On the way to the interplanetary genre

According to the most optimistic scenarios, people will be able to colonize Mars in about 50 years. What problems do we have to deal with during this time to establish a human colony on the Red Planet?

Let's start with the biggest problem. Data obtained from the ExoMars probe clearly show that astronauts who travel to Mars would receive up to 60 percent. radiation doses predicted throughout their career. And this is not the only problem associated with manned missions to the Red Planet.

However, before we get to the next dangers, it's worth starting with the radiation itself . According to measurements obtained by the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter probe, according to ESA's currently accepted radiation limits, astronauts would have to end their career after completing one trip to Mars. Well, it may not end, but they certainly could not fly a second time to the Red Planet.

Deadly cosmic radiation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cz5tSegU16E

NASA analyzes show that during an 18-month mission on the surface of Mars and two flights - there and back - astronauts would receive 1010 millisieverts (mSv). The average person who leads a completely ordinary life on Earth annually receives about 3 mSv of radiation. Crews of passenger planes, due to staying for a long time in a thinner part of the atmosphere, receive 5 mSv. Employees of nuclear power plants, in accordance with established standards, may in turn adopt 20 mSv of radiation per year.

So we already have some reference scale, which shows that 1010 mSv is quite a lot. Remember, however, that this is a dose that would be spread over time. 12 months round trip and 18 months spent on Mars gives a total of 2.5 years of exposure to increased radiation - 400 mSv / year. On the one hand, it is a huge number. On the other hand, it does not mean that every astronaut who will fly to Mars will begin to develop a cancer.

The indigenous inhabitants of the city of Ramsar in Iran, living in stone houses built of radioactive limestone, receive annually about 250 mSv and live. Ie. some of them have tumors, but this statistic does not differ from the world average. A higher dose of radiation, of course, increases the risk, but it does not mean that someone who accepts the Martian dose must get cancer.

Mars was not colonized at once

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeGXO01ILVA

Let's also remember that the results presented by ESA and NASA were calculated based on today's capabilities of spacecraft when it comes to radiation protection. It is very possible that we will soon have available a better technology, which will significantly reduce the number of millisievers accepted by astronauts. NASA plans to test several such solutions during a manned mission by Orion MPCV to the orbit of the Moon.

Radiation is not the only problem when it comes to long journeys to uninhabited planets. The cosmic environment has a huge impact on our physiological processes. Eugene Cernan, after participating in the 3-day Apollo 17 mission, recovered for over half a year. David A. Wolf after less than 5 months at the MIR station lost 40 percent. your muscle mass, 12 percent. bone and lost 10 kg. His return to his former self took him two years.

I do not even mention the glaucoma and other problems caused by the diametric change of pressure. And this is not the end. Until today, we have not known the full impact of the cosmic environment on our body. For example, we do not know today whether the broken bone will normally grow weightless.

Maybe it does not sound terribly sensational, but during more than 2 years of mission to another planet, you should know these things. Fortunately, space agencies are well aware of this fact. For example, NASA wants to start by resuming manned missions to the moon and its orbit. The planned orbital station that will revolve around our natural satellite will also be a testing ground, created for future missions to Mars. It is a pity that all these Great Space Missions will not happen faster than in a dozen or so dozen years. Passionate about this topic, a person learns to be patient very quickly.

Suppose we build a ship that will protect astronauts from the dangers of travel

https://youtu.be/tdUX3ypDVwI

We do not know yet who will be responsible for its construction. NASA cooperates with Blue Origin , Boeing and SpaceX on this topic. All three entities are working on their prototypes so far, the nearest to which is supposedly the completion of Starship, designed by Elona Muska .

Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX vice president at the APSAT conference, revealed that Starship is being built in parallel by two teams of engineers, in the two locations of SpaceX - Florida and Texas. Both teams have full freedom in their work. Such internal competition will of course help you choose a better (and cheaper) solution.

From the top-down assumptions about the SpaceX ship, we know that it will be one of the largest rockets ever built. It is to carry loads up to 20 tons orbiting geostationary Earth and, if necessary, accommodate a 100-person crew during an interplanetary flight. Such a payload will certainly be useful when it comes to transporting equipment and materials needed to build a Martian colony. This will be the first point when it comes to the plan to colonize the Red Planet.

Remote colony construction

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Bae1Dwqlss

Of course, we're skipping manned missions that will only stay on Mars for a while. The real colonization of the Red Planet will start with an unmanned mission that will take the equipment needed to build a shelter there. The most sensible plan of this undertaking was presented by prof. Behrokh Khoshnevis, who has been working with the NASA space agency since 2011.

He proposes to use the 3D printing method called Contour Crafting (CC). This method allows the printout of a finished building with an area of ​​230 square meters in less than one day on Earth. Khoshnevis, however, used prefabricated elements produced in earth factories.

His continued search for ways to effectively print infrastructure on Mars resulted in a prize in the NASA In-Situ Materials Challenge. Khoshnevis then presented a method called Selective Separation Sintering. In short and simplified, it involves processing powdered materials available on Mars in "cartridges" for 3D printers.

Equally important: its operation does not require any gravity. The head designed by Khoshnevis works on the same principle as the glue gun. Higher pressure in the chamber pushes the filament, thanks to which 3D printing is possible even in the state of weightlessness.

3D printing alternatives are unlikely to work

dżdżownice na marsie

Visualization of one of the projects of the Martian colony, from which we will start conquering the Red Planet.

The professor also analyzed several other options. Sending a ship with ready prefabricates is virtually unrealistic due to their high weight. Once, that Earth gravity limits us quite a lot, and two - the heavier the load, the greater the cost of the entire undertaking.

The next considered way to build the Martian infrastructure were inflatable buildings. The biggest problem with this solution is radiation on the red planet. Such inflatable buildings are made of polymers such as vinyl. Materials of this type exposed to high levels of radiation very quickly lose their strength, so this idea also falls out.

Apart from the fact that these machines would have to have the right size and weight so that we could send them to Mars, this mission would have to take place without the participation of human crew.

What exactly would we have to send to Mars?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sioX2bbkZms

First of all, we need a permanent power source. Khoshnevis suggests using solar panels. It's a pretty good idea. In addition, the current rate of technological development of cells and photovoltaic panels is so dynamic that by the time we decided to implement the Khoshnevis idea, their performance would certainly be satisfactory.

In addition to the energy source, we also need equipment for extracting, processing and transporting Martian rock powders to printers (3D printers). In addition, there is the issue of building the infrastructure itself from printed prefabs.

Robotic constructors will have to show in this field. The optimal solution would be to create a machine that would take care of materials, transport and infrastructure. The robots would also have to be so slick enough to be able to set up all of the machinery and connect it properly.

Of course, at this stage we are talking about human-controlled robots. It is true that the maximum distance between Earth and Mars is 401 million km, which translates into (more or less) an 8-minute delay in human communication with the machine. Such a large lag is obviously annoying, but this is not a problem that would hinder the implementation of the plan. We are finally talking about the colonization of the new planet!

Colonization of Mars: what about food?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE3b7Oe_kys

Ok, the base printed, the daredevils assigned to live on Mars have just landed - what about the food? It will not be that easy. The Martian soil contains a lot of perchlorates (perchloric acid salts or esters), which would have to be removed before starting the culture. In addition, it is in vain to look for nutrients in the Martian soil, which we do not complain about on Earth.

This means that to establish a farm for any plants on Mars, we will need land and fertilizers prepared on Earth. The breeding itself, in turn, will have to be protected from radiation. For this you will need to carefully select the most resistant to the inhospitable conditions of the variety of vegetables and fruits. But calmly, we slowly deal with this problem. NASA cooperates in this matter with the International Potato Center.

The research conducted there are devoted entirely to potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, other tubers and edible roots. One of the goals of the MCZ scientists is to develop varieties that can be grown in nutrient-poor soil. Like Martian. The search for the most promising varieties began on February 14, 2016.

On this day, the first seedlings were placed in the soil prepared in such a way as to pretend to be on Mars. It turned out that the soil with the most similar parameters to Martian is located in the desert of Pampas de La Joya, located in the south of Peru.

The entire culture was enclosed in a CubeSat capsule, prepared by engineers from the University of Engineering and Technology in Lima (capital of Peru). The container is closed hermetically, thanks to which scientists could recreate conditions on Mars: air pressure, carbon dioxide and oxygen levels.

In addition, the capsule is equipped with an automatic irrigation system and sensors monitoring their growth. It turned out that most of the varieties selected by the MCZ scientists coped in such conditions.

When it comes to water, there is a lot of ice on the surface of Mars, or a dozen or so centimeters below it. Fortunately, there will be no problems with this, too.

Cologne works, what's next?

Tak może wyglądać tzw. baza przejściowa, zbudowana z części lądowników, które dostarczą kolonizatorów na Marsa.

This is what the so-called transition base, built of parts of landers that will supply colonizers to Mars.

This is an excellent question. So far, no one has given them an exhaustive answer. Although Elon Musk threatens that all this makes sense, the Martian colony must become a big city where thousands of people will live and reproduce, but the vision of our favorite eccentric billionaire is unrealistic. We are talking here finally about the colonization of a dead planet, devoid of atmosphere, on which every gram of food and square meter of shelter that will protect colonizers from radiation will be at a premium.

The most optimistic scenarios assume that the first inhabitants of the Red Planet will live there longer for some ... 50 years. Unless, of course, during this time, the budgets of Earth's space agencies will allow further research and experiments that will allow us to build a functional settlement on another planet.

We still do not have a good idea to restore the atmosphere of Mars . This, in the (very) long-term perspective, will be the biggest problem of our future colony. Living permanently on a planet that does not have its own functional ecosystem will probably be somewhat reminiscent of a permanent stay in an anti-nuclear shelter. For the sake of learning, you can, but I suspect that many settlers will miss the Earth after a while.

We can not be picky, of course. Mars is the only planet that at the moment seems to be colonizing. Yes, she is completely dead, but ... so far we have no other option. In addition, its colonization will help us to develop and standardize many solutions that will allow further colonization in the even more distant future. Then we will be able to show off that we have achieved the status of an interplanetary genre. The bad news is that nobody who reads this text will probably live to see the time when we will colonize our first exoplanet .



On the way to the interplanetary genre

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