Proposed Viable Mars Colony

Oct 21, 2019
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Proposed Viable Mars Colonization 2020

This plan is predicated upon several conditions:
All initial missions to Mars will be one way.
The colony is intended to be permanent.
The colony is designed to become viably self-sufficient.
Viability depends upon a sufficient number of initial colonists, perhaps 250 minimum.
Sufficient supplies sent initially to support all colonists for at least 10 years.

Step one is to send a large rover to Mars to scout a site for a colony. The rover should be at least as big as a large SUV capable of relatively high speed autonomous travel, and capable of taking 10 meter core samples and analyzing them. Two such rovers is preferable. I will call these rovers Calypso. Calypso will have other uses as you will see. Using information from the orbiters, land the rovers in the most promising areas.

Construct robotic cargo vessels that can be sent to Mars ahead of time. They can be sent via the economy route, the most efficient Hohhman Transfer Orbit. The cargo vessels can filled with supplies sufficient to supply the colonists for 10 years.. Each craft can also be prefitted with basic plumbing, electrical wiring, LED lighting, various fittings, air locks, and hardware so the empty vessels can be used as habitats. The cargo vessels can be sent well ahead of the colonists to the chosen site. Without passengers, living quarters, and life support, they can be less expensive to build, and much less expensive to send to Mars.

The cargo vessels can be medium soft landed near the site, but without people aboard, the landing won’t be as critical. If any cargo vessels land too hard, they can be salvaged for raw materials. I propose that the main propulsion section can be separated in orbit, and crash landed further from the site to provide more salvageable materials. That will reduce the energy required to land the remaining cargo section. Alternately the propulsion sections can be medium soft landed to save more parts intact.

Then send in the first 250 colonists. All these missions will be one way, maximizing the amount of cargo and people they can carry. The 250 colonists will cover every possible area of expertise, and all will be cross trained in at least two other areas, with additional general training.

When the colonists arrive, they can remove cargo containers from the vessels and store the supplies in inflated tents to protect from Martian fines. The now empty hulls can be used as habitats. They can be interconnected with or without airlocks between them. The cargo containers themselves can be designed to be disassembled, and the parts used to make tables, cabinets, beds, and other furniture for the habitats. The prefitted plumbing and electrical will make habitat conversion much easier.

The colony can be built by moving the cargo vessel/habitats into nearby ravines and interconnecting them. If no ravines are available, trenches can be dug into the surface using the Calypso Rovers. Calypso Rovers can be used to cover the habitats with sufficient regolith to shield inhabitants from radiation, protection from meteorites, and insulation from cold.

Another option is to send a nuclear tunnel boring machine and bore into rocky hillsides or the walls of natural canyons. We might even get lucky and find networks of natural caves. Olympus Mons will probably have thousands of miles of lava tubes that would make excellent habitats for large colonies.

Additional colonies can be built in a similar manner nearby, but far enough away so that a large meteor strike on one colony will not affect the others.
 
Last edited:
Oct 25, 2019
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Proposed Viable Mars Colony

IMO, the only practical way to send humans to Mars is with a large initial group, possibly 200 individuals, one way. Sending 7-8 astronauts on a round trip is pointless. It dramatically increases the energy requirements, limits the time on surface, and doesn’t really accomplish anything.

Start by sending orbiters capable of very high resolution imaging of the surface.

Send several large rovers to Mars to find the best place to start a colony. I suggest SUV sized rovers, capable of autonomous high speed travel, 10 meter deep core drilling, and onboard sample processing. I call these rovers Calypso.

Using information from the orbiters, land the Calypsos in the most promising areas. Once the Calypsos have found the best site, send robotic supply ships via the economy route and land them at that site. The robotic supply vessel hulls can be pre-fitted with electrical wiring, plumbing, and other hardware and fixtures so they can be used as habitats when emptied. Enough supply vessels should be sent to ensure sufficient habitats and supplies for the proposed colony size, and for at least 5 years.

Then send in the first 200 colonists. All these missions will be one way, maximizing the amount of cargo and people they can carry. The 200 colonists will cover every possible area of expertise, and all will be cross trained in at least two other areas, with additional general training.

The colony can be built by moving the cargo vessel/habitats into nearby ravines and interconnecting them. If no ravines are available, trenches can be dug into the surface. Supplies can temporarily be stored in tents on the surface. Included regolith moving machines or Calypsos can be used to cover the habitats with sufficient regolith to shield inhabitants from radiation. Another option is to send a nuclear tunnel boring machine and bore into rocky hillsides or the walls of natural canyons. We might even get lucky and find networks of natural caves. Olympus Mons will probably have thousands of miles of lava tubes that would make excellent habitats for large colonies.
I like many of your suggestions.

# Colonists. A couple hundred on the initial trip might be reasonable. It would make sense to describe anticipated tasks and to figure how many are needed for each task to determine firmer numbers.

Trashing Spaceships. I don't like your suggestion of cannibalizing ships to build things. Ships are vessels that "fly" back and forth. They are too expensive to destroy. (Each launch of the SLS will cost $1.5 billion!) Let's use quickly reusable rockets, fuel is cheap

Weightlessness. Speaking of "flying" back and forth, I'm not sure most people can endure several months of weightlessness. It is not reasonable to require colonists to be astronaut material, fat people like me would be eliminated. Artificial gravity should be considered. We will likely need a few wheels to house maybe a third of the passengers at a time. I am assuming that all passengers don't require gravity all the time. Maybe we can get by with 8 hrs/day for sleeping. I'm not suggesting anything elaborate here, maybe just inflated wheel-shaped environments spinning a couple rpm. The real passenger accommodations would be the ship facilities.

Fleets. Sending one ship sounds very risky. Why not send three or four at a time. Inevitable mechanical failures need not be fatal with multiple vessels. Even Columbus knew that.

Equipment, Machinery. I like your multiple rovers idea. (I might name them "Grabowski" rather than Calypso, though.) Add a couple of Musk's boring machines and dozens of 3D printers.
 
Oct 25, 2019
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M.A.

I don't think we're disagreeing, we just have different visions.

With launch windows opening every two years, I would envision the following:

1st window. 2-4 ships travel to Mars and establish a single colony.

2nd window. The Mars ships return to Earth, taking samples and regretful settlers. 8-12 ships go from Earth to Mars and expand initial colony and perhaps establish a couple other colonies.

etc...

I am picturing extensive integration between Earth and the Mars colonies. I see 20 to 30 ships journeying back and forth every two years, with costs running somewhere around $200 to $400 million per one-way leg (mostly fuel).

The colonies are mostly self sufficient but rely on Earth support for various items. Commercial success might be attained relatively early via tourism. Natural resource and low-gravity medical/retirement opportunities might be profitable in a couple of decades.

P.S. Incidentally, I chose Grabowski in part as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to my ancestry. It is also a term used in the 80's by coach Mike Ditka to describe players who, though maybe only marginally talented, overproduced through sheer effort -- and they never complained. This latter reference was why I thought the term was appropriate for a rover vehicle.
 
Oct 23, 2019
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One very important factor not mentioned here is food. A self sustaining colony will have to be able to grown sufficient food to feed the people. So step one would be to find out if martian soil is adaptable to agriculture, and if not what can be done about it. I seem to remember reading an article here on space.com that there is something in the martian soil that may be detrimental to plant growth. I do not remember what exactly.

This would also affect the selection process for potential colonist. A good number of them will need to be people who know how to plant, grow and harvest various crops. Mars will need farmers. No farmers, no food, no colony.
 
Oct 25, 2019
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It may seem that I'm straying from the intended topic, Viable Mars Colony, but not really...

Imagine a Mars with two kinds of colonies: 'one-way settler' colonies as M.A. suggests and 'seaport' arrival/departure colonies as I've suggested. I'd bet there would a natural selection process which would lead to very different types of people populating the two kinds of colony. Would/could they get along with each other? 'Morlock' versus 'Eloi' is not an appropriate characterization but it makes my point. Martian colonies might need to take measures addressing this.
 
Oct 25, 2019
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Ejm noted that Martian soil may not be suitable for agriculture. Good point! Initial settlers will probably have to be prepared for hydroponic ag.

MA suggested that two-way fuel costs would be prohibitive. A field of solar panels could provided the energy to make methane, hydrogen, and oxygen. The Sabatier process, discovered over 100 years ago, needs hydrogens and carbon dioxide (Mars atmosphere) to produce methane. Of course if one-way, disposable ships is more cost effective I'd certainly be in favor.

MA suggested that tourism would be minimal. According to the 2016 Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances there are over 36,000 U.S. households worth over $100,000,000.00 and over 83,000 Has worth over $50,000,000.00. These bucks will go somewhere. Let's charge $10 million for a round trip. How about:
1. Last kid finally goes off to college, empty nesters celebrate by taking an extended vacation.
2. Retiring at age 62, lets go to Mars so spouses can get to know each other again.
3. Let's send 12-year-old little Johnny on a super summer camp, won't have to put up with them for two years!
4. Let's go beyond a semester abroad and send Suzie to Mars for two years of university.
5. Expand on the university idea and schedule Spaceship U. Tell me you couldn't get a world-class faculty at a university on Mars. Imagine the astronomy classes you could do on a spaceship!

Admittedly these suggestions are for the uber-rich, but they do exist.

I also suggested in an earlier post that the .38 gravity might be helpful for some medical maladies as well as retirement issues. (I bet my knees and ankles wouldn't hurt so much at lower gravity.)
 
Oct 25, 2019
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My error, it wasn't clear that I was suggesting that tourists/students would likely opt to stay on Mars for one launch cycle -- two years.

You must be right about those to whom you refer as "rich snobs." I suggest you explain to Musk, Bezos, Branson, Bigelow, etc. how foolish they are. And be sure point out that you know they are "snobs."

The "one-way trip" comment makes no sense to me. Once cured, people may very well want to return to Earth. Retirees may chose to be buried on Earth so their family and friends can visit.

Last post...
 

Jackie Cox

BANNED
Jun 4, 2020
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Proposed Viable Mars Colonization 2020

This plan is predicated upon several conditions:
All initial missions to Mars will be one way.
The colony is intended to be permanent.
The colony is designed to become viably self-sufficient.
Viability depends upon a sufficient number of initial colonists, perhaps 250 minimum.
Sufficient supplies sent initially to support all colonists for at least 10 years.

Step one is to send a large rover to Mars to scout a site for a colony. The rover should be at least as big as a large SUV capable of relatively high speed autonomous travel, and capable of taking 10 meter core samples and analyzing them. Two such rovers is preferable. I will call these rovers Calypso. Calypso will have other uses as you will see. Using information from the orbiters, land the rovers in the most promising areas.

Construct robotic cargo vessels that can be sent to Mars ahead of time. They can be sent via the economy route, the most efficient Hohhman Transfer Orbit. The cargo vessels can filled with supplies sufficient to supply the colonists for 10 years.. Each craft can also be prefitted with basic plumbing, electrical wiring, LED lighting, various fittings, air locks, and hardware so the empty vessels can be used as habitats. The cargo vessels can be sent well ahead of the colonists to the chosen site. Without passengers, living quarters, and life support, they can be less expensive to build, and much less expensive to send to Mars.

The cargo vessels can be medium soft landed near the site, but without people aboard, the landing won’t be as critical. If any cargo vessels land too hard, they can be salvaged for raw materials. I propose that the main propulsion section can be separated in orbit, and crash landed further from the site to provide more salvageable materials. That will reduce the energy required to land the remaining cargo section. Alternately the propulsion sections can be medium soft landed to save more parts intact.

Then send in the first 250 colonists. All these missions will be one way, maximizing the amount of cargo and people they can carry. The 250 colonists will cover every possible area of expertise, and all will be cross trained in at least two other areas, with additional general training.

When the colonists arrive, they can remove cargo containers from the vessels and store the supplies in inflated tents to protect from Martian fines. The now empty hulls can be used as habitats. They can be interconnected with or without airlocks between them. The cargo containers themselves can be designed to be disassembled, and the parts used to make tables, cabinets, beds, and other furniture for the habitats. The prefitted plumbing and electrical will make habitat conversion much easier.

The colony can be built by moving the cargo vessel/habitats into nearby ravines and interconnecting them. If no ravines are available, trenches can be dug into the surface using the Calypso Rovers. Calypso Rovers can be used to cover the habitats with sufficient regolith to shield inhabitants from radiation, protection from meteorites, and insulation from cold.

Another option is to send a nuclear tunnel boring machine and bore into rocky hillsides or the walls of natural canyons. We might even get lucky and find networks of natural caves. Olympus Mons will probably have thousands of miles of lava tubes that would make excellent habitats for large colonies.

Additional colonies can be built in a similar manner nearby, but far enough away so that a large meteor strike on one colony will not affect the others.
 
Feb 1, 2020
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80
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One very important factor not mentioned here is food. A self sustaining colony will have to be able to grown sufficient food to feed the people. So step one would be to find out if martian soil is adaptable to agriculture, and if not what can be done about it. . . .
Yes, you can grow food in Martian soil. It's been tried with simulated Martian soil here on Earth. The biggest problem is perchlorates. Think Clorox Bleach. It's a byproduct of cosmic rays and solar UV radiation on the salts from the former Martian seas.

But that washes out. Just rinse the soil and it grows most crops just fine. The crops have to be grown indoors, as the Martian atmospheric pressure is only a percent or so of Earths, and is mostly carbon dioxide, with some nitrogen, carbon monoxide and the remaining parts traces of most of the major gasses we have here on Earth. Still, it's ninety-five percent CO2. It's toxic to animal life, and not that good for most plants without some massaging.

Indoor farming is currently begin done here on Earth for herbs and spices. It's still much too expensive for staple crops. it's a lot like hydroponics.

So food on Mars will be more expensive than is food here, but it's still cheaper to grow it there than it is to ship it from here. Shipped from earth, canned beans are as expensive as caviar. Transport costs dominate everything. transported food will almost certainly be dried food. Yuck!

Vegetables will be the first things grown on Mars. Then probably some base crop Cereal grains are likely, but so are potatoes and yams. Yams it turns out are one of the crops that are somewhat perchlorate tolerant. Tomatos and beans are strong possibilities. Fruits and meats are much further down the road.

The first meat will likely be worms. There was work in the 1970's on raising nite crawlers in barrels and feeding them vegetable waste. A couple of barrels would provide the recommended four ounces of meat a day per person. It is said to taste like hamburger when ground.

Chicken will be most likely to be the second meat. Chickens can be grown in small areas that are rather congested. The roosters can be a problem however. They get aggressive.

Pigs are further down the road, and cows are very far off. This doesn't bode well for cheese.

Strawberries and watermelon will likely be available after the second year. Oranges or apples will take a decade or three.

Herbs and some spices however will be available from that first year. Other spices may take decades or longer.

Chocolate may take twenty to fifty years. It grows on trees and requires a lot of processing.

It will all be expensive however. Look for five to ten percent of the workforce on Mars being agricultural. They will be more like factory workers than farmers however. Look also to spending close to twenty percent of your income on food.
 
Feb 1, 2020
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Current astronauts and cosmonauts on the ISS survive up to six months in weightlessness with no ill effects. The problems come after around a year in orbit. Just take a shorter time and there is no non-recoverable problem. Current planned ship time is around nine months, so borderline medically.

The small ship size comes because that's the size of the ships we currently have operational (Soyuz [crew of three] or Dragon) and those we currently have in development (Boeing Starliner or Orion [crew of seven]). The cannibalizing of ships comes from plans not send complete ships back. It's a fuel issue. We send more than we need to get there, so there are spare parts. It's the spares that get cannibalized, plus the cargo ships. Those never do come back.

The extremists want to make it a one-way mission. That didn't work out so well for the Roanoke folks. It did for the later Plymouth Colony people (Pilgrims). Success requires that you correctly plan for all the contingencies that actually do occur. Plymouth and Jamestown both had to get help from other sources to survive. Mars has no other sources available. We'd better plan well. Send more supplies than you think you will need.

You are correct about the size of a needed colony however. The biology and the needed skills both suggest that between one hundred and sixty and two hundred people are needed to make it sustainable, minimum.

We currently can't send that many people however.

That's why the Space X proposals call for tens to thousands of ships, many one-way, but most going some sort of round trip. More cargo than passenger ships too.

NASA is much less ambitious. They limit themselves to what is currently possible.
 
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Nov 15, 2020
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Current astronauts and cosmonauts on the ISS survive up to six months in weightlessness with no ill effects. The problems come after around a year in orbit. Just take a shorter time and there is no non-recoverable problem. Current planned ship time is around nine months, so borderline medically.

The small ship size comes because that's the size of the ships we currently have operational (Soyuz [crew of three] or Dragon) and those we currently have in development (Boeing Starliner or Orion [crew of seven]). The cannibalizing of ships comes from plans not send complete ships back. It's a fuel issue. We send more than we need to get there, so there are spare parts. It's the spares that get cannibalized, plus the cargo ships. Those never do come back.

The extremists want to make it a one-way mission. That didn't work out so well for the Roanoke folks. It did for the later Plymouth Colony people (Pilgrims). Success requires that you correctly plan for all the contingencies that actually do occur. Plymouth and Jamestown both had to get help from other sources to survive. Mars has no other sources available. We'd better plan well. Send more supplies than you think you will need.

You are correct about the size of a needed colony however. The biology and the needed skills both suggest that between one hundred and sixty and two hundred people are needed to make it sustainable, minimum.

We currently can't send that many people however.

That's why the Space X proposals call for tens to thousands of ships, many one-way, but most going some sort of round trip. More cargo than passenger ships too.

NASA is much less ambitious. They limit themselves to what is currently possible.
Wouldn't there be a possibility for refuiling stations on Mars? Especially if our boosters were reusable and powered by hydrogen and oxygen? I think of them in my mind like the farms on Tatooine in star wars. Would there also be possibility to post certain outposts in orbit around the sun or Mars to further help refuling and help cargo ships unload their cargo so possibly they never have to land on the surface. The goods are then brought down from the station in seperate ships. The ships that go back to earth get refuiled and sent back as the ones that are specifically designed to go to the surface bring rocket fuel back up to the orbiting station. With enough funding we could use different types of ships and stations to specialise in doing certain jobs instead of the Jules Verne approach were the ship is an all in one machine that does everything. Just as the ship is not the rover itself we could specialise further and up our chances of succesful missions by tightly controling the entire system with external back up systems.
 
If it's going to be a permanent colony we are going to want to experience 1.5 g while sleeping to keep a human body from turning to mush.
Bacteria, viruses, human bones, muscles, immune system etc etc will need a balance of about 1g over 24hr period or any of them can become problematic.
Lets pack a large sleeping wheel or make sure it's on the high priority list.
 

COLGeek

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Apr 3, 2020
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If it's going to be a permanent colony we are going to want to experience 1.5 g while sleeping to keep a human body from turning to mush.
Bacteria, viruses, human bones, muscles, immune system etc etc will need a balance of about 1g over 24hr period or any of them can become problematic.
Lets pack a large sleeping wheel or make sure it's on the high priority list.
Talk about "bed spins"...:oops:
 
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Feb 1, 2020
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Wouldn't there be a possibility for refuiling stations on Mars? Especially if our boosters were reusable and powered by hydrogen and oxygen? I think of them in my mind like the farms on Tatooine in star wars. Would there also be possibility to post certain outposts in orbit around the sun or Mars to further help refuling and help cargo ships unload their cargo so possibly they never have to land on the surface. The goods are then brought down from the station in seperate ships. The ships that go back to earth get refuiled and sent back as the ones that are specifically designed to go to the surface bring rocket fuel back up to the orbiting station. With enough funding we could use different types of ships and stations to specialise in doing certain jobs instead of the Jules Verne approach were the ship is an all in one machine that does everything. Just as the ship is not the rover itself we could specialise further and up our chances of succesful missions by tightly controling the entire system with external back up systems.
That is in the Program. What you are referring to is a Sabatier Reactor. It takes in CO2 and water and puts out Methane and Oxygen, though it takes around twice the energy to run it that you get from the fuel and oxygen when you burn it. Still, solar energy is 'free' and nuclear can run for long periods of time. But remember there is a roughly 26 month window for Mars, and a roughly three year turn around time for sending the empty's back to Earth. That's a long time to wait for an emergency shipment of some widget. That is why a real colony will require that it be large enough to make anything that is really needed for survival. Food and air are high on that list. So is electrical power. You can probably make up several items to add to that list.

Some things are easy to come by. CO2 and nitrogen in limited quantities can be 'mined' from the Martian atmosphere. Water can be dug up as ice, then melted and distilled to any purity required. Iron is easy, The famous red sands there are mostly impure rust.

Elon Musk himself has said he wants to retire to Mars, when there is around a million people living there, and he can live in the style he wishes to become accustomed to. It will take several hundred thousand skilled workers to create that style.
 

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