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Paying for It

Updated on October 16, 2014

Paying for It

Creative Commons license  Some rights reserved by Wayan Vota
Creative Commons license Some rights reserved by Wayan Vota

Who is going?

Just you? You and your immediate family of spouse and children? Several generations including grandparents and grandchildren? You and your friends (because you are going to get away from family)? You and your neighbors like in that movie Plymouth? You and your congregation? Like high-tech Amish?

The answer affects how you plan and how you pay for it.

What are you taking with you?

They say you can't take it with you. However, people who say that are generally talking about death. This hub is about resettling in another part of the Solar System (or even farther) and finding a habitat. If you are going alone, then you have to take everything from A to Z because turning around the car and moving van is not an option. If you think it is, then you have no clue about space travel. Settling the high frontier is in its infancy and you will be a pioneer. That does not necessarily mean you have to rough it in a log cabin. After all, there are no tress out there to supply the logs for the "log cabin". You would need to first create an atmosphere and then grow trees and wait about fifty years for them to grow large enough to supply building material -- only to find that wood is a lousy building material off-world. Moreover, if it somehow caught fire, the fire would use up valuable oxygen better used for breathing. Better building materials are using the dirt and ore you find and turning it into concrete, glass and steel.

Rather than attempting to take everything and forgetting the one thing that costs you your life, better to go with a group. In a group, you can take the tools of your trade and then trade what you make for things that other people make. Just like on Earth.

When and Where you go affects how much you pay

The first people on Mars will stake out the choice property. This is pretty much the highest elevations and the lowest elevations. The plains have nothing to stop the horrible Martian dust storms and later arrivals will get the cheap land -- in other words the dust bowls.

Down at the lowest point on the surface of Mars are great temporary rental possibilities. I put emphasis on the word temporary. It is great because the atmosphere is thickest at the lowest point on the surface of Mars and the first people to breathe terraformed air on Mars will be there and the warmest place on Mars will be there. Right now Martian air is thin and lacking in oxygen but as soon as terraforming begins and forestry and farming takes root, the first breathable air will be found at the bottom of Valles Marineris (the Grand Canyon of Mars). This is a big deal because people will get tired of being stuck either indoors or wearing spacesuits outdoors. People will long to take off the spacesuits and go outside. Wearing a respirator and concentrator (like in that movie Robinson Crusoe on Mars) instead of a spacesuit will be a step toward normal living. Besides being great at the low point, it is also temporary because with the coming of a thicker atmosphere comes rain. The rain will fill the canyons of Mars and turn them into oceans.

With oceans, it then becomes clear why you want to have land on the Everest of Mars (Olympus Mons) when it turns into a Waterworld.

The dry land (for now) at the bottom of the canyons has value as a prime location for Mars scientists (equivalent to Earth scientists), cave explorers, spelunkers, speleologists, archaeologists looking for any sign of past civilizations, paleontologists looking for micro-fossils, and tourists who want to see the canyons before they become oceans.

The highlands, on the other hand, will improve as ski resorts and as the Mars equivalent of Switzerland and Aspen as snow falls on Mars in quantity. Although Mars could have plenty of sand yachts (like in 1979's TV miniseries The Martian Chronicles), the first water yachts will float on the first lakes on Mars down in the canyons.

To sum it up, the first billionaires to Mars will pay high prices for transportation but the land will be free for the claiming and settling. Absentee landlords will have their claims taken because inhabiting and possession is what counts. The late arrivals will pay more reasonable prices for transportation but the affordable land will be the Dust Bowl plains subject to dust storms. However, anyone good at soil conservation and soil building (introducing soil bacteria and dune grasses) to hold the sand in place until food crops can be established could turn the worthless plains into valuable farmland. This is true of Ceres as well. Greenhouse/hothouse food and food shipped from Earth will be too expensive. Monsanto GMF is exactly one of the reasons that people are leaving Earth and only fools would want the stuff.

Why you are going affects how much you pay

A company intending to do business on Mars long term may actually pay you or subsidize you to go. So if you are going as a colonist, then you may want to strike a bargain.

If you are going to do research, then a university or a major corporation or a government may underwrite your travel grant. However, you will need to be scary smart. Way smarter than the astronauts who went to the moon. Students need not apply until there is actually a Mars University on Mars -- and the first off-world university will not happen for a long while. On the other hand, one of these diploma mills (like University of Phoenix) might declare a storefront on Mars as their Martian campus and start issuing diplomas to asteroid prospectors to underwrite the cost of maintaining a branch office on the red planet. It is all about the bottom line.

If you are going for recreation as a tourist, then you will pay the highest prices the tourism industry has ever known. However, billionaires will expect to be pampered no matter where they are in the universe. If some bureaucrat expects them to run on a treadmill or do some science experiment, then a quick call to the president and that bureaucrat will be unemployed. Billionaires will be going to do sightseeing. On Mars, that means Cydonia and a long list of features on Mars recently discovered.

After Mars, the top tourist destination will be Saturn (rings and moons). Jupiter's moons will run a close third place. Until there are faster planetships, tourists will not be headed to Neptune's Triton any time soon. A pity.

Most everything else will be boring mining colonies. Lucrative and generating jobs but boring to those who have to maintain the automated mining machines -- unless the mining companies have enough sense to develop relationships with space tourism companies. And even then, strip mines are ugly sights and mining tunnels are dangerous insurance liabilities. Worlds with agricultural possibilities (Ceres, Mars, a terraformed Venus) have the best chance for a diversified and, hence, stable economy.

Another opportunity is based on location. Ceres is central and the dividing line between the Inner Solar System and the Outer Solar System. As real estate people say, "location, location, location."

Callisto, one of the Galilean moons of Jupiter, is the ideal location for a starport because there is a source of helium-3 (necessary for fusion) in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter and Jupiter is useful for slingshot effect to gain speed and for braking maneuvers.

Work, study or play affects how much you pay.

Plymouth-1991 Unsold Pilot TV Movie Part 1

How will you pay for it?

  1. Credit card -- Six figure charges are likely and, therefore, this is unlikely.
  2. Mortgage on a prefab home off-world
  3. Sign yourself over to indentured servitude. It might surprise you that this institution is still very much with us when people are desperate to escape from one place and desperate to get to another place. People escaping from North Korea to South Korea can find very friendly people. At the other end of the spectrum; people leaving communist regimes in Asia can suffocate in container ship trailers and be sold into slavery. People leaving poverty in South & Central America can find themselves left to die in the hot desert or raped in fields and factories. Space, being somewhat more expensive than Earth, may have built in safeguards. [Editor's Note -- Personally, I do not think much of this option but I include it for completeness.]
  4. Get a job with a space company
  5. Become a billionaire. Requires luck, hard work, and business school connections. So they say.
  6. Invest in space companies and hope one of them becomes the next Google. [Space entrepreneurs are very leery of greedy venture capitalists and they should be.]
  7. Become an astronaut with NASA and screw the taxpayers by sticking them with the bill for your junket while lecturing those taxpayers that they don't belong in space: "Space is for professionals." [And NASA wonders why taxpayers are more and more hostile to it.]
  8. Save your money. There was a group called House of Tomorrow that advocated this approach. Until ground to orbit transportation drops below one hundred thousand US dollars, this is a bit slow. You could be retired and too old and unhealthy to acclimate.
  9. Cash in a very large insurance policy.
  10. Get someone else to pay for it under a court order or a court settlement. See the Plymouth section in this hub.
  11. Sell everything: sell your car, your house, your boat, and all your investments. They say that the average middle class person is a millionaire in terms of total estate or assets (though not in income). This fire sale will net you enough to buy passage to the moon or Mars where you can then earn enough to pay for passage even farther if you wish. It will be like living in Alaska where people can pull down large sums in short periods of time.
  12. Raise large sums in virtual currency like BitCoin. [Editor's Note -- While I do not think much of virtual money, if someone accepts it, then someone has accepted. One does not argue with success.]

To be continued: More will be added as they are pointed out to me.

Those who do not pay their debt are killed for sport.

These people are loaded for bear and for people who try to leave without paying.
These people are loaded for bear and for people who try to leave without paying.

BBC News How should we pay for things in space


As they become available, I will be adding facts and figures and tips.

  • It may surprise you to learn that people in the space industry themselves are loathe to state specific dollar amounts (like pulling the teeth of a great white shark while it is eating you).
  • As it becomes available, I will add bankers' rules of thumb (percentages) and refer you to software and other planning tools with financial equations.
  • One calculation you will not have to make is amount of propulsion and fuel needed to reach low Earth orbit (unless you plan to build your own spaceship). Leave that to the transportation people.
  • The types of calculations to make are time of transit (important if you will be in suspended animation or cryosleep) and currency exchange rates. However, Galactic Paypal may make even that simple.

PayPal Launching Product for Space Tourism Payments

Winklevoss Twins Going to Outer Space and Paying with Bitcoin


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