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Would there be any benefit to this? At first I was thinking if you had an outpost on Mars you could spend less money on the actual trip to the belt itself, but I'm not sure if having your launch station be closer to the belt makes a difference when, at the end of the day, it still has to make it back to Earth. Doubly so if you have to take off from Mars, mine for ice/iron, then land on Mars again to extract and refine your cargo before shipping it to Earth.

Is there a practical reason to have a waystation for belt miners on Mars?

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  • $\begingroup$ refueling may be a reason, refueling on way to belt and on way from belt. landing and extracting there o mars, and hauling it back lalal - forget that, this part is crap. refine it where u got asteroid - it is not so hard. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Oct 9 '16 at 4:35
  • $\begingroup$ I think i remember having read somewhere that building a space elevator on mars would be feasible with today's tech. Not sure if this will help for your story, but i think it would greatly reduce the cost of stopping there once the elevator is in place, $\endgroup$ – Burki Oct 10 '16 at 9:54
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Elon Musk's ITS proposal calls for refuelling depots order for a chemically powered transport to get around the Solar System in a halfway reasonable amount of time, so a refuelling depot in or around Mars does make sense.

For many interplanetary schemes, a refuelling depot on one of the Martian moons makes the most sense, since while you do have to slow down into Martian orbit, it is possible to aerobrake with minimum fuel and RV at the moon to take on a tank of water, or LH2 and LOX. Since Musk is interested in actually landing on Mars, his ITS proposal uses liquid Methane as the fuel, which can be created using Martian C02 in the atmosphere and bringing a small supply of Hydrogen. This is more involved, and requires you to actually land and take off from Mars itself, which has a fairly steep deltaV cost compared to pushing off from one of the moons. A well worked example of using one of the moons is here.

One reason not to go this route is the nature of orbital transfers. Synodic orbital "windows" between Earth and Mars open up roughly every 26 months, and windows to various asteroids that you are interested in visiting open even less often. Stopping at Mars then involves juggling the transfer windows from Earth to Mars, then Mars to the asteroid in question, potentially making the trip quite prolonged. If you have a powerful enough propulsion system to rapidly go from Earth to an asteroid, avoiding the synodic windows, you generally have no need to stop at Mars to refuel either (most high ISP drives like VASMIR, ion drives or even "dusty fission fragment" need very little fuel), and once you reach the asteroid belt, the odds are very good of being able to recover enough water ice to refuel on the spot.

So the short answer is going to be: no. If you are interested in going directly to an asteroid for mining or colonization, then the use of a high ISP drive eliminates the need to refuel, and also avoids the timing issues in matching synodic launch "windows" to get from place to place. Refuelling on Mars makes the most sense in terms of creating a two way transport system running between Earth and Mars (or Mars and anywhere else, for that matter).

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  • $\begingroup$ There will likely be some kind of cargo taxis set up as Aldrin Cyclers (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_cycler) between Earth and Mars, but the benefits to asteroid mining are low. $\endgroup$ – Innovine Oct 9 '16 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ also a matter of safety, whilst space is large, the less maneuvers using a given locus the better, as far as science the more different routes taken the better also, up to a point. if refuelling and resupplying was a real necessity and asteroid mining became profligate, it might be safer and more economical to operate automated missions to deploy time on target or trail modules at a useful relative velocity to the given asteroids. $\endgroup$ – Giu Piete Dec 1 '18 at 15:01
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There's certainly a huge disadvantage - gravity. Mars has a high escape velocity (not as much as Earth, and with no atmosphere it's easier to reach) but considering the amount of fuel you'd need in order to leave, you'd have to have a very good reason to land there.

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You might want to refine mined asteroids from lean materials you don't really need to be sent back to Earth (these asteroids are not 100% useful ore after all). The most productive way would be sending a mining ship that can both mine and refine materials (like USG Ishimura from Dead Space), but I doubt that we are capable of creating ships that big right now.

The next best thing would be a colony on Mars (or better yet, on Mars orbit, so you wouldn't need to waste fuel on getting down the surface/returning to the orbit) with the refining facility and everything workers would need for a living.

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