and water.

    I assume there is uranium on Mars, but I've never heard of anyone looking for it or discussing it. It seems to me that if there are no extraterrestrial sources of uranium, that's going to be a big problem for colonization of space, because it really will take thousands of tons of uranium to provide all the power that's going to be needed for serious mining and fuel production. And no, solar power is not going to work for this. Mining and fuel production requires too much power for solar to be a realistic option. For any activities beyond Mars, solar gets even less realistic. As long as solar is the power source, power is going to be a very tight limiting factor, whereas if you've got a few hundred tons of uranium, power will not be the limiting factor.

    Also I wonder if uranium would make a good radiation shield? It seems like DU would be quite effective for that?

    The good news is that if you set up a reactor on one of Mars' moons or on an asteroid or in Mars orbit, you can make it enormous and not need any real containment structures. If the uranium is available, it might be much cheaper to build extraterrestrial reactors than it is on Earth.

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    • How are you going to refine the uranium (or other fissionable material) into useable fuel though?
      • by ChiralSoftware (743411) <info@chiralsoftware.net> on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @04:39PM (#13503360) Homepage
        Ok, some of the basic steps are the same. Uranium is going to be about 0.7% U235 on Mars, just like it is on Earth, because all the uranium in the solar system was probably formed at the same time, so it has all decayed at the same rate. So you start with the same basic problem: you need to sort out the U235 from the U238. Not easy to do.

        But on Mars it's a lot easier than on Earth. First, safety is not as much of a concern. If you have a big radioactive spill on Earth, you've caused a lot of problems. On Mars, well, no one is drinking the groundwater anyway and the whole place is already uninhabited. So that greatly simplifies your factory.

        Second, you don't need to run on 100% uranium fuel. Here on Earth, no one wants to generate plutonium for reactors because of proliferation fears (founded or not). On Mars, proliferation is not a concern. Anyone who has the technology to get to Mars should be able to build atomic weapons fairly easily, and atomic explosives will probably be needed for engineering work, so spending time worrying about proliferation on Mars is silly.

        The good thing about being free to burn plutonium is that it's easy to make plutonium from the left-over depleted uranium. All you need is a big neutron flux, pump that through the depleted uranium, and you get plutonium fuel.

        What this means is that on Earth, you need to mine 140 tons of uranium metal to get one ton of U235, which is the only kind that works as fuel. On Mars, you mine 140 tons of uranium metal, extract the 1 ton of U235, and use that to convert the remaining 139 tons of U238 to plutonium. We can't do that on Earth for political / military reasons, but we can do it on Mars.

        So yeah, many of the same problems remain, but the whole process of going from uranium ore to energy would be a lot simpler on Mars.

        Once you have a basic reactor going (enough to generate fuel) you can start lifting your raw uranium ore into Mars orbit. It's a lot easier to get off the surface of Mars than it is to get off of Earth. Then you refine it in orbit, where you can be as unsafe and messy as you want, you blast all the waste products into the sun, and you send back down your refined U235 or plutonium fuel rods.

  • Bottom Line (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tnk1 (899206) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @03:18PM (#13502462)
    For Mars to become worth colonizing, it has to have something that is worth more than it costs to ship it back to Earth. At the moment, I simply can't think of anything that would qualify due to the high costs of getting it out of the gravity well and to Earth, Only when a material runs out on Earth and easily farmed asteroids will Mars become a profitable source, and the only thing I can think of that we're near running short on would be oil, and Mars isn't exactly Saudi Arabia, if you get my drift.

    We'd be better off skipping Mars and heading to the asteroids for metals, comets for water, and the gas giants for methane/hydrogen/whatever. Personally, I think Mars may only become useful to inhabit if it was used as the anchor for support space stations for deep space mining elsewhere. Then it may be worth building an elevator to the surface and transporting up more common materials you'd otherwise get from Earth or asteroids.

    Nevertheless, there is a decent chance that once there are regular commercial interests in deep space, Mars may be colonized for other reasons than resources. It may make a fine home for some group that wants to get well away from the rest of the Earth's population and can use existing commercial technologies to get them there cheaply. I'm thinking of survivalist groups, certain religious ideologies or simply highly independent people who want to go somewhere where they can live without interference from others. Say what you like about these groups, but they often take the hits in opening up wastelands and other undesirable places for eventual mainstream settlement.
  • by guacamolefoo (577448) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @05:12PM (#13503667) Homepage Journal
    The idea is so preposterous that it is unimaginable (just like the laptop story earlier today). All the posts explaining *precisely* why the idea is idiotic probably took something like a few thousand man hours to write/read.

    What a waste of space. Nobody is going to make money going to Mars in the next 20 years. Bank on it. Nobody is going to Mars in the next 20 years. Bank on it.

    The only money to be made on this boondoggle is by fleecing money from dreamers.

    Space exploration with meat in the exploration vehicles is a total waste of time and money. Send a robot. The current Mars successes are wonderful reasons why we shouldn't send meat to Mars.

    By 2025, we'll all be so jacked into our VR worlds banging Jenna Haze that we won't give a shit if we go to Mars anyway.

    As a reference, I cite Kurzweil's Age of Spiritual Machines, which I refer to by shorthand as "the porn fantasy book." We're all going to be circuits and software someday anyway, so the idea of saving humanity by exploring space is ridiculous anyway. We'll be able to send ourselves anywhere in the universe without the meat, given enough time, starting in about a hundred years, if we haven't solved Fermi's Paradox ourselves the hard way.

  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Wednesday September 07, 2005 @05:15PM (#13503687)
    So you get to Mars, somehow, and start digging up "valuable" minerals for the space stations. Only one glitch-- how do you deliver the goods? You think UPS Air is expensive, try UPS Vacuum. At least $10K a pound, and what if they're not home?.

What ever you want is going to cost a little more than it is worth. -- The Second Law Of Thermodynamics

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