Self-sustaining Mars colony?

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Storyteller, Aug 12, 2013.

  1. Storyteller

    Storyteller Ensign Red Shirt

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    OK, this issue halfway came up in another thread here but I'm curious. What do you think it would take to make a self-sustaining Mars colony? I would probably say the ability to grow food, produce drinkable water, power and breathable air, extract necessary raw materials and use the to manufacture needed parts and tools, and repair machinery as needed. People are pretty tough and could do without a lot of the comforts we take for granted.
     
  2. scotthm

    scotthm Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The first thing it would take is sufficient reason to create such a colony.

    Once that epiphany hits enough of the right people, it will take a fundamental change in human nature to successfully follow through with the decades (or centuries) of work needed. I'm thinking it would take a city of several thousands on Mars before it could be considered "self-sufficient".

    I don't personally foresee that ever happening. After all, there are many sparsely inhabited regions right here on Earth we don't feel compelled to live in, and so I don't really expect condition #1 to be met.

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  3. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    I still think the lower gravity will take its toll on human physiology, so they would probably need to have some kind of weighted gym training like they do on the ISS. Either that or spend time in balanced, weighted suits to mimic their natural weight on Earth.
     
  4. FreddyE

    FreddyE Captain Captain

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    Or just never be able to come back anyway ;-)
     
  5. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    Coming back is not the problem though. The problem is skeletal degradation. Also if we're talking self-sustaining, the whole problem of whether the low gravity will affect reproduction and whether it will affect children's development.
     
  6. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well Mars has some gravity about one quarter that of earth. Most experts are divided/don't know if it's enough to create long term problems.
     
  7. Asbo Zaprudder

    Asbo Zaprudder Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Acceleration due to gravity on Mars = 3.71 m/s²; on Earth = 9.81 m/s² so more like 37.8% than 25%. The Mars Gravity Biosatellite Program was intended to test the effects of such reduced gravity on mice but it didn't get funded. It's not at all certain that a linear interpolation between a 0g and 1g field would give an accurate prediction of the effects.
     
  8. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    Well I doubt anyone can predict the effects. It would require experimentation on humans.
     
  9. TheMasterOfOrion

    TheMasterOfOrion Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    1Good PR and good legal status for investment in space or companies supporting exploration and colonization, or perhaps give it to a big government who is willing to invest big in heavy lift launch vehicles and exploit the new landscape

    2 Grit, Blood and Sweat surviving Mars will be much harder living next to Fukushima or living in Vostok, Antarctica or living in Death Valley. Forget the scifi, the planet Mars is not habitable at all

    3 Loss, people are going to die and fail, its a sad and hard fact. The Vikings failed in building a base in the N.America, centuries later many sophisticated European colonies failed in the America's, Spain had failed colonial settlements, some English early colonies failed with Sir Frances Drake and England's explorers soldiers and settlers all returning back home. Bases may even battle each other and go to fight over resources, their could even be famines and cannibalism, in the early America's there were attacks on the French trading post of Port Royal and the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, to survive some may be forced to survive as penal colonies. As painful as it is to admit the modern Western World might not have the stomach for planetary colonization, somewhere like China with its harsh communist authority and open free market system and high tech society might be better set up to colonize Mars and when you control the media you can afford to lose hundreds and don't have to worry about PR disasters. The Chinese might go for an ends justifies the means approach, if so they aren't going to be having moral or religious debates and would probably have little problem in genetic engineering or using people with robotic limbs etc
     
  10. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Changes would have to be made to the UN Outer Space Treaty. Countries, colonists and investers (corporations and private) would have to know that legally what they build and develop on Mars is theirs, and not "the common heriage of all humanity."

    :)
     
  11. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The UN can barely manage to enforce policy on Earth. Somehow I doubt they'd be able to do anything more than wave their fist angrily at anything on Mars.
     
  12. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

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    Fierstly, exploring the Earth is non-comparable with space exploration for the simple reason that we evolved here. This is our natural habitat. Secondly the Chinese are no less fond of their creature comforts than anyone else. It's not a racial or cultural call. Any pioneers would have to be highly trained, highly motivated and ultimately prepared for self-sacrifice.
     
  13. Scout101

    Scout101 Admiral Admiral

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    Not what he was saying (I don't think). Just a lot less moaning and hand-wringing when things go wrong, since the Chinese control the media and the tone of the debate.

    In the West, there would be public outcries and debates to cancel the whole project if someone stubbed their toe in the training process. In China, they'd likely never hear about it. And if that guy made a stink, he'd disappear in favor of someone else.

    While the volunteers in either system would have to be all of the things you mentioned, the Chinese guy may be a little less likely to make waves over harsh conditions or 'we think it will work' safety plans...
     
  14. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Hope to God it stays that way.

    Less a future problem with the UN, and more one with the courts. Some one, some nation sits out the initial explorationa and utlization of Mars. But when others establish themselves, or makes a big pile of money with a discovery, the one who remained to the side begin to cry out for their "share" of others work and efforts. They could point to the illconsidered treaty in a court challenge.

    It the kind of thing that invester would want cleared up prior to investing.

    The Space treaty really has to go, no common heritage crap.

    :)
     
  15. Dream

    Dream Admiral Admiral

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    How quickly would the governments of Earth get off their asses about colonizing Mars, if it's discovered that a meteor was going hit Earth and end all life on the planet in the next couple of years?:eek:
     
  16. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Eh, if there's just a "few years" warning, we're probably screwed unless you think Armageddon(the movie) is realistic. Maybe we'd get a few dozen people over there but that's about it and their self sufficiency would be in question to put it mildly.
     
  17. Into Darkness

    Into Darkness Captain Captain

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    I don't really think we should bother with colonising other planets. We need to industrialise other planets by having automated mining and processing machines on them. The resources would then be used to build spinning space stations in orbit that can mimic Earth gravity and I mean big ones, ones where you can have a complete biodome with trees etc on it.
     
  18. gturner

    gturner Admiral

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    For available resources, energy especially, Mercury would be easier to colonize than Mars, but the delta-V is much larger. One the plus side it has a launch window every couple of months, so the two-year resupply issues go away.

    Near Mercury's poles are huge ice-filled craters (its axial tilt is only about 2 degrees), and nearby, above the rims, undiminished by any atmosphere, is about 18 times more solar energy density than Mars gets. That energy flux would be there, undiminished, and available 24 hours a day by very slowly rotating the vertical-hanging collector on a tower, if you pick a spot with the right elevation. You can't do that on Mars, where the axial tilt is 25 degrees and you'd have long arctic nights to accompany a long arctic summer.

    At Mars, assuming you had solar cells producing at 42% efficiency (about the maximum achieved so far), 200 square meters of solar cells would give you about 50 kilowatts and about 550 kWh/day (24 hr day). On Mercury the same installation would give you about 870 kW and 21,000 kWh/day, which is more than Mars by a factor of about 36.

    This is critical because to become energy self-sufficient, and growing, the colony has to start making its own solar cells so they can expand material and crop production. So whatever PV production a Mars colony would require to support a hundred new arrivals, the Mercury colony would only have to make about 3% as many new solar cells to support the same number of immigrants. If you sent identical production facilities to each colony, and growth was purely a function of the growth in available energy, the polar Mercury colony could grow 36 times faster than the Mars colony. So if energy and food production are the limitations, the Mercury colony beats the Mars colony hands down.

    And as an aside, when it comes to vehicles for transport or mining, 15 square meters (16 feet by 10 feet) of 42% efficient on-board solar cells on Mars gets you 4 to 5.5 horsepower, which is about like using a chainsaw engine to move you around, but on Mercury it would give you 50 to 110 horsepower, which is more than a Prius, Nissan Leaf, or Honda Insight. On Mercury, solar powered cars could actually travel faster than our current highway speeds.

    But Mercury is going to look much like the moon instead of Arizona, so nobody seems to want to go there.
     
  19. Alidar Jarok

    Alidar Jarok Everything in moderation but moderation Moderator

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    Which courts? I seriously have no idea what you're talking about :)

    This is part of the reason I don't think any venture would be successful. I fail to see how they could possibly make a big pile of money from this. It's also why a ban on acquiring territory in other planets is probably not a huge impediment. There's very little to gain from claiming territory and cooperation is likely the only viable way something like this would succeed (everyone would collectively agree to share the inevitable losses that result). :)
     
  20. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Yeah, how exactly is a court going to claim jurisdiction on products from Mars? :p

    Unless we believe the Moon to be a territory of the US because Neil Armstrong put a flag on it?
     

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