Survival on Mars?

  1. I'd like to have two main questions about it.

    1. Radiation protection : theoretically, were thick leaded glass domes for settlements be enough for it, or you need to build underground anyway?

    2. Temperature : I read, that heat conditions on Mars equator is similar to Antarctica. We already can sustain bases on Antarctica, however, due to dust storms and 40% solar power, were a settlement be ultimately dependant of fusion power? Or not entirely necessary?
    (Other methods, solar power collection with large surface and orbital mirrors, producing fuel artifically that can be used during the dark times.)
     
  2. jcsd
  3. phinds

    phinds 8,342
    Gold Member

    You might try a forum search. Mars colonization is discussed here every now and then. A good place to start is the links at the bottom of this page.
     
  4. I see the links, but it isnt about whether we could possibly reach Mars in the next hunders of years or not?
    This is all about survival (engineering questions) under the given conditions.
     
  5. You're jumping ahead a step...

    There are three parts to surviving a visit to Mars.

    1] Getting there

    2] Being there

    3] Getting back

    The first is a major issue because the shortest route currently takes many months during which the travelers receive about 80% lifetime maximum radiation exposure. Providing the craft with a meter of so thickness of lead skin is an issue.

    The second is made more critical if arriving with a large exposure; the subsequent exposure during the visit needs to be minimized.

    The third, coming back, is the same issue as the trip there - exposure on the trip there plus exposure on the trip back exceeds lifetime max exposure by a large margin, no even counting the accumulation while there.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2014
  6. I thought the whole situation is hypotethical enough for the SF topic, it looks like i was wrong, but the topic assumes the getting there with enough equipment is solved. (Probably with ships mimicking Earth's magnetosphere, i read that it is a possibility to be viable.)

    So you say, around one meter lead would be the minimum requirement for radiation protection. Mars offers little more protection than space, and i thinking in a lifetime of stay.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2014
  7. phinds

    phinds 8,342
    Gold Member

    It would be a really short lifetime.
     
  8. mfb

    Staff: Mentor

    Those limits are always arbitrary, they vary with country and occupation and can be changed.

    There are inhabited places on earth with radiation doses of about 100mSv/year. A trip to mars without excessive shielding would exceed that, but just for 2-3 years, for a total dose of something like 1 Sv (number from space.com). That would increase the risk to get cancer, but so does smoking. The other risks of such a trip are probably much more dangerous.

    If you want to stay there for a lifetime, you certainly want some shielding.

    Well, "sustain" - getting materials there is cheap so the base can be large, you have an infinite, easy accessible supply of oxygen and water ice and everything else comes via airplane. We did not even manage to get a true self-sustaining ecosystem on earth, with unproblematic size limits, with more light from the sun, better environment temperatures and no radiation shielding issues.

    Conventional fusion reactors are huge by design and it is unclear if unconventional concepts will ever work. Fission looks like a better power source, or large areas of solar cells.
     
  9. D H

    Staff: Mentor

    You are jumping the gun a tiny bit. Temperature and radiation are the least of concerns, and yet you put those concerns first. Those are rather easily solvable problems. The hard problems:
    • How do you breath?
    • How do you drink?
    • How do you eat?
    • How do you treat medical problems?
    • How do you treat psychological problems?
     
  10. I thought about using the ice of the polar caps, hydrogen peroxides, CO2 to prduce biogen materials.

    Peroxides on Mars

    I dont doubt the enermous amount of infrastructure needed to do this, i supposed that some times in the future we could already built a huge space colony on Moon, or at L4 L5. And they can ship lots of equipment.

    Recently i read that stuff.

    Mercury base

    So you disagree with that analysis, that put heat issues first.
     
  11. Chronos

    Chronos 9,877
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    No air, no water, no food. These issues appear to merit a great deal of consideration in 'colony' planning.
     
  12. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    I'd add to that:

    • How do you maintain your base? Build equipment locally or rely on shipments?
    • How do you ensure a sufficient skill set amongst your population?

    On the subject of growing food, how good is our current understanding of Martian soil? I've read of studies where they made up what they thought would be Martian soil and tried to grow crops in it but I'm not sure how reliable that is. Seems like having a large and accurate amount of soil to test would be a necessary requirement.
     
  13. Lets suppose, that spare parts can be shipped, they dont have to start with building an entire industry.
    But in order to survive, produce food, water, air, habitats, they need to take advantage of the local resources after a time.

    Yes, i agree that is needed.
     
  14. D H

    Staff: Mentor

    Not one of which is something humans can do at this point in time, at least not for any extended duration. The problems that Ryan_m_b and I mentioned are things we don't know how to do. The problems you mentioned, radiation protection and thermal regulation are far easier.

    As far as colonizing Mercury goes, that's just plain nuts at this point in time.
     
  15. phinds

    phinds 8,342
    Gold Member

    +1 on that, for sure !
     
  16. mfb

    Staff: Mentor

    The Mars Plant Experiment didn't make it on Mars 2020, unfortunately.

    The ISS produces oxygen from electrolysis and recycles a significant fraction of the water used there - but it still needs a constant supply of water.

    Food is a serious problem, together with the overall station maintenance.
     
  17. Well, that is sure not good, it could have answered at least a few questions, they will remain in the dark for a long time.

    What are the problems with recycling on ISS, is there any proposed way to make it more efficient?
     
  18. mfb

    Staff: Mentor

    Some waste water is hard to recycle if it contains problematic other substances (biological or not) or if oxygen or hydrogen get bound to other molecules - if it is cheaper to get new water from earth, that is preferred.

    Currently, the ISS uses water to generate oxygen, and releases the hydrogen into space - that's not a closed cycle (and the carbon dioxide produced by humans is not used either), but I guess it is possible to make that better for a trip to mars.
     
  19. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    It's worth bearing in mind that even if a method was developed to break down waste molecules for reuse those methods themselves could generate waste. Albeit less (otherwise it's a useless technology) but a 100% closed system is quite unlikely for the foreseeable future.
     
  20. I thought about some hydroponics garden for recycling.


    A bit offtopic, but Mercury colonisation was also mentioned here.
    I read that Messenger was protected from the heat and radiation by sunshades and heat shields.
    Could this method also work on the sunny surface of Mercury? Or no, because there is heat all around.
    Or only if the machine is completely in some black box, and no access outside?
     
  21. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Messenger was in a very elliptical orbit, only a very small part of it was close to the surface to minimise the head reflected from it. Note the key term there: reflected. On the surface heating through conduction would make the situation even worse, not to mention the fact that a day on Mercury is nearly two months long.

    So unfortunately no, you can't put a shade on top of a building and survive on the Mercury surface.
     
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