The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Part 8

What happens when things go horribly wrong on Mars? Help from Earth would take months to arrive, and would have a transportation bottleneck.

The colony will need to have a contingency plan for all possibilities, as well as a full range of emergency services. Continue reading

Better turnstiles

Turnstiles for directing people in a single direction are a useful but klunky invention. I always approach them with great caution, especially when carrying a laptop bag over my shoulder.

It occurs to me that we could get the same effect with greater ease of use (and less tangled straps).

Picture the kind of hanging flaps used to keep cold in a walk-in refrigerator.

Now make them out of some kind of smart material.

When touched or pushed from one side, they become flexible, allowing people to pass through. Otherwise they would be set to be hard, preventing passage in the other direction.

Smart turnstile, with touch sensitive hanging strips
Smart turnstile, with touch sensitive hanging strips

The material could be transparent, or could have a no-entry sign imprinted on one side of it.

The material cost would likely be significantly lower than traditional turnstiles.

Entry only possible from one direction
Entry only possible from one direction

Why do I need a cellphone?

If computing is ubiquitous, then why do I need a cellphone?

This isn’t a new idea, really. I’ve come across it before in SF novels. Its worth gaming out what the world will look like though. I say “will”, because this scenario looks inevitable. Continue reading

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Part 7

The Mars colony will be planned in great detail, years in advance. It is impossible for the colony administrators to anticipate everything though. Vast stockpiles of spare parts, and a regular supply chain will help, but certain items will need to be manufactured locally. It is important to remember that issues that are trivial irritants on Earth – a blocked toilet, for example – can become life threatening emergencies in space, or on Mars.

In the previous post, we discussed how legal, jurisdictional and economic issues can effect the future health of the colony. You can also begin at the first post here. Continue reading

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Part 6

The administrators of the first Mars Colony will need to be expert in more than just science. Legal and economic factors will have a huge bearing on the success of the colony. Without a firm legal basis, the colony will have difficulty attracting investment, and private individuals may think twice about participating. Without a vibrant economy, the colony could turn into a ghost town. Continue reading

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – A brief intermission

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook will continue shortly! I’m currently estimating that there will be another 5 – 6 posts, covering topics from manufacturing to emergency services. Much of this is already written, and I’m editing it as quickly as I can. I apologize for any delay.

If anyone from Discovery reads this – wouldn’t these posts make a nice documentary miniseries? For one thing, it would be a great excuse to visit McMurdo Station, as well as other cool and out of the way places. 🙂

One of the nice benefits of blogging is the people that you meet. I especially want to mention the enthusiastic space community at moonmars.com (go sign up!) and the wise folks at the Lifeboat Foundation’s Facebook group.

Some readers of the series from these two groups posed a couple of questions that I had anticipated answering in the conclusion. I think now that they’re too important to leave until then. Continue reading

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Part 5

Ensuring that a Mars Colony has a solid supply chain will be a difficult task. The average distance between Earth and Mars is around 225 million kilometers, and transit times – even with greatly improved rockets – are several months. Light itself can take nearly half an hour to travel the distance, depending on how far apart the two planets are. And there is little margin for error, as tens of thousands of lives will be at stake.

In part 4, we discussed how the colony will generate energy, obtain raw materials, and ensure that the right mix of colonists are picked. Or you can start from the beginning, here. Continue reading

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Part 4

Administering a future Mars colony is going to be a tough job by any measure – not least because some of the decisions required are going to be controversial. Some of the toughest decisions will revolve around resources such as energy, mining raw materials – and picking the right people to join the colony.

In part 3 of this post, we discussed how the colony will keep supplied with air and food. You can also read the introduction here.

Continue reading

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Part 3

Building a large permanent colony on Mars presents significant challenges for whomever is responsible for administering it.

In part 2 of this post, we discussed some of the challenges involved in supplying the colony with water. You can also read the introduction here.

Air

Small oxygen purge system from a spacesuit - NASA
Small oxygen purge system from a spacesuit – NASA

Humanity has some experience with (relatively) closed, space-based systems that reuse air. For a detailed discussion of how the International Space Station maintains its air supply, see here.

There are several component factors involved in supplying a Mars colony with air: the initial supply, which is likely imported in one or more forms which we’ll discuss in more detail below; new and ongoing resupply; filtration methods; and locally produced air.
Continue reading

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Part 2

Building a large permanent colony on Mars presents some interesting challenges for whomever is responsible for administering it. The first part of this post covers the basic rationale for creating a handbook (or really a large and broad resource) that will help future space colony administrators in their jobs.

Resources

Mars Sojourner Rover - Flickr Creative Commons - d_tomono
Mars Sojourner Rover – Flickr Creative Commons – d_tomono

One of the key decisions that will need to be made (on a regular and on-going basis) will be whether to source particular resources locally, or whether to import them from Earth (at significant cost).

In all likelihood, the decision will really be “what percentage of this resource to import”, rather than a binary consideration.

The key to bear in mind with regards to local resourcing is that we are building a large colony with many people, and as a result the processes are going to be at an industrial scale, involving large numbers of people in both construction and ongoing operations, and with the added complication of everything requiring a pressurized atmosphere for people to breathe. Continue reading