NASA has its sights set on Mars, and a new report suggests colonists could eventually live off the land in sustainable communities that would allow them to shrug off Earth’s control and establish an independent planet.
The idea of building on Earth and shipping to Mars is too expensive to maintain long-term, but using existing technologies, NASA could eventually build an Earth-independent Martian colony, according to the study.
“There are massive resources on Mars obtainable from the atmosphere and extracted from the regolith which are capable of supporting human colonization.”
The NASA report, published earlier this year, is titled “Frontier In-Situ Resource Utilization for Enabling Sustained Human Presence on Mars.” It details how Martian settlers could use existing technology to mine important natural resources from the red planet like water, oxygen, fuel, and building materials. With these important resources and a dedicated robotic construction crew, Mars settlers could turn the red planet into an interplanetary gas station, enabling further commercial and tourism operations in deep space.
Part of NASA’s charter is to foster human presence in space, and an independent Mars settlement producing its own food and fuel could provide a stepping stone for deep space colonies, study co-author Robert Moses told Space.com.
“If the best that we can hope for is to get Matt Damon [star of the recent film The Martian] back to Earth alive, then we may have failed miserably in our pursuit of pioneering Mars and achieving Earth Independence.”
Much of the technology to sustain life on Mars already exists. Colonists on the red planet could use the hydrogen that is readily available on Mars and combine it with carbon in 3D manufacturing printers to produce most of the material early settlers will need.
Colonists on the red planet could live in underground bunkers to protect themselves from the dangerous solar radiation that the thin Martian atmosphere lets in. They would operate large Mars-trucks with bulldozer attachments to construct their colonies and mine for valuable natural resources.
Food could be grown in underground greenhouses using soil, chemicals, and other supplies shipped in from Earth. The abundant levels of ice found in Martian soil could be captured and melted down for consumption by early settlers to the red planet, though water lines would need to be buried underground to protect them from freezing.
NASA could begin the colonization of Mars as soon as the space agency finishes building its Space Launch System heavy rocket capable of carrying cargo to the red planet.
All of the supplies needed to begin a Mars settlement could be shipped in from Earth and parked in orbit over the red planet until a crew of astronauts arrives to pilot them down. Robotic controls could also be used to land the cargo on the surface of the red planet, where they would wait for Martian settlers to arrive. The landing areas on Mars would become the red planet’s first settlements.
Once an Earth-independent Mars colony was finished, NASA could use it as a gas station to help explore the outer solar system and establish commercial and tourism ventures in deep space, according to the space agency.
“Mars produced fuel would enable Mars resources to evolve into a primary center of trade for the inner solar system for eventually nearly everything required for space faring and colonization.”
Some of the work has already begun. NASA is planning a manned Mars mission sometime in the 2030’s. Meanwhile, Elon Musk and SpaceX have announced they plan to start sending cargo rockets with Martian colony supplies as early as 2018.
It’s unclear what form of government a free and independent Mars would take as a 1967 “Outer Space Treaty” stops celestial bodies from being claimed by Earth bound governments and corporations. Musk has hinted he would like to see some form of democracy develop on Mars.
What do you think about a Mars that is free and independent of Earth?
[Photo by Daniela Mangiuca/iStockPhoto]