Space Exploration: What would a Mars Colony Look Like?

It is well known that NASA is planning to land a robot on Mars in August later this year, with the goal of gathering data and looking for microbial life. In a sense, however, it’s the main target is to increase our preparedness for an eventual human martian colony, although it is unclear when we will be able to do this. This is because many things need to be addressed before any humans touch ground on the planet, such as food, water, transportation and housing/protection. We do have some idea of what a potential colony may look like, however, as NASA has given us small chunks of info over the years.

The Obstacles

There are many challenges that are currently preventing us from establishing a base on the Red Planet, and getting past them could prove extremely difficult or impossible. The main ones, but certainly not the only ones, are:

– the massive distance from Earth
– the inhospitable temperatures
– the dust storms
– the unbreathable atmosphere
– the increased exposure to radiation

Consequently, humans who make it will need extremely advanced technology in order to survive. For instance, habitats will need to be heavily sealed and pressurized, as well as being able to shield effectively against radiation. They will need to have heating and be heavily insulated, and self-sufficient in regards to water and power. They will also need to be well built using local resources as much as possible. This is known as ISRU, or In-Situ Resource Utilization. However, a lot of the furniture and equipment would also need to come from home, so I wouldn’t be too shocked if they use home-use items like theo-theo chairs.

The Habitat

NASA actually ran a public competition to find the best form of housing for a martian colony. It was called the MakerBot Mars Challenge, and entrants were given access to a 3D printer in Brooklyn for the purpose of the competition.

There were two winners. The first was the Mars Pyramid, which was based on the famous Pyramid of Giza, located in Egypt. The logic was that the Pyramid of Giza had lasted thousands of years, largely due to its shape that it allows it to withstand the harshest elements. For the Mars Pyramid, its sides would be made up of solar panels to collect energy with an additional generator inside for backup. Food would be grown at the top of the structure using a sustainable aquaponics system.

The other winner was the Mars Acropolis, a very futuristic design that utilizes stainless steel aluminum and carbon fiber to ensure the main structure is as stable as possible. Additionally, the outer protective wall would be comprised of Martian soil, concrete, and steel. The interior would be comprised of three levels, with a decompression chamber on the ground floor, living quarters on the second floor, and the nerve centre on the third, which would be used for water and observation.

It may be a while before we say anything comes to fruition, but it is very possible that one of these structures could be used on Mars!

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