Six Earth months, or rather, one Martian quarter has passed, which means it is time once again to estimate the red planet's gross domestic product!
As the Martian economy completes the third quarter for which we've estimated its planetary GDP, we find it is humming along after having run into a rough patch during the previous Martian quarter. Starting from Earthdate 7 July 2022, robotic mining operations have proceeded without significant technical interruption and the Perseverence rover has resumed collecting rock core samples. This activity followed nearly four Earth months with no sample collection when the rover traveled from the Octavia E. Butler Landing/Ch’ał outcrop where it drilled its previous core sample to the sample-rich geology of the Delta Front within the Jezero Crater.
The rover drilled nine samples during the Martian third quarter, with the samples placed into inventory pending their planned export to Earth. With a total of seventeen samples, we now have the following revised GDP estimates for Mars' first and second Martian quarters and an initial estimate for the third Martian quarter:
|Martian GDP Estimates (Constant 2021 U.S. Dollars)|
|Martian Quarter||First Quarter||Second Quarter||Third Quarter|
|Approximate Earthdates||12 Jul 2021 - 31 Dec 2021||1 Jan 2022 - 21 Jun 2022||22 Jun 2022 - 11 Dec 2022|
($110,780 - $878,080)
($66,468 - $526,848)
($199,404 - $1,580,544)
We estimate Mars' GDP tripled its previous quarter's revised GDP total during the planet's third quarter, falling just shy of $900,000 in terms of constant 2021 U.S. dollars. At present, we're valuing the two regolith samples collected by the Perseverance rover the same as the seven rock core samples it collected during the Martian third quarter in the absence of better valuation data for it. We're also assigning a minimal value to the Martian atmospheric sample the rover collected and stored during the Martian first quarter (in August 2021), given the very low density of the Martian atmosphere and the low premium of $50/gram given to Martian meteorites on Earth determined to have trapped atmospheric content within them.
Looking ahead to Mars' future export economy, NASA and the European Space Agency reached an agreement to establish a sample transfer depot at the Three Forks location within Mars' Jezero Crater. The Perseverence Rover will cache its full inventory of rock and atmospheric samples at the Three Forks Depot before their future export.
Unfortunately, the government space agencies have pushed back their planned export operations, with deliveries to Earth now delayed from 2030 to 2033. They've also changed their plans for how the samples will be recovered before their transportation to Earth:
... the Mars Sample Return campaign will no longer include the Sample Fetch Rover or its associated second lander. The Sample Retrieval Lander will include two sample recovery helicopters, based on the design of the Ingenuity helicopter, which has performed 29 flights at Mars and survived over a year beyond its original planned lifetime. The helicopters will provide a secondary capability to retrieve samples cached on the surface of Mars.
The ESA Earth Return Orbiter and its NASA-provided Capture, Containment, and Return System remain vital elements of the program architecture.
With planned launch dates for the Earth Return Orbiter and Sample Retrieval Lander in fall 2027 and summer 2028, respectively, the samples are expected to arrive on Earth in 2033.
The following three-minute video describes the final stage for how the samples will be delivered to Earth during the final stage of their transport.