A Martian Colony by 2023?

April 25, 2013

    To live and die on Mars: Meet the cast. This article describes an extremely audacious plan to plant a permanent colony on Mars by 2023. Personally, I think it's inadvisable between now and 2023 because of the technological developments that I think should precede human colonization of Mars. I envision robots clearing dirt "highways" to allow minerals to be transported from their deposits to one-or-more human settlements. Robots might construct a micro-industrial base so that a potential human colony could manufacture its necessities from indigenous Martian materials. At the most basic level, this would consist of the ability to smelt metals from their ores and to fabricate glasses and fired ceramics, etc. The next level up would see these materials fabricated into wire, sheets, and bars. Beyond that, would come, for example, machine tools capable of manufacturing additional machine tools. Access to water ice and construction of the equipment to thaw it, followed by electrolysis to generate breathable oxygen, would be a possible project for Mars-based robots. Excavation of burrows for human colonists would be a possible robotically implemented stratagem. At the outset, everything would have to be transshipped from Earth, but as time went by, more and more complex equipment might be built locally.
    Robots could be teleoperated from Earth but only in a general way with long propagation delays, as is being done with our Mars probes.
    For me, the real challenge isn't simply planting people on Mars, but rather, developing the technological base that would support the permanent colonization of Mars.
    Mars' atmosphere is at 1% the pressure of the Earth's atmosphere... about the pressure level at 100,000 feet. Mars is bone-dry, with liquid water locked up as water-ice. The pressure is at the triple-point of water, so water can't permanently exist in liquid form on the surface of Mars.
    There's permafrost buried under the Martian surface, and enough water frozen in the south polar ice cap to cover Mars to an average depth of 11 meters (about 35 feet). (This polar ice could provide some pretty significant seas.) There's also enough carbon dioxide locked up as dry ice to afford an average atmospheric pressure equal to that at the top of Mount Everest.
    Of course, I could be wrong about the feasibility of planting colonists on Mars by 2023 . I think this is a valuable effort. If nothing else, it should galvanize planning and discussion.
    What I'd like to see are detailed plans and experiments for carrying out a robotic preparation of suitable habitats for the human colonization of Mars. 
    Two good articles below, I think, do a good job of describing the Mars One concept.
 Mars One: Exciting Adventure or Hoax? | Educational Technology, Mars One - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia