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Martian Habitat

  1. Oct 15, 2006 #1


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    In case anyone is interested in some long range plans in space exploration and colonization, fyi -

    There are definitely some technical challenges.

    The power system would be on the order of 1 MW supplied by a nuclear reactor, and likely using geothermal cooling, as the Martian atmosphere is too thin to provide a suitable heat sink.
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  3. Oct 15, 2006 #2


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    And now, taking into account we are engineers, the next question is:

    How the heck are we gonna send a nuclear reactor to Mars?????. From an engineering point of view, it seems to me undoable. What about the safety measures in the transport process? The state of the art of the astronautical engineering does not point to a safe landing of that device in another planet.

    I have heard those things a lot of times. People dreaming and doing wonderful draws about a happy life in Mars, but what about those ""little"" aspects that we are not thinking about?

    i) Performance of a new spaceship for getting to Mars, unmanned and manned (Fuel, Engines, Structure, Microgravity and Radiation issues) and able to transport a heavy load as these guys are imagining.

    ii) Putting in orbit the spacecraft with a nuclear reactor /fissible fuel inside (!) and the great additional payload weight that it means.

    iii) Landing the spacecraft in Mars with no risk for the tripulation or the payload (which in this case would be so valuable that the government would consider it with the same priority than the crew).


    Colorary: Too much imagination but too little money.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2006
  4. Oct 16, 2006 #3


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    Aim for the sky. Though you may not reach it you will get higher than if you aimed for the ground...

    Personally, I would think all of these tasks, while daunting, are at very least possible. The largest problem IMO is not the nuclear power, but instead questions of radiation shielding, fuel, water and food supplies, and maintinence. Getting a nuclear reactor to Mars would be easy compared to some of the problems that are faced.

    Radiation shielding is a big problem because current "technology" is just surrounding what needs to be protected with as much dense material as possible (cement, lead, tungsten). Obviously, the huge weight of shielding an entire spacecraft would make this impossible. This problem applies to possible small nuclear reactors, as well as the flight to mars, and life on the surface. Instead, technology needs to be developed that either actively blocks radiation (large power requirements), or some form of low-density shielding (perhaps special composite materials).

    As for fuel requirements, certainly if you can avoid it you don't want to have to take all the fuel you will need for the return flight with you, if you can somehow make fuel on Mars instead. Another possibility for the ice caps...

    Water and food supplies are really the largest issue, as it seems ineffiecient to bring ALL the food and water you would need for a multiple-month mission. It might be possible to get water from Mars' ice caps, but growing food could prove difficult and largely dependent on the Martian soil composition. Perhaps genetically engineered plants could be made to grow using the soil available in a greenhouse, and produce as much O2 as possible while they're at it. Of course, the team could live on MRE's for the entire time...

    Finally, the problem of maintinence. It seems unlikely that you would carry spare parts for all of the hardware on the mission, and its quite a risk taking only parts for some things and hoping other parts will survive for the duration, as shipping would be somewhat, shall we say, delayed. The answer to this probably lies in rapid prototyping technologies. If all you need is a machine that uses polymer or metal powders, then you could "print" out any parts you needed. Obviously some work has to be done, but the technology is practically there (especially in the Selective-Laser-Sintering area). One big hurdle is figuring out how to make aluminum parts using this technology.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2006
  5. Oct 16, 2006 #4


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    The fuel issue seems especially critical. Last I heard, the main plan was to send automated systems ahead of the manned vehicles to begin making fuel for the reutrn trip out of ellements abundantly available on the Martian surface. Stepping up production of this fuel would seem to be the obvious choice for running whatever power plant is needed. Alternetively, solar power would work much better on Mars than it does on Earth.

    Setting up a nuclear reactor seems like an unnecessary complication.
  6. Oct 17, 2006 #5


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    Some documents are available here - www.marshome.org

    Mars is about 1.5 AU so solar flux is about 44% of earth at comparable orientation making solar power less attractive. Nevertheless, that would have to be considered as an alternative based on mass and waste considerations.

    That's the easy part. Getting it down on the surface is the hard part. Same with the moon - Lunar Surface NPP.

    Solar would probably be more feasible for moon, but unless built at the poles, one has to deal with no sunlight for half of a month.

    As for the philosophical issues of whether its worthwhile to build a settlement on Mars or the moon, that's for another forum. Here, I am just presenting the technical matters. There have been a lot of feasibility studies done and re-done over the last 30 years. :rolleyes:
  7. Jun 21, 2009 #6
    There's wind on mars why not bring a small wind turbine for backup and to run small things.
  8. Jun 21, 2009 #7
    I think they should focus more on developing plants that can survive in a martian environment/soil.

    Does martian air contain water vapor?
  9. Jun 22, 2009 #8


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    Honestly, I think making plants that can survive in Martian soil is a longshot. However, it might be possible to manufacture soil using some constitueant elements from the martian soil and some organic compounds that were brought along.
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