Given you would design and built a fully autonomous habitat module for 2-6 people to survive on long term on Mars. I.e. a nuclear power source, solar cells, air/water recycling, tools.. Given, after some iteration and testing the design can be experimentally validated. Then you would plan for a production of 1 million/10 millions of such units. What could a unit cost offered on free market?

UPD. Recent prototype examples from NASA's 3D-printed habitat challenge.

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    Several of the systems you need barely exist in prototype form. I don't see how we can give a cost estimate for building a productionized version of those prototypes. – Hobbes Aug 9 at 12:05
  • @Hobbes added link to NASA's challenge regarding 3D printed habitats. – J. Doe Aug 10 at 10:50

I worked on a design team to create a Lunar module scale model at school this past year. Ours was around 1/3 of full size. It cost us around 10,000 dollars before labor. If we were to scale this up and actually make a viable module, I would expect around 50,000 before labor and launch costs. I may be mistaken, but I don't believe the necessary information exists to validate this number. However, here is a link to one of NASA's proposed modules to get a sense of scale. Habitat modules could vary in size, shape, and instrumentation pushing costs potentially as high as 200,000 before any fancy research equipment. Now it is worth noting that my project was not a full habitat and rather an attachment to a habitat. Additionally, these estimates don't take into account a fully autonomous system. It depends on what you mean by fully autonomous. The 50,000 would probably be able to do some basic heat management but not much else. If we develop a full habitat, I would guess it would be pushing closer to 500,000 and potentially more.

For the purposes of this question, I will say 500,000 in material costs for a small volume build. The design of this module would likely take a small team of ~10 engineers around 3 or 4 years to design based on aerospace administrative constraints. My guess is that this is a very conservative development cost. Let's say that these engineers make 40 dollars an hour This puts us at $2000*10*40*4$ which puts us at a total cost of 3,200,000 is development costs. Now I'm no economist and estimating the true production cost for high volume is difficult, but I believe it would be possible to get the production costs down to between 200k-300k per module including labor. Tacking on the development cost, which becomes negligible if we produce 1,000,000 units, I would expect them to market for around 500,000.

Sorry I can't give a better answer. Much of that is educated speculation unfortunately. Also, if anyone knows how to tack on the dollar symbol, please edit my response and add them or let me know how to do it.

  • awesome - thanks! may I ask as side question, which grade does such projects? – J. Doe Aug 7 at 16:01
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    @J. Doe It was a senior design project at University. So like 21-22 year olds on average. What's cool about projects at University though is that anyone at the school can join if they're interested – Gigaboggie Aug 7 at 16:03
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    So, you are saying that a fully autonomous habitat module for 2-6 people to survive on long term on Mars could be purchased for $15,000? Less than the cost of a new car, which are produced in the hundreds of thousands at least? I'm sorry, that cannot be right in any circumstances. If it could be, start selling them for housing on Earth ASAP. – Organic Marble Aug 7 at 16:55
  • @OrganicMarble I think that's a fair point. There's a lot of speculation about this answer but yeah you're right it is a bit unreasonable. I'll go back and re-think my estimates – Gigaboggie Aug 7 at 17:00
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    @OrganicMarble too bad concrete isn't air-tight. They have these types of 3D printed homes and had planned to help poorer countries using concrete as the 3D printing medium. No idea where the idea is in implementation. However, they're ~300sq/ft domes with affixes for solar panels, plumbing and a bunch of other cool things. All it needs is a small foundation layout for the correct hookups then they print the concrete dome over it, let it dry and fill it up with gadgets! – Magic Octopus Urn Aug 8 at 13:42

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