(by Richard Heidmann, vice-president, Association Planète Mars (French chapter of The Mars Society). English translation by Pierre Brisson)
This report, written for the benefit of association Prospective 2100, was published (in French) in 2008 on the website of Association Planète Mars, the French branch of The Mars Society. During the seven years that have elapsed since then, a number of significant elements emerged that warrant reconsidering some aspects of the study, particularly the following points.
The choice of covered greenhouses, artificially lit, implying the use of nuclear energy, is a particularly determining option that would deserve to be discussed. Indeed, while the implementation of fission generators may be considered within the framework of a purely State driven scenario, it might be questioned in the case of a colonization driven by a private initiative. Besides, the continuous progress of solar panels and electric batteries do restore credibility to solar generation.
In terms of production, the three dimensions printing technique has considerably developed and is now seen as capable of revolutionizing the design of planetary settlements and their maintenance. It particularly seems that it would be possible to build pressurized modules using this method, as demonstrated by ESA’s work on the theme of a lunar habitat based on regolith. The variety of materials potentially available on Mars, including through synthesis, significantly broadens the prospects and could lead to an elegant solution for the manufacture of the modules.
But it is at the more general level of scenarios likely to lead to the establishment of a colony that we should broaden our range of thinking because, for the first time in history, a talented private entrepreneur, passionate by the Red Planet, Elon Musk, has pledged to dedicate his existence and the development of his industrial empire to the pursuit of this objective. Despite the seriousness that his successes and his taste for innovation credit this adventurer, we may keep considering that his Martian project is just the dream of an utopian, lacking anyway the financial and societal bases likely to give him any credibility. But the fact that he stated that this colony – and its associated transportation system – will eventually become a « business » gives the project a different tune. Yes, for this visionary Mars is a dream, but if he decides to invest into it or even to dedicate his wealth to it, this provides the evidence that he believes in an economic future for the space activities that will result. We already emphasized in this report the importance of the considerations related to the economy of a Martian colony (as well as those related to human and societal factors). The coming out of this perspective of private initiative, to which we must at least pay a critical attention, modifies the idea that one could have formed of the conditions needed for the establishment and operation of a colony; in this context, while it remains clear that nothing shall be done without the support of the space agencies, it is the industrial innovation and business model approaches of private enterprise which become the key factors for the emergence of a program and the defining of conditions needed to achieve a someday viable realization.
We hope, in a future version, to complete this study in the framework of such a scenario, being understood that, this time, it would be necessary to closely look at the economic model, in order to give substance to the data necessary to assess the project. New technical elements would also have to be taken into account.
I would like to sincerely thank Mr. Jean Dunglas (French Académie d’Agriculture) and Mr. Serge Le Quillec (Centre technique et industriel des Fruits et Légumes), who provided precious information, and Jean-Marc Salotti (Institut de Cognitique, Université de Bordeaux 2, member of the Board of Association Planète Mars) for his reflections about the ecology of a space colony.
I also thank Pierre Brulhet and Olivier Walter, both architects, members of Association Planète Mars, for their advices on the development /fitting out of the colony and their work on many Martian habitat projects.
Finally, I thank the Prospective 2100 association, its Chairman, Thierry Gaudin, and its Secretary General, Lucien Deschamps, for entrusting me with this analysis, conducted as part of a working group on the Future of Man in Space.
5. HOW TO ENSURE THE FUNCTIONS OF THE COLONY?
5.1. Vehicles and transport infrastructure – Communication means
5.2. Energy generation and distribution
5.3. Pressurized Areas
5.4. Food production
5.5. Fluids production
5.6. Materials production
5.7. Semi-finished products production
5.8. Recap of main means
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