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What it takes to build a marsh colony

There is no shortage of people today who have an opinion on whether humans should colonize Mars. On the pro side, there are those who believe that a martyr's bill will act as a "reserve place" for humanity if a disaster event occurs on Earth.

On the confront, there are those who feel that focusing on Mars will steal the focus away from efforts to save the planet Earth. There are also those who believe that the natural risks make it a bad idea, while people at the back think that these are the very things that make it an exciting challenge.

But when you look past the arguments for and against colonization, there is the inevitable question of whether we can settle on Mars and what this settlement would look like. The question goes beyond mere aesthetics and includes everything from architecture and construction to food, transportation and general health.

So what will a colony on Mars look like and how would it work?

Making a quality of life on Mars:

To be fair, there is no lack of ideas on how humans can establish a colony on the Red Planet. They are also quite detailed, ranging from different types of structures that could be built, how they would be built, what they would be built of, and how they would be protected from the elements.

Then they would again be able to solve the many challenges that living on Mars would present. These include (but are not necessarily limited to):

Taking into account all this, it becomes clear that any effort to build a civilization on Mars must take into account many specific needs. And to meet these will require the colonists to rely on fairly advanced technology rather strongly.

Habitat must be sealed and pressurized, highly insulated and heated, shielded from sun and cosmic radiation, self-sufficient in hydropower and other essentials, and built (as much as possible) using local resources – aka. In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU).

Coming to Mars:

With current methods, the journey to Mars is long and potentially dangerous and can only take place when Earth and Mars are closest to each other in their circuits. This is what is known as a "Mars Opposition", Mars, and the Sun is on directly opposite sides of the Earth. These occur every 26 months, and every 15 or 17 years, an opposite will coincide with Mars, which is closest to its orbit with the sun (aka Perihelion).

On average, Mars and Earth's circuits are at an average distance of 225 million km (140 million mi). But during an opposition, the distance between Earth and Mars may fall to as little as 55 million km (34 million mi). However, since it is not exactly a direct flight, the travel time involved is not a simple matter of calculating the distance divided by the average speed.

This is because both Earth and Mars revolve around the Sun, which means you can & # 39; Don't point a rocket directly at Mars, start and expect to hit it. Instead, spacecraft launched from Earth must take into account the moving nature of its targets, pointing to where Mars must be a method known as ballistic capture.

Another factor to consider is fuel. Again, if you had an unlimited amount of fuel, you would point to your spacecraft on Mars, fire your rockets halfway through the journey, and then turn over and decelerate for the last half of the journey. You can reduce your travel time to a fraction of the current rate – but you would need an impossible amount of fuel.

Because of this, a mission to Mars can take between 150 and 300 days (five to ten months) to reach the red planet. Everything depends on the launching speed, the alignment of the ground and Mars, and whether the spacecraft will benefit from slingshotting around a large body to pick up a lift in speed (ie, a gravity aid). [19659016] Regardless of the fact that crew announcements invariably require spacecraft that are larger and heavier than robot vessels. This is necessary because people require facilities while in space, not to mention the amount of supplies and equipment they need to carry out a mission.

Martian Housing:

The challenges of long-distance and natural hazards on Mars have led to some creative suggestions on how to build habitats that will protect against the environment and can be built in situ. Many of these ideas have been proposed as part of an incentive challenge sponsored by NASA and other organizations. Some examples include:

MakerBot Mars Base Challenge:
This joint competition, which ran from May 30 to July 12, 2014, hosted NASA JPL and MakerBot Thingiverse – a Brooklyn-based 3-D printing company. For the sake of competition, participants were given access to the MakerBot 3-D printers and were tasked with designing bases that were utilitarian, able to withstand the elements and deliver all the comforts of home.

Of the over 200 ideas submitted for the competition, two were selected as the competition winners. These included Mars Pyramid a design inspired by Pyramid of Giza. This particular structure was designed to withstand the worst of the elements while being configured for science and engineering activities and experiments.

The sides of the pyramid should consist of solar panels to collect energy and give the residents perspective to combat feelings of isolation. An atomic generator would provide backup power, water would be stored near the power plant and heated as needed, and food would be cultivated with a sustainable aquaponics system at the top of the pyramid.

The second winner was Mars Acropolis a futuristic design incorporating carbon fiber, stainless steel, aluminum and titanium into the main structure, while a combination of concrete, steel and martian soil formed the outer protective wall. The main structure will consist of a foundation and three levels that contain different functions and facilities.

  What would a marsh colony look like?
The artist's concept for the Mars pyramid. Credit: thingiverse.com

At ground level, decompression chambers would protect against loss of air pressure while a number of greenhouses would produce food and help filter the air and produce oxygen. Level 1 would house the water purifier, while level two would be where homes, laboratories and a landing dock would be located.

Meanwhile, level three would act as a nerve center with aircraft operators and observation sites and the colony's water reservoir. This reservoir will be located at the top of the settlement, where it could gather atmospheric water, condense it for use by residents and use the sun's energy to heat it.

Journey to Mars Challenge:
Announced in May 2015, this NASA-sponsored incentive competition sought to inspire creative ideas from the public that would allow continuous living on Mars. According to the guidelines, NASA was looking for ideas that would address issues of "shelter, food, water, breathable air, communication, exercise, social interactions and medicine."

In addition, all submissions should focus on resource efficiency, feasibility, comprehensibility and scalability in order to facilitate missions that are longer and distant from Earth, eventually approaching "Earth's Independence". A $ 15,000 total prize money was awarded to the three concepts that best met all of these criteria. In October 2015, the winners of the competition were announced.

They included Mars Igloo : An ISRU Habitat submitted by the aviation engineer Arthur Ruff of Toronto; Starch from the Chlorella micro algae as the main food source for a self-supporting Martian Colony, submitted by Keck Graduate Institute alumni Pierre Blosse of Iowa; and Mars Settlement Concepts, filed by chemical engineer Aaron Aliaga and geophysicist Male Kidiwela in California and Texas (respectively).

The 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge:
This competition was a joint venture between NASA's Centennial Challenges National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (aka America Makes) and Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. It was divided into three phases, each having their own prize bag that would be divided among the three winning teams.

Phase I Design Competition, teams were required to submit architectural renderings. This phase was completed in 2015 and a $ 50,000 prize bag was awarded. The winning entries to this stage included the Mars Ice House of Space Exploration Architecture (SEArch) and Clouds Architecture Office (Clouds AO).

The concept was inspired by recent missions that have shown exactly how widespread water ice is in our solar system, especially on Mars. This particular design relies on the abundance of water and the ever-cold temperatures in March's northern latitudes to create a home for explorers.

The construction would be handled by autonomous robots that would harvest ice on site and combine it with water, fiber and airgel, which would then be printed as layered rings. This method and choice of building materials would provide insulation, radiation shielding, and ambient views to potential martial settlers.

Regolith Additive Manufacturing (RAM) by Team Gamma who also won the People's Choice Award. This concept requires the use of three inflatable dodecahedral modules to form the basic form of the habitat, while a number of semi-autonomous robots use microwaves to melt and distribute regolith (aka "sintering") over them to form the habitat's protective outer layer.

  What would a marsh colony look like?
The artist's concept for RAM habitat on Mars. Credit: NASA 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge

Third place went to the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) concept submitted by Team LavaHive. T heir design called for the use of repurposed spacecraft components and a technique known as "lava casting" to create interconnecting corridors and sub-habitats around a main inflatable section.

In Phase II ] Construction Member Competition, focused on material technology that requires teams to create structural components. It was completed in August 2017 with a cash prize of 1.1 million. $.

This phase was divided into three levels, where teams were tasked with printing samples of their structure, subjecting them to compression and bending tests, and then printing the scale models of their concepts.

In phase III the On-Site Habitat Competition was also divided into levels where each team was subjected to a series of tests designed to measure their ability to independently build a habitat. This phase culminated in a head-to-head habitat print in April 2019, with a $ 2 million premium purse awarded.

During this phase, several teams stood for their creative concepts, combining ISRU and unique architectural designs for fashion high-functional habitats out of the Martian environment. But in the end the top prices went to team AI. SpaceFactory in New York for their MARSHA habitat.

According to the team, their conical design is not only the ideal printing environment, but also maximizes the amount of usable space while absorbing less surface area. It also allows for a structure that is vertically divided into different types of activities and is suitable for 3-D printing thanks to its bottom-up design.

The team has also designed their habitat as a flange shell that moves on plain bearings at its foundation, the purpose of which was to handle temperature changes on Mars (which are significant).

The structure is also a double shell consisting of an inner and outer layer that is completely separated, which optimizes airflow and allows light to filter from above to the entire habitat.

Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (aka. Hi-SEAS):
Using an analog for a Mars habitat located on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, this NASA-funded program carries out research tasks designed to simulate occupied missions to Mars. At an altitude of 2,500 meters above sea level, the analogue site lies in a dry, rocky environment that is very cold and exposed to very little rainfall.

There are once herds in a habitat where they carry editions that resemble a Mars mission that includes research, missions to the surface (in the space board) and to be as self-sufficient as possible. The habitat itself is central to the simulated mission, which consists of a dome 11 m (36 ft) in diameter and has a living area of ​​approx. 93 m².

The dome itself is airtight and has a second level that is lofty, providing a high ceiling to combat feelings of claustrophobia. The six people in a crew sleep in threshold-shaped states that contain a mattress, a desk, and a stool.

Composting toilets make their faeces a potential fertilizer source for the next mission, a training center provides regular training programs and communication via email with a simulation of the time delay.

Other ideas include Mars Ice Home, an idea presented by NASA Langley Research Center in collaboration with SEArch and Clouds AO. After winning the Mars Centennial Challenge, NASA collaborated with these architectures and design firms to help expand their award winning proposals.

  What would a marsh colony look like?

The updated concept is based on an inflatable dome and removable decompression chamber, which are lightweight and can be transported and implemented with simple robotics. The dome is then filled with locally harvested water to form the protective main structure.

The ice house also doubles as a storage tank that can be refilled to the next crew. It can also potentially be converted into rocket fuel at the end of the mission, if necessary.


One of the more difficult questions to be answered about the Martian settlement is related to the number of people involved. In short, what is the maximum number of people that could be maintained in a single colony? And if these people were effectively cut off from Earth, how many were there to keep a self-sustaining population going?

In this case, we are guilty of a number of studies by Dr. Frederic Marin of Astronomical Observatory in Strasbourg. Using custom numeric code software (known as HERITAGE), Marin and his colleagues managed to figure out how large a generation of spacecraft would be.

What they stated was that there should be at least 98 people in order to maintain a healthy population where the risk of genetic disorders and other adverse effects associated with intercourse would be minimized. At the same time, they addressed the question of how much land would be needed to maintain them.

As dried food stocks would not be a viable option as they would deteriorate and become overdue for centuries, the ship was in transit, the ship and the crew had to be equipped to grow their own food.

  What would a marsh colony look like?
The artist's concept of an underground Martian settlement. Credit: NASA

Here they found that for a maximum population of 500 people, at least 0.45 km² (0.17 mi²) would be artificial land. From this amount of land, the crew would be able to grow all the necessary food using a combination of aeroponics and conventional farming.

These calculations can very easily be applied to a martial settlement, as most of the same considerations apply. On Mars, as with a spacecraft, the question is how to ensure sustainability and self-sufficiency over long periods of time.

Knowing how many people can be supported by a certain amount of land is also invaluable as it allows planners to


The transport problem is another major and applies to both coming to Mars (spacecraft) and get around when you are there (infrastructure). In the first case, there are a couple of nice ideas that have been floated, plus some really interesting concepts being developed.

On the public side, NASA is developing a new race of heavy launch rockets and spacecraft for the proposed "Journey to Mars". The first step in this is the development of the Space Launch System (SLS), which will launch astronauts for the cisma room (around the moon) in the coming years.

Once there, they will rendezvous with a revolving station known as the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway (LOP-G). Attached to this station will be Deep Space Transport (DST), a vessel relying on Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) to make the month-long journey to Mars when in opposition.

  What would a marsh colony look like?
The artist's concept for NASA's SLS reached circuit. Credit: NASA

When DST reaches the Mars circuit, it will rendezvous with Mars Base Camp, another space station that gives access to the surface via a recycling land (Mars Lander). Once manned missions to Mars are completed, this transport infrastructure can be recovered for civilian use.

Provided that people have the opportunity to come to the crisis room, DST could ferry people from the soil system to Mars every two years, enabling a gradual build-up. This is where the private industry is going to play.

For example, crews could be transported to shelters by a number of private launch suppliers. A good example is the New Glenn rocket developed by the private airline Blue Origin.

As stated by CEO Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), this rocket will allow commercialization and settlement of Low Earth Orbit (LEO). But with its heavy lifting options it could also send people on their first legs on their journey to Mars.

In another spirit, SpaceX and its founder Elon Musk have pursued the development of a super-heavy rocket and spacecraft known as Super Heavy and Starship. Once the system is completed, this system will allow direct missions to Mars, which Musk has indicated, will culminate in the creation of a Mars decision (Mars Base Alpha).

As far as transportation on the red planet is concerned, there are many possibilities, from rovers to mass transit. In the latter case, a possible solution was proposed by Elon Musk in 2016 during the first Hyperloop Pod Competition.

It was at this time that Musk expressed how this concept of a "fifth form of transport" would work even better on Mars than on Earth. Normally, Hyperloop would depend on low pressure pipes to allow high speeds up to 1,200 km / h ( 760 mph).

But on Mars, where the air pressure is naturally less than 1% of what it is on the ground, a high-speed train like Hyperloop would not need any low pressure pipes at all. Using magnetic levitation tracks that transport people to and from different settlements in very little time, it can cross the planet.

Radiation shielding:

Of course, any habitat or settlement on Mars must take into account the very real threat exposed to radiation. Due to its thin atmosphere and lack of a protective magnetosphere, the surface of Mars is exposed to significantly more radiation than the earth is. Over extended periods, this increased exposure can cause health risks among settlers.

On the ground, people in developed countries are exposed to an average of 0.62 rad (6.2 mSv) per year. As Mars has a very thin atmosphere and no protective magnetosphere, the surface receives 24.45 rad (244.5 mSV) per year – more when a sun incident occurs. As such, any settlement on Red Planet will either need to be cured against radiation or have active shielding in place.

A few concepts on how to do this have been suggested over the years. For the most part, these have taken the form of either underground buildings or construct thick-walled houses made of local regolith (ie, 3D-printed "sintered" shells).

Besides that, the ideas become a little more imaginative and much more technologically advanced. For example, civil engineer Marco Peroni proposed at 2018 the American Aeronautics and Astronautics Institute (AIAA) SPACE and the Astronautics Forum and Exposition a design for a modular Martian base (and spacecraft that would transport it to Mars) that would provide artificial magnetic shielding. The winding would consist of hexagonal modules arranged in a spherical configuration under a toroidal device. This device would be made of high voltage wires that generate an external magnetic field of 4/5 Tesla to protect the modules from cosmic and solar radiation.

The Peroni plan also called for a vessel with a spherical core measuring about 300 meters in diameter – known as the "ball of the ball" – which would transport the settlement to Mars. The hexagonal base modules would be located around this ball or alternately arranged in a cylindrical core.

This spacecraft would transport the modules to Mars and would be protected by the same type of artificial magnetic shield used to protect the colony. During the voyage, the spacecraft will provide artificial gravity by rotating around its center axis at a speed of 1.5 rpm, which creates a gravity of about. 0.8 g (thus preventing degenerative effects of exposure to microgravity).

Even more radical is the idea of ​​an inflatable artificial magnetic shield that would be placed on Mars & # 39; L1 Lagrange Point. This location would ensure that the giant magnetic shield would remain in a steady path between Mars and the Sun, providing artificial magnetic shielding against solar wind and radiation.

The concept was presented by "Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop" in 2017 by Jim Green – the director of NASA's planetary science department – as part of a speech entitled "A Future Mars Science and Exploration Environment".

As a green one, with the right kind of progress, a screen that could generate a 1 or 2 Tesla magnetic field (or 10,000 to 20,000 Gauss) could be deployed to protect Mars, thicken the atmosphere, raise average surface temperatures and make It is safer for future crew missions.

Dust Storms:

] Dust storm is a fairly common occurrence on Mars and occurs when the southern hemisphere experiences summer, coinciding with the fact that the planet is closer to the sun in its elliptical orbit. As the southern polar region points to the sun during the Martian summer, carbon dioxide, which is frozen in the polar cap, is evaporated.

This has the effect of thickening the atmosphere and increasing air pressure, which improves the process by helping to suspend dust particles in the air. In some cases, the dust clouds can reach up to 100 km (62 mi) in height.

Due to temperature increases, dust particles are lifted higher into the atmosphere, leading to more wind. The resulting wind detects even more dust, creating a feedback loop that can lead to a worldwide dust storm when conditions are right.

These take place every 6 to 8 years (about three to four March years) and can reach speeds above 106 km / h (66 mph). When such dust streams are hit, they can reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the surface significantly, which can damage solar panels.

This is the reason why the Opportunity [16459020] rover ceased to function in the summer of 2018. But [therover's rover managed to ride this storm out because it was driven by a Multi-Mission Radioisotopes Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG).

] In this regard, any future settlements on Mars should have a backup power option. In case the dust storms become too long-lasting or difficult, it would be practical to have nuclear reactors that can operate a billing power until the dust storms are clear.

Food Production:

Another major issue of living on Mars is the challenge of producing enough food to sustain a colony of humans. Given the distance between Earth and Mars and the fact that supply tasks will only be able to arrive once every two years, there is a great need for self-sufficiency when it comes to things like water, fuel and crops.

To date, several attempts have been made to see if food can grow in martian soil. At the beginning of the 2000s, experiments were conducted by researchers from the University of Florida and NASA's Biological and Physical Research Office. This consisted of seeing how plants would grow when exposed to martian pressures.

Another trial involved in using soil bacteria to enrich martian soil – especially cyanobacteria Chroococcidiopsis. This bacterium is known to survive in extremely cold and dry conditions on Earth and could help transform Martian Regolith into soil by creating an organic element.

In 2016, NASA teamed up with the Lima-based International Potato Center to test whether potatoes could be cultivated using Marian soil analogues created using peruvian soil. This experiment was carried out for three reasons: on the one hand, the dry conditions in the region served as a good facsimile to Mars.

In parts of the Andes, the amount of precipitation is just as rare and the soil is extremely dry – just like on Mars. Despite this, the Andean people have grown potatoes in the region for hundreds of years.

But perhaps the greatest feature was the fact that the experiment calls on the scenes of the Martian where Matt Damon was forced to grow potatoes in martian soil . In short, it was a spectacular PR movement for NASA at a time when it seems to drum up its proposed " Journey to Mars ".

In recent years, MarsOne, a nonprofit who recently declared bankruptcy, also conducted trials to see which crops would grow best in martial soil. This took place between 2013 and 2015 in the Dutch city of Nergena, where teams from Wageningen University & Research Center planted crops in simulated Martian and Lunar soil from NASA.

Over time, the teams tried different kinds of seeds (along with organic nutrient solution) to see which ones would grow in a moon and martens environment where the same seeds grow in the soil as a control. The team confirmed that rye, radishes, cake, peas, tomatoes and potatoes could all germinate well and produce more seeds for the next harvest.


From these many suggestions and ideas, a picture of the Martian settlement begins to appear. This is in line with our growing interest in Mars and evolving plans to explore the planet. And while the challenges may be great, the proposed solutions are both innovative and potentially effective.

Whether or not we should colonize Mars, the fact remains that we can, given the right dedication and resources. And if and when we do, we already have a really good idea of ​​how martial colonies can look.

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