Mars Colony

I’ve just started reading Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, and it’s had me thinking about humans colonising Mars.  In his book, we do it in 2026.  Several times in the past, NASA has set targets for going to Mars, and they’ve all died out.  The latest target set by the Obama administration is to reach Mars by the 2030s.  Of course, that’s if the government would stop trying to cut planetary programs.  In the following documentary, it says that with the changes of government every 4 to 8 years, it’s unlikely long term goals for colonising Mars would be realised, and we must focus on short term goals.  I haven’t watched the entire documentary yet, but this is a reminder to myself to watch it.  Here it is:

There’s one group that’s planning on sending people to Mars by 2023.  That’s only 10 years away!  I’m sure you’ve heard of it.  It’s Mars One. It’s a non-profit organisation that has already received thousands of applications from people who want to go to Mars and never return to Earth.  Over the next few years, they’ll select the lucky colonists partly through reality TV and pay for it from all the publicity it’ll receive.  The first mission, if it goes as planned, will launch in 2016 with supplies for the colony.  I would love for this to actually happen, but I won’t hold my breath.

There are a lot of novels that feature Mars colonisation, and even my Journey to Ariadne starts out on Mars (no longer a colony, but a civilisation).  One common idea is to terraform Mars.  This would be a very long process.  The Mars Trilogy by Robinson is all about the terraforming of Mars.  I’m very interested in seeing how the story progresses.  In my story, Mars isn’t terraformed, but still quite hostile.  To terraform Mars, a lot of gas would have to be injected into the atmosphere, enough to provide a high enough air pressure for people to survive.  But first, plants would have to be able to grow, meaning a greenhouse effect would be needed to warm the planet.  Water vapour and carbon dioxide are important for this.  Lots of water is needed.  But it’s a difficult process, considering Mars’ lower gravity and lack of magnetic field would make it very hard for it to retain this atmosphere.  Can it be done, though?  Who knows.

Where would we put the first colony?  Lowlands seem like the best bet.  The air pressure would be higher, the atmosphere thicker, and less radiation (although it’s quite high).  In the tropics would be best, most likely.  Stay away from the Tharsis region, as this is a huge bulge on the surface of the planet with a much thinner atmosphere.  In Journey to Ariadne, the story starts out in the Hellas Basin, which is a huge, ancient impact feature that has a very low altitude.

Of course, Mars is only a stepping stone for Journey to Ariadne.  Ariadne is the ultimate goal.

What do you think of the attempt to colonise Mars?  Do you think we should do it?  Leave a comment with your thoughts.