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Your Mission to Mars: What Would It Cost to Move to the Red Planet?

These days everyone wants to move to Mars, so we tackled the fundamental question. What would it take to build a house on Mars-- and how broke would you be?

Kristin Crosier

Writer

44 articles, 3 comments

Pack your bags–it’s time to say sayonara to Earth, and hello to Mars! If by some bizarre chance you haven’t heard, the not-for-profit organization Mars One has big plans for its namesake. Specifically, the company hopes to establish a miniature village of sorts on the Red Planet.

Pressurized homes, space suits as outerwear, and applications to become a space pioneer—oh my! A future Mars colony is no longer just the topic of our dreams; it’s reality. And we are totally on board (to get on board).

The prospect of a one-way ticket to the burnt sienna–colored sphere inevitably started the wheels turning in our blogging brains. We couldn’t help but ask, could you build a house on Mars? And if so, how much would it cost?

The easy answer is yes. Unfortunately, a more realistic response is “it’s complex.” A number of factors would need to work harmoniously—not including the fact that we based our results on hypothetical situations.

You’ll need to inherit a fortune to test out our house for yourself though, because getting your home on Mars comes with a hefty price tag of $2.64 billion, if not more.

Yes, you did read that correctly–$2.64 BILLION.

How do we know? A Martian told us. Actually, we prowled the interweb for days to find the answer for you (and satisfy our own curiosity).

Living Like a Martian is Tricky Business

Most talk of habitable spaces on Mars is premised on inflatable structures that expand from the ship on which they arrive. Like a spaceship with blow-up add-ons that magically transform into architecturally sound compartments. (We know, we don’t quite get it either.)

The problem with these inflatable pods—at least as far as we’re concerned—is that they’re just not our thing. We’re known for our novelty real estate articles, so we felt obliged to stay true to our more traditional living quarters.

That being said, our house would require a number of special building materials should we actually want to live in it. We’d need:

  • Radiation protection, since Mars doesn’t offer much in the way of keeping us safe from cosmic rays–and not your superhero-transforming variant
  • Insulation from extreme temperatures and the thin atmosphere (think so thin you can’t breathe)

We started with solving the issue of radiation.

1"-Thick High Density Polyethylene Sheeting

Much research yielded our best building material currently on market: polyethylene plastic, also known as the most common type of plastic.

We turned to the U.S. Plastic Corp. for their High Density Polyethylene Sheeting. We opted for one-inch-thick sheeting, which the company sells in four-foot-square sheets. These sheets have:

  • A price tag of $231.19 apiece
  • A low temperature brittleness of minus 76 degrees Celsius (so avoid living near the poles, where temperatures can drop to minus 125 degrees Celsius)

Thrifty shoppers, you’re welcome to try substituting a cheaper plastic option such as sandwich baggies—just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

But back to the math.

To figure out how much sheeting we’d need, we returned to our gift-wrapped house with 5,025 square feet of surface area.

Knowing one sheet is 16 square feet, we’d need just over 314 polyethylene sheets.

All that high-density plastic comes with a price tag of $72,608.

And that’s just the beginning.

Test-Ride Life in a Bubble

We also had to address the whole thin-atmosphere-and-crazy-temperatures issue. A minor problem, really–the conditions on Mars just aren’t optimal for those of us used to the atmosphere on Earth. Like we’ll die from heat or lack of oxygen without protection.

NASA uses a special insulation called Multi-Layer Insulation (MLI) to protect its spacecraft. But since we couldn’t find the pricing for MLI, we turned to an easy-to-install insulation called Reflectix conveniently found at Home Depot.

To make things slightly easier for ourselves, we assumed we’d need about the same amount of insulation as plastic sheeting.

Here’s what we found out about the double-layer Reflectix:

  • One roll is 4 feet by 25 feet
  • A roll costs $42.42
  • We’d need 50 and ¼ rolls for our house

Protecting ourselves from poor air quality and drastic temperature variations will cost us, $2,132 to be exact.

That brings our total bill up to $74,740. (And that’s with us completely ignoring the fact that you’ll need some sort of cooling system, since the insulation will trap warm air and essentially turn your home into an oven.)

Then we realized we still had to ship our house to space. Oops.

You’ll Need a New Home While Yours Is On Its Way to Mars

If you’re going to move to space, you’ll obviously need a way to launch your house there. Good thing we’ve been there, done that. Problem solved.

Or so we thought.

Further research led us to this turn of events: Falcon Heavy, the private spacecraft we used to (theoretically) launch a house into space, is only designed to travel to Low Earth Orbit. That’s about 225 million kilometers short of where we want to go.

But we managed to stop our panic attack in its tracks with a new tidbit of information. According to the Mars One website, the company plans to use the Falcon Heavy to send supplies to the planet prior to human settlers.

So our previous dabbles in outer space real estate have not been in vain.

In a fascinating article by Robrt Zubrin, which originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal, makes the case that we (we’re talking collective humanity here) could land 11 tons on the Martian surface with some tweaking to current technology. The article goes on to state that Falcon Heavy launches at about $100 million. We relied heavily on Zubrin’s assumptions.

Next we needed to know how much our house–and related accoutrements.

Our prior obsession with novelty real estate taught us our house weighs about 500,000 pounds, or 227 tons.

Since we’re adding insulation and radiation protection onto our house though, our Mars-worthy home will weigh more.

We calculated the extra materials would bring our home to a weight of 525,136 pounds, or about 262 and a half tons. (Our plastic is the heaviest sheeting we’ve ever heard of, but hey, numbers don’t lie.)

The rest is simple math. We divided 263 tons by 11, which gave us the number of trips needed to reach Mars. This came out to slightly less than 24 trips. Using Zubrin’s estimates it would cost $2,400,000,000 to get to space. We added another 10 percent to the amount to account from reaching Mars. This brought the figure to $2,640,000,000, which doesn’t include the cost to purchase your plastic and insulation. In total, you’re look at around $2,640,074,740.

Better get on that if moving to Mars is a lifetime goal of yours.

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posted on: February 25, 2013
360 views, 3 comments

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3 Comments

  1. Natalie

    Very interesting. I like it.
    I don’t know about you, but all I can think about when I hear “life in a bubble” is the infamous Bubble Boy.
    http://youtu.be/_SULQSL4Cd0
    As always, thanks for the post!

    Natalie

  2. Kathy Nicholls

    Yes, I can understand the production cost if one wants to go to Mars, but I think with the outsourcing industry at large, we could outsource it and get things done at a cheaper rate. Just my two cents!

  3. Reese

    OOh,OOh, I wanna go!!!1 But I got one question??? Do yall take ebt???

 

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