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

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Part 1

When Elon Musk announced that he wanted to plant a colony of 80,000 people on Mars in his lifetime, a few thoughts went through my head in (roughly) this order:

  • That’s an awfully long supply chain if things go wrong
  • Somebody is going to be responsible for administering the whole thing
  • That has to be the toughest job in history
  • They’ll need to be solar-class experts in many areas, or able to learn them in a hurry
  • There ought to be a handbook for this sort of thing
Flickr Creative Commons – UDSAgov

Obviously, it would more closely resemble a library, rather than a “For Dummies” type book.

Equally obviously, there would be a large team responsible, with many kinds of experts engaged in their own particular specialties.

Somebody would ultimately be responsible though.

Call them the CEO. Or the First Mayor of Mars. That person will need to have at least some understanding of each of the different subject areas of their team. Continue reading

A better display technology?

Display technologies tend to involve trade-offs based on their specific application: contrast, brightness, power consumption, refresh speed.

A technology that is perfectly suited for a television, which is typically plugged into the wall, would work poorly for a mobile device that has limited battery life. Continue reading

Better way to manufacture clothes?

The following series of ideas occurred to me while holding a loose thread on my jacket, and trying to decide whether to try breaking it on the spot, or to wait until I had a pair of scissors handy.

The manufacturing of clothing is still largely a low tech industry (unlike the making of the fabric itself), where rooms of poorly paid workers cut and sew together garments (I’ve linked to some articles below, some of which have great photos showing what a modern sweatshop looks like). Continue reading