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  1. To be blunt here in the disclaimer, there is simply no possible way to replace all the elements that would be required to build and replicate space colonies. The key factor here is that with really efficient ION drives and solar panels we could ship the most rare elements to where they are needed. The basic assumption here is that if you have electricity that any form of an element can be converted to any other form. You might want to have a smelter, a greenhouse, a chemistry facility, milligravity, etc. Lets start with the basics. Hydrogen - storage form H2, H20, Pt-H - While hydrogen is the most common elements in our solar system, it largely resides outside of earth in inconvenient places namely the Sun and the gravitationally inaccessable gas giants. Its density in outer solar systems objects is higher then inner solar system objects (except the gravitationally heightened sun). The sun produces hydrogen, lots of it, problem is to get close enough to harvest it the level has already fallen. There is far too much need for hydrogen to bring it from Earth or other gravity wells. Hydrogen is the most basic reducing agent, it is the smallest and compounds in which it is found have the highest volatility and lowest viscosity. Because of its high energy per sp, sp2, sp3 and ss bond/mass hydrogen is a major component of rocket fuels, particularly first and second stages. It is also a component of fuel cells. Because of its volatility hydrogen is first lost from planets that a hot and/or have no atmosphere. Hydrogen H20 - water, required for life, electrolysis, chemical synthesis, air conditioning, greenhouses NH3 - Ammonia, required for fertilizers, used in air conditioning and cooling systems. CH4 - Methane, one of the simplist fuels, can be used to make higher organic compounds and ammonia. CH3CH20H - Ethanol . . . . . synthetic intermediate in the making of synthetic oils and other fuels. H2NCRHCO2H - Amino acids . . . .Required to make protein, R (CHOSN) containing side chains H2SO4 - sulferic acid . . . . required for life, to hydrogen to reduce sulfate is an essential process for biological oxidation HCl - hydrochloric acid . . .for the extraction of metals from high complexity ore. Required for life, a precursor for some refridgerants, for the preparation of some electronics. etc. H3PO4 - phosphoric acid . . . for life, for extraction purpose, fertilizer. Option 1. Mercury exploit, charged particles from the sun pound mercuries surface and slowing them down, using a pulse charge system protons and electrons can be directed into a set of channels where they can be pumped and collected. Critique- landing on mercury challenging,bringing the electrods, channeling the surface, etc more challenging. Option 2. Comet exploit, comets are occasionally thrown from the kuiper belt into the inner solar system where they degas, wrapping and heating the comet could capture these gases. Comets are generally are in high dV orbits relative to earth, stablizing those orbits so they can be harvested is difficult, stable zones are devoid of sustantial solar electric power, a nuclear electric power plant may be required. Option 3. Lunar option, problem is that the level of hydrogen in the form of sublimated materials is probably not enough to sustain a lunar colony, let alone expand. Carbon - Storage form graphite, diamond, organic compounds, dry-ice. Outside of the earth is one of the most frequent elements found in gases of non-gas giants with atmosphere in the form of CO2 and methane, also present on comets. Carbonates are also found bound to metals in asteroids and other soils. On hot planets like mercury and venus carbonates are driven off of metal into the atmosphere. Carbon also acts a reducing agent, although under some circumstances is can be an oxidezer, it is a general thicken of fluids, fluids with high carbon complexity tend to be more viscous and less volatile, diamond as a good example of the effect of branching sp3 bonds. Carbon CO2 - required for life, greenhouses, blood chemistry, concrete and basically stone based construction. CH4, Ethanol, amino acids, oils, see above - see hydrogen =C= (sp3) diamond, required for high end devices and for drills (embedded diamond dust) =C- (sp2-p) graphite, found in graphene and other modern graphene based structures. component of carbon-fiber, light weigh building materials. Option 1. Moons of martian planets Option 2. Short perioid comets. Oxygen - is the primary oxidant, diatomic oxygen (02) is rare where photosynthetic life is absent, the most common reduced form of oxygen is water, but oxygen is also a component of CO2 and is more stable in rocks (asteroids and rocky planets than hydrogen), it is also found in comets and is a small component of solar wind. Option 1. Moons of martian planets Option 2. Short period comets. Option 3. Kuiper belt planetoids and trojan objects of Jupiter and Saturn. Critique - transfer orbits take generations. Nuclear is an absolute requirement. Nitrogen- Nitrogen is a key component for life, it is also a major component of hyperglolic fuels as well as solid fuels, therefore it is almost essential to have nitrogen for deep space operations where main engine fuels may not be required, it is frequently used with oxygen, so demand for nitrogen also increases demand for nitogen. Nitrogen is a required component for atmospheres. It is relatively volatile, not as easily trappeds as carbon and oxygen. Option 1. Short period object Option 2. Kuiper belt planetoids and trojan objects of Jupiter and Saturn. Aluminum- Aluminum is a major component of light weight space craft, it is a fairly common element, but is hard to mine except from certain sources. Aluminum is the ultimate storage for rocket fuels such as for SFRB that might be used for landing ventures on planets. Option 1. Lunar harvesting. Option 2. Asteriod mining Option 3. Moons of martian planets Option 4. Mars. Argon (Xenon) - Xenon is widely used as an ion-(hall thruster or roses by any other name) however it is extremely difficult to find off earth, with solar efficiencies improving and Ion drives reaching higher ISP, the argon storage problem is less of a problem, many ion drives can burn Argon and Xenon. Argon is basically found whereever atmospheres are found, it tends to be a bit more common in the outer solar system, likely because of atmospheric loses from the inner solar system. Argon also prevents fast spoilage in artificial atmospheres. Essentially we need cold atmospheres were vapor velocity at ground level + solar wind is not sufficient to blow argon away, this represents objects very far away from the sun. Boiling point is at 87.302 K Option 1. Harvesting of just outer system planetoids, atmospheric purification Option 2. Harvesting of the asteroid belt objects. Option 3. Harvest from mars. Silicon - Silicon is very heavy, it is found in nature as an acid of Si04 which undergoes polymerization under pressure to form glass, silicon is a component of electronic circuit boards, glass windows in habitats and in space craft, silicon is a major component of asteroids. Silicons most important role is in building photovoltaics. Option 1. Asteroid mining Option 2. Lunar mining Option 3. Mars moon mining. Copper - copper is a major component of refridgeration systems, water piping, it is used because of its ease of repair compared to aluminum, as a water carrier it is fairly resilient to corrosion if the water is kept close to neutral and some divalent cation like calcium hydroxide, or finely ground calcium carbonate is added to the water supply. Copper is the primary metal used in electrical systems, it does not have some of the pitfalls of aluminum wiring. Namely there is little or no voltage on brass connectors. Option 1. Asteroid mining Option 2. Lunar mining Option 3. Mars moon mining. Nickle, Iron, Chrome - the various metals are all components of metals that are used in space craft, the alloys of steel are made from carbon, iron and other metals to obtain strength and heat resilience, these metals are required to build structures and more importantly efficient rocket engines. Metals are widely available in the inner solar system. Option 1. Asteroid mining Option 3. Mars moon mining. Option 2. Lunar mining Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Sulfur, Chlorine. Important for life, but also useful in other processes magnesium is a solid fuel convienient for ION drives when argon is difficult to find, lithium and sodium can be used as heat exchange liquids in nuclear power stations. Sulfer and chlorine is used in chemical manufactoring, Calcium is used in making certain forms of sheilding. Option 1. Asteroid mining Option 2. Lunar mining Option 3. Mars moon mining. Platinum, gold, paladium, tellurium, uranium. Solar panels are not a neccesity but in the inner solar system they are the most cost effective means of electric power generation. The problem is that core components of these systems are made of not so easy to find minerals such as cadmium and semimetals (tellutium, gold). Platinum and paladium are used in fuel cells and for hydrogen storage, and is required for electrolysis of water into H2 and O2. The more stable metals are more resistent to acid solubilization that most metals, consequently some acid based purification is often required for extraction. Option 1. Asteroid mining Option 2. Lunar mining Option 3. Mars moon mining. Rare Earths. The primary use of rare earths Option 1. Earth sourced while other sources are found. In creating stand alone colonies what we see is that sourcing of elements is not quite as easy as on earth, if we remove earth from consideration one might have to travel the mercury/kuiper-belt transfer in order to find the best source for minerals What is also means is that somewhere along that ellipse needs to be a facility to process the crude material into refined starting materials that can be used to manufacture the various objects. There are alternatives, magnesium might be used instead of xenon or argon in ion drives, solar panels are made of different semi-metals (metaloids), different sources for magnet metal, multiple alloys can roughly generate the same functionality. The processing to final products for some of these items is a very extensive a popularly cooperative process, which all adds weight in space to do the same thing. Some things, like working with cyanide or other poisonous intermediates are to be avoided. This all translates to a fairly long period of dependency on earth. The question was asked about the stand alone profitability of going to mars, lets strike mars and ask any exploitable body, the answer is it would take a long time for the process to become profitable because, relatively speaking the energy invested to acquire the basic ingredients for building anything (complex structure) other than a solid block of nickle covered with silicon glass are spread widely across our solar system. We need to find more efficient and roboticized ways of covering these great distances. The other thing is that here on earth, the highest price you will ever pay for transportation is the fuel it takes for a 747 to travel from say Perth Australia to Los Angeles California. Where the cargo payload is say 10% of the weight of the fuel, most often you are paying 10% or 20% of the total cost of a good in transportation, once you start compositing structure, it would be as if every part has to be transported from Perth to LA 3 or 4 times over. Despite the high expense, its doable with an eye on conservation. If I recieve a tin of fresh fish eggs from Perth, I can throw the tin in the trash, not so in space, the tin is recycled, the CO2 is recycled, the N in the urine and sweat is recycled, the water is recycled, Poop would be recycled. To say that not-for profit needs to be involved emphasizes the point that the various connect the dots that we need to make a stable space-alone system work is not 'connected' not even started. It takes government and not-for-profit donors to establish the first connections, in fact all the connections, even if hair thin, for the commercial space ventures to be profitable for things like landing on mars or moons of mars. It is to say that once science is doing, well, science on many bodies that we will find alternatives to resources that I have stated above, so that maybe we dont have to mine Kuiper belt objects for Argon and Helium. But here again we may find something even more valuable harvesting hydrogen from say mercury (like maybe an abundant source of tritium and dueterium) or kuiper belt objects that makes it highly worthwhile to have Mercurian polar colonies or generational ships to the kuiper belt. The point is lets not put the cart before the horse, first we have to go to asteroids, see what it takes to mine them, go to comets, see what it takes to bottle their gases and package the metalics and metaliods. Go to the low gravity well moons and see what can be used. Space X can get your robot into space, but then its the government that needs to fund the science aspect of the mission, if they manage this time, instead of leaving a lander base on the moon, they leave behind a long duration robot that continues to work, drilling, preparing, etc for future landings, then you have begun the process of making and keeping a connection. [Note: I came to write this post after creating a rather massive colony on the pole (sink hole crater) of Moho, I chose moho because it takes the most important element out of the game, energy, infact, once you get your factories running full steam, there is too much energy and not enough negative energy. I have launched a rather big self modded space factory that allows for gilly back forth building of anysized object I can dream of, which means I come to Moho with basically everything, no longer thinking about kerbin (the only thing kerbin supplies is kerbals, adam and eve). But then I wanted to built a sort of reflective colony on moho from scratch on moho. What I came to see is that the tools provided feel well short of the task, a metal drill and a smelter create metal and rocket parts. The reality is that such a smelter would require calcium and create slag and gases, those gases would need to be separated into elements, the slag would be separated into elements, and thus many of these process need their own chemistry unit, that is not in the game, or in the add ons. Ore is composed of elements which can be separated into purified or enriched molecules, which can be broken down and reformed into what we need to build colonies. After sitting down and writing out a short list of the facilities need, I can to a short list about 50 or 60 parts that can be added as units to the colonization system modules - this was the answer to the profitability question - why private companies are not hopping over each other to go to Mars]
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