Monday, November 7, 2011

On Luna, Citizenship Does not Guarantee Residency

Voting is free, but living here costs you.
         What is citizenship?  For most of us, the term's most fundamental meaning is the basic right to live in a country without any paperwork.  But what about places where ecosystems will have to be subsidized, such as eventual Lunar colonies?  Will citizenship automatically confer the privilege of living in space?

        As we discussed a while back in the first articles about Economics in the Black Desert, it will take about L$U55,000 just to be a homeless bum in orbit.  This assumes, of course, that all of a person's life-support needs must be transported as cargo ahead of time from Terra.  Luna will probably have extensive hydroponics banks that will at the very least be able to supply oxygen for their residents.  According to some NASA figures I came across a while back (wish I could remember where), 10 square meters of  plant life will supply a person with their breathing needs indefinitely, but it would take a 100 to supply that same person with enough food to live off of.  Granted, there is some argument to just how much biomass you need; Rick Robinson sites a figure of 10 square meters for air and food.  I believe these figures are for Spirulina Algae farms or similar; if our future Lunarians want to eat anything besides pond scum, let's go with the more pessimistic number of a hundred square meters and move on from there.  

        First of all, each square meter of hydroponics you install in a Lunar facility will cost through the nose in terms of mass, manufacturing, maintenance and all the other hidden costs of living in space.  In order to even make space for growing food, the future colonists of Luna will have to drill and excavate for each and every meter of cubic.  This will not be done lightly - and besides, who's gonna pay for it?  That question right there gets to the heart of the matter:  TANSTAAFL holds true in my SF just as much as in Heinlein's.
This meal cost about four grand.

        This is why it's possible that citizenship in a Lunar free state will not necessarily guarantee one the right to live on the Moon.  If a citizen in good standing (you know, tax-paying voter), is unable to pay for their own food and life-support, there is no reason to believe that the government will be able to support them gratis, much less be inclined to do so.

  Before we go into the ramifications of this, just how much will living on Luna cost?  Using our monetary standard of L$U10/kg (the cost to lift mass from Terra+20%), Breathable gases account a little under a kilo a day, so that's only not much of a discount.  We can also throw in about a 1% mass discount for food (assuming 1% of our biomass farms can be eaten).  Assuming 6.2kg/day for consumables (a number we've used before) that comes to 5.32kg, and therefore L$U53.20 a day.  And even this isn't what a citizen owes for air and bread, because the life-support provided by the 10square meters of biomass has to be payed for. 

         Again, TANSTAAFL.
         So what would a Lunar citizen get in exchange for their loyalty, taxes, and all that?  That will have to wait for another post.  Have a good one RocketFans!

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