Elon Musk has successfully launched the world’s most powerful rocket, and reckons he can put humans on Mars by 2024 — but what would life be like on the red planet?
Renowned futurologist Ian Pearson, reckons Earth’s Martian colony will have its own accent, currency, and even a robot government.
He believes it’ll be around the year 2070 before there’s “a sensible-sized base” on Mars, with dozens of people.
He says the first Martians will have to be very rich, a need “good credentials” to colonise the planet.
“They will have a very special status. The first person born on Mars is going to be a celebrity for the rest of their life. It’ll be like Big Brother, we’ll be following every single development.”
But while these humans will start off like an elite space-race with high IQs and loads of cash, they’ll eventually “dilute over the generations” into normal everyday folk.
We’ll all start off on an international base — just like the International Space Station — apparently, but from there humans might spread out onto military bases.
“After that, I think once it starts getting commercialized and becomes militarily important, there will be bases springing up that belong to the Russian or Chinese or America military, or by then there might even be a European military,” says Pearson.
But even if all of that were to happen where would humanity first establish a foothold on the Red Planet?
Selecting the perfect landing site will be essential for the successful establishment of the first Mars colony.
Growing food crops will be one of the key tasks for the astronauts. Scientists of Wageningen University & Research have identified places on Mars that are favorable for plant species to grow. Even though plants will be grown indoors, resources as regolith and ice will be used. Wieger Wamelink and student Line Schug developed an optimal 3D Mars-wide landing map, seen from a plants perspective. Some of the ideal landing places coincide with past and planned future landing sites.
To estimate the optimal landing places on Mars the researchers used several of the Martian maps showing essential information that are made freely available by JPL, the Arizona State University and NASA. “Without them this endeavour would not have been possible,” explains Wieger Wamelink. The maps contain information about mineral content, which can for example be related to calcium and heavy metal content. But also element maps for potassium, chloride, iron and silicon and maps for radiation level, climate, terrain including altitude and cosmic radiation were used.
Not too many heavy metals
High levels of heavy metals in the soil and strong radiation make a location unsuitable for establishment, “explains Line Schug. High contents of heavy metals and high doses of radiation make a location unsuitable for colonisation, “explains Line Schug. “While we see high temperatures or calcium levels and a relatively flat terrain as positive.”
3D maps of Mars
The maps were merged and the average score was calculated, with high scores marking the best landing sites from a plant’s perspective. In the past the Mars Pathfinder and Viking 1 landed at hotspots to establish a colony, however, MSL Curiosity and Viking 2 landed on less favourable spots.
Research on food for Mars and Moon
To feed the future humans living on Mars or the moon the Wageningen research project ‘Food for Mars and Moon’ aims to set up a sustainable agricultural system.
It is based on the presence of soils and water (in the form of ice) on both Mars and the moon. For this Earth-based research, the researchers are using soil simulants delivered by NASA. The simulants originate from a volcano in Hawaii (Mars) and a desert in Arizona (moon). The experiments started in 2013.
Nowadays the team is able to grow over a dozen crops; the only species that has resisted their efforts so far is spinach. However crops such as green beans, peas, radish, tomato, potato, rucola, carrot and garden cress all seem possible.
The crops were analysed for heavy metals and also alkaloids to check their safety for human consumption. After the plants had passed these tests we organized a dinner based on the harvested crops for the people that supported our research via the crowdfunding campaign.
Recently we proved that Earthworms can live and propagate on Mars soil simulant, an important step towards a sustainable agricultural ecosystem necessary for growing crops on Mars.
So we have the idea for what an initial colony site would need to contain for optimal chances of survival and growth. How should the cities that inevitably come about look like?
Colonization of other planets would entail a host of new trials.
“[L]iving far away from Earth in confined, artificial environments will challenge psychological health in brand new ways,” writes space architect Brent Sherwood in his book Out of This World: The New Field of Space Architecture.
That’s why, if we choose to accept the serious challenges and risks that come with off-world living, it’s important for architects and designers to start thinking about how to make spaceships and habitats not just survivable, but actually livable.
Future astronauts will need public places to rest, socialize, and congregate, in order to maintain healthy minds and a healthy society—and public (as well as private) spaces will play a role in working towards a functioning Martian society, and even perhaps, one day, the ideal of a Martian utopia.
But utopia won’t happen immediately (if ever). For now, Earth’s best and brightest are still working out how to fulfill our basic needs in space, like oxygen, water, and food.
The first travelers to Mars will likely set sail in groups of four, traveling inside large metal cans linked together, with solar panels extending out like sails. Each ship will be about the size of a small two-bedroom house, which almost seems roomy until you consider all the supplies and science equipment they’ll need to haul for the years-long mission.
In working toward the ideal of a Martian utopia, “We have got to figure out how to build these things to keep people happy, productive members of society for years at a time,” says Tristan Bassingthwaighte, an architectural designer at Deep Space Ecology. “If your whole crew goes insane, it’s still just as much a mission failure as if you crash into Mars.”
We don’t know how human culture, technology, and eventually even biology will change once we leave Earth, but we can anticipate some of the design essentials for the initial missions.
The first habitats on Mars or the moon will likely be similar to those four-person spaceships: small and cramped, with social life centered around the kitchen table. For long-term stays, these pill- or dome-shaped aluminum cans and inflatable structures would need to be covered with a thick layer of rock and dirt to protect the crew from deep space radiation as well as extreme temperature shifts.
During these early years of interplanetary exploration, private space may be just as much a concern as public space. Starting in August 2015, Bassingthwaighte and five others spent 12 months cooped up in a simulated Martian habitat in Hawaii called HI-SEAS.
The habitat was designed to be as open as possible to combat the quasi-astronauts’ sense of confinement, but as a result, nearly every part of the habitat was visible or audible from everywhere else. “We actually didn’t have nearly enough private space,” says Bassingthwaighte. “It was one of the bigger stressors after a while. It’s very hard to get into a place where you can unwind and let down that last psychological wall…. That constant stress will definitely contribute to aggravations or misunderstandings.”
An architecture student at the time, Bassingthwaighte wrote his doctoral dissertation on how he would improve the design of this mock Mars habitat.
He suggests keeping the large open common room, but making it convertible into smaller, more private spaces, so that the area could be used for events like soccer practice and movie night, or provide private areas for people to draw or read (or perhaps write their 305-page dissertations).
Since permanent residences on Mars will need to be buried beneath several feet of soil, Bassingthwaighte would use virtual reality to help people escape that closed-in feeling, and a CoeLux artificial skylight that “perfectly replicates the look and feel of natural sunlight. It tricks your mind into thinking there’s a much larger space just on the other side of the [simulated] glass.”
So there you have the basics of what a future life on Mars could be like. For more details on each segment, please check What life could be like on Mars in 2070
, The ideal settlement site on Mars? Hotspots, if you asked a crop
, How Should We Design Cities On Mars?.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
March 5th, 2018