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Creating a New Branch of Human Civilisation
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live on another planet? Scientists and business moguls, including the engineer and inventor Elon Musk, have made it their life ambition to get to Mars and get building. Musk is competing in a new generation Space Race. He plans for aerospace company Space X, to send an unmanned Red Dragon Capsule to Mars. Various other companies, including Mars One, also have their sights set on colonising the red planet. So here at Cobalt, we thought we should consider how these companies can prepare to build a city from scratch on Mars. Yet with September’s Space X Falcon 9 rocket exploding on launch, it’s clear that building a new civilisation on Mars isn’t going to be plain-sailing.
Why is Space Colonisation So Important?
Our planet is forever growing in population and we’re always liable to natural disasters, so the many people who are vying to populate Mars, argue that space colonisation ensures the future of humanity. Elon Musk describes space colonisation as safeguarding "the existence of humanity in the event that something catastrophic were to happen." By neglecting off Earth colonisation, we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to natural catastrophes. Also, eventually we will diminish all of Earth’s natural resources, so inevitably we will need to leave Earth to find and create a new sustainable environment. Even Stephen Hawking says "I don't think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space." Ultimately, not only is it essential we plan for the future of mankind, but building a liveable environment away from Earth, would definitely be humanity’s greatest achievement. But how?
Challenges of Getting to Mars
Walking on another planet for the first time would surely be the greatest scientific adventure, since the Apollo Moon landing. Travelling to Mars is significantly more difficult than travelling to the moon, so there are a number of challenges to planning a city on Mars. Before we even consider the infrastructure of a city on the Red Planet, we need to address one of the penultimate questions: how are we going to travel the 54.6 million kilometres to get there?
Although SpaceX has planned its first manned mission for the mid-late 2020s, just like every other space agency, they do not yet have the technology to carry people to Mars. However, travelling to Mars is still possible, but it would take "70 or 80 launches to assemble a Mars mission spacecraft", so evidently it would take a very long time. Also, we must consider the psychological effects of travelling to Mars, such as how people are going to cope with long-term weightlessness, as the journey from Earth to Mars takes around 8 months.
Furthermore, one of the crucial problems that needs to be addressed, is the issue of radiation that astronauts would be exposed to on a journey to Mars. However, NASA are developing solutions to this, including using more mass of traditional spacecraft particles, which would help absorb energetic particles that cause radiation.
How Can We Live on Mars?
In the event that we do actually make it to Mars, we need to prepare how we are going to live there. We must consider how we are going to store food, oxygen, shelter and fuel. NASA is currently pursuing new technologies that are capable of more efficient storage and transfer for space missions. Also, another factor we need to consider is transportation on Mars. There is active research and developments taking place on how we might transform Martian dirt into concrete, which would allow us to build roads. An article by Technology Review explains that Researcher Lin Wan, has developed an idea of how to build concrete on Mars that involves mixing Martian dirt with sulphur, and then letting it set until it hardens. Also, it is believed that concrete will be significantly tougher on Mars, because of the planet’s lighter gravity. Also, we would use 3D printing to construct the desired shapes of concrete, as well as other architecture needed to build the city.
When considering urban planning on Mars, we must think about how we are going to regulate temperature, deal with microgravity, as well as the long-term environmental effects Mars could have on the human body. It is important that we build a city for tomorrow that we can continually expand on.
The Giant Wheel Concept
What is absolutely essential when building a city on Mars, is ensuring that we have a reliable water supply. This is vital for any city planning, and there is strong evidence indicating that water does exist on Mars. However, in terms of creating a liveable environment on Mars, the idea of building a giant wheel is a concept that has been discussed for many years. It would create breathable air and normal Earth gravity because the wheel would rotate on an axis. We could create an environment that is similar to Earth. Crucially, planning and preparing a city on Mars provides us with a chance to explore new realms of space, which will surely be a historic endeavour.
So from giant wheels to Martian dirt, the ideas being developed for travel to Mars and settling there are vast. Yet with challenges seeming almost insurmountable, just how long will it be until there really can be life on Mars?
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