Mars appears to be the next destination in the human journey to outer space: in the era of open source outer space, the idea of occupying the planet has attracted the attention of essentially every commercial space effort, including SpaceX and Mars One. With frozen water and a day length comparable to that of Earth, Mars has a lot going for it, but establishing a permanent human colony may be the epitome of “easier said than done.” To make the process a little easier for everyone, we created a detailed guide to building the Mars colony.
Designing for human beings is always the greatest challenge for space technology. A Mars mission will require a spacecraft capable of carrying apprx. 6-8 adult human beings across a distance of 34 million miles on a seven-month journey (return trip optional). One of the biggest design hurdles in space is building a vessel that can return home from its destination: from a strictly practical standpoint, it would be vastly more efficient for the Mars mission to be one-way, in other words, whoever goes to Mars, dies on Mars.
In addition to standard space-travel equipment, the craft must carry everything needed for life on Mars. A craft that carries an entire colony along with it has never been designed before. Would it function like a mobile home trailer, with the colony as a separate element, or like an RV camper, a vehicle and shelter in one?
There’s a first time for everything: every activity within the Mars colony will effectively be a “first”. imagine the first leisurely stroll on Mars. The first email. The first home-cooked meal, followed by the first bowel movement. The first passive-aggressive spat. The first sexual encounter.
The Human Population:
Candidates must be carefully assessed according to their unique skills, psychological makeup, group dynamics, and physical aptitude. The Mars One mission has seemingly been at the forefront of this assessment, although recent reports indicate their selection process is possibly more of a pay-to-play scheme than anything else.
Possibly the greatest physical challenge facing the crew is the effects of reduced gravity. We’re looking at zero gravity for seven months in space and then a life on Mars with 38% of Earth’s gravity. Reduced gravity causes muscle atrophy, weaker bones, and tired, irritated astronauts / Mars dwellers.
The greatest mental challenge? Prolonged exposure to “frontier solitude”. Some people are more naturally prepped for it than others, like Vyacheslav Korotki, for example, a Russian meteorologist who conducts his research on polar climates on an completely isolated Arctic outpost. Sign him up.
The colony will face an extremely hostile environment: 1) The Martian outdoors sounds like a bummer. Mars has no magnetic field. It was burned off over billions of years by solar winds, leaving the surface exposed to deadly amounts of radiation. And roughly every five years, the planet is blanketed in a dust storm that blocks the sun for months at a time. What’s more, the Martian atmosphere is 95% carbon dioxide, which completely toxic to both plants and animals. 2) Mars is extremely cold but sometimes extremely hot. Mars is freezing, on average minus 62 degrees Celsius, but capable of ranging to summer highs up to 20 degrees Celsius. 3) Low gravity, no pressure: Martian gravity is 38% of Earth’s, and extremely low atmosphere pressure means you can’t survive outside without a pressure suit – exposed, your skin and organs would rupture, producing a quick, painful death.
How will the first human Martians have sex? How will their sex drives be affected? Will intercourse lose significance, or will the thrill of Mars make them excessively aroused? Will constant copulation interfere with their more mundane duties?
There’s a first time for everything: every activity within the Mars colony will effectively be a “first”. Every aspect of human life will be occurring in a radically different context: imagine the first leisurely stroll on Mars. The first email. The first home-cooked meal, followed by the first bowel movement. The first passive-aggressive spat. The first sexual encounter.
Life as a Mole: Colony design will need to optimize living conditions for a permanent mole-people mode of living underground, mostly spent repairing equipment. It would be like going back in time, or living in a survivalist bunker.
What’s for Dinner? The problem of growing food on Mars is complex, and new Martians will most likely resort to a hybrid food system based on a combination of prepackaged foods, shelfstable ingredients, and greenhouse-grown plants, although the ultimate solution likely will boil down to costs, and to storage availability. The long-term solution to meals and a host of other quality of life issues on Mars? Terraforming: the planet-wide process of engineering an environment to be suitable for human life.
We propose alleviating boredom and loneliness through group pharmaceutical ingestion. Timed regularly, this will result in the creation of new rituals that punctuate calendrical time and establish shared meaning.
Adults Only: How will the first human Martians have sex? How will their sex drives be affected? Will intercourse lose significance, or will the thrill of Mars make them excessively aroused? Will constant copulation interfere with their more mundane duties? There is also the greater medical problem of human reproduction in space. To avoid the thorny issue of a Martian pregnancy, we suggest assembling an unattractive and/or introverted human crew, or considering a combination of sterilization and medication for lowered sex drives.
Cures for Cabin Fever: We propose alleviating boredom and loneliness through group pharmaceutical ingestion. Timed regularly, this will result in the creation of new rituals that punctuate calendrical time and establish shared meaning. In The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, for example, Philip K. Dick imagined Martian pilgrims who alleviated their ennui by popping psychedelic pills and group-hallucinating living as a ditzy couple in southern California.
Communication will be everything. Speaking to one another will be the sole resource that the people of Earth and Mars can offer one another. Are we prepared for an interplanetary media spectacle? Live-feed webcams? If and when something goes amiss, are we ready to gawk at the disaster in real time? (yes).
What if Mars hates us? As the Mars colony matures out of its infancy, what if it enters an awkward teenage stage, and wishes to turn its back on its Earth parents? How will Earth deal with its child? Earth cannot slap Mars from 140 million miles away or send it to its room.
- William Rauscher