SETTLING OFF EARTH
WHAT IS SETTLEMENT?
There is a misunderstanding about space settlement. People commonly assume that it is very difficult (if even possible) and that it will occur only in the distant future. But is this really the case?
At its core, space settlement means "settling down" off Earth. It means selling one's home and establishing a new home with one's family in a new location. The simplest form of family is a couple without their children (e.g. retirees). And settlement starts with the first people settling down.
WHO'S RESPONSIBILITY IS SETTLEMENT?
LOCATION OF THE FIRST SETTLEMENT
Also, retirees are the ones who have lived long enough to save up enough and they are freed from childrearing and occupational responsibilities. So undoubtedly they will be over-represented among those settling space. And grandparents want to be in close contact with their grandkids. This would strongly favor the Moon over Mars.
As for spinning settlements in Earth orbit, because there are no natural resources there, everything has to be imported. But, using telerobotic operations, hardware shipped to the lunar surface could produce many times its mass or more making lunar development about 25 times less expensive than development in Earth orbit.
TYPES & PHASES OF SETTLERS
The second phase of settlers could be American and international astronauts who choose to remain behind on the Moon as part of a growing, permanent, international base.
With the increased flight rate, per-seat prices would come down to where wealthy private individuals would start arriving. This would break down into two phases: The Early Private Settlers & the Latter Private Settlers. The first group would be willing to sacrifice some convenience in order to play their role in establishing humanity's first permanent foothold off Earth. The second group (including their spouses) would want to have certain amenities (e.g. large garden areas, swimming, etc) before going. Tourism would be done by practically all settlers but would probably not be a huge market.
There might also be working settlers who pay back their transit by working for the other, more wealthy settlers and eventually, depending upon animal studies, settlers might be born within the settlement.
HOW SOON UNTIL THE FIRST SETTLERS
THE ECONOMICS OF SETTLEMENT
There is too much anxiety in space advocate circles about how settlement will pay for itself. Mining what "unobtanium" will it take to make settlement possible? This for-profit, resource-oriented perspective is misleading. Elon's settlement business plan is based upon people's savings. Retirement communities flourish despite no mining, intellectual property, or reality TV shows. Why should initial space settlement be any different? People will use their savings, made in Earth markets at other times and places to fund their own settlement. But also, the more local resources reduce shipping costs the cheaper space settlement will become.
THE MOTIVATION OF SETTLERS
Settlers will be attracted by the experience of moving off Earth to the Moon. Later settlers will need a high enough quality of living to be willing to use their savings to move off Earth. This helps us understand that we need to focus on making the settlement experience as attractive as possible for "normal" people.