Terraforming Mars – City Planning without always online DRM!

Gonna catch heat for that title.. it is EA after all.. they’re more sue happy then Apple when someone walks in with a Samsung Galaxy S3..

So, you want to live on Mars, do you? You want to be Douglas Quaid and wear fake head masks that have a functional use of less than 10 minutes? Well, let’s get started then, what are we going to need to know first off?

Before we even set foot on Mars, we need to figure out a few things. First, how are you going to go there? Our fastest rocket and our largest rockets can’t get you there, as it stands right now. So, before you even leave Earth, you’re already boned. Get to your desk, put on your engineering cap, and design a new rocket, because you have to find a way to store enough food, water, air and equipment on a rocket that can lift off from Earth safely. Omitting all science related equipment, and giving you ONLY the necessities to live, the Saturn V rocket (retired system, but it’s what took NASA to the Moon) can carry a functional weight of about 22,000 pounds of “stuff”. That’s not enough to survive on your own with the bare requirements of human life. Sure, you can get there and back, but we don’t care about orbiting Mars, we want to land on the surface and live there for the rest of our lives, right?

Well, you’re going to need to make a few lifestyle changes along with engineering a new rocket. You’ll need to go vegetarian, because there’s no McDonalds on Mars (yet..). So, part of your equipment stash is going to be the proper nutrients for sustainable life. You won’t need to stuff your cargo bay full of too much food, just enough supplies so you can grow your own veggies on the way there, and enough to survive for at least 5 years. Why 5 years? I’m sure you’ll make some friends at Space-X who can send you a Soyuz capsule with some supplies in it.. I mean, they did send Chris Hadfield apples and pizza..

So, now you have this rocket, designed and poof, it’s now built, and it can hold enough food supplies to get you there and back. You’ll need to pack a bunch of water, but not so much that it weighs you down, because you’re not going to be able to pull into the next gas station to refill your cooler. You’re going to Bear Grylls this one, and drink your own pee. Don’t worry! You’ll be recycling and purifying it, just like the International Space Station! You’d be amazed how much drinkable liquid is in your pee.

So there we go, food, water, and yes, recycled air and filters on board so you’re good to go. But wait, there’s more. You can now successfully make it too Mars, but you can’t land there yet.. take off your space suit and get back to your desk, and put your Engineering cap back on. That’s right, the space suit you were just wearing? It’ll last MAYBE a few hours on Mars. Why only a few hours? Well Mars has very fine iron dust particles that, without water to erode them, formed sharp triangle shapes and spike shapes, so if they get into a tight corner, they’re not going to just fall off like Earth sand does now. It’ll probably piece your landing suit, and then, game over. You’re going to need to do one of two things; either design a puncture proof space suit (NASA and other space agencies have been trying to do this, unsuccessfully, for the past 50+ years), or figure out a way where those particles aren’t damaging anymore. The latter is near impossible, unless we flood the surface of Mars and let the water take over for a few million years like it did on Earth. Erosion is a slow, painful process, but we don’t have a few million years to do that, so it’ll just have to happen over time later on.

Well, just like your magical space ship you managed to pull out of your ass (dude.. ow..), you somehow managed to find a space suit that’s impervious to punctures in your closet. Well, hop in your space suit and hit the big green button, because we’re off to Mars now. We’re going to assume that it took you 600 days to read that last sentence, because now you’re on Mars, wearing your space suit, what’s your first priority? You can’t live on recycled air, water and whatever food you managed to freeze dry on your way over, that’s a finite resource. You need to figure out a way to be able to grow plants on Mars. The atmosphere on Mars is mostly Carbon Dioxide, with some Nitrogen, unlike Earth which is almost a polar opposite. Plants can thrive off of CO2, but the problem is the temperature to them. You might be fine in your fancy lime green and pink space suit (didn’t you realize?), those leaves are not, and will most likely freeze dead in a few seconds outside on Mars.

Start Digging! Mars is warmer the closer you get to the core, but it’s about 1/4 the geothermic heat level that Earth is, so while the deepest cave on Earth is about 2km, and at that depth is a staggering 50 degrees Celcius, you’ll need to start digging about 10km before it’ll be warm enough that you can switch off your space suits heaters. Go find a cave that goes way deep into the core of Mars, and hope that fresh “air” gets all the way down there, because you’re going to need to take off your space suit eventually. Let’s assume that you have a solar powered, environmentally sealed air pump that can pump fresh Mars-air deep underground, and it just so happens that it can provide some additional power in the form of a 10km long extension cord because you’ll need to hydroponically grow your plants (the Sun isn’t going to penetrate 10km underground after all..). Using the water you brought down with you (you didn’t? Go back up and get it!), the plants are going to hopefully survive, and provide you with food, oxygen, and the heat from the core of the planet is going to keep you warm. Now what?

Well, if you’re fine living in a cave deep under ground, then, nothing. You’re good to go! Catch ya later!

Wait, you’re not fine with that? You want to start building cities? OK, start getting your infrastructure up.. I hope you managed to bring a bunch of construction equipment, a lot of spare food, water, and air, because giving Mars a breathable atmosphere is going to not only cost you TRILLIONS upon trillions of dollars, near impossible calculations and thousands, if not millions of years to regulate, then you’ll NEVER be able to walk on the surface of Mars like you do walking downtown Toronto. With a small amount of industry, enough pollutants could in theory green-house gas the atmosphere to help sustain the planet and calm it down so that the solar radiation and wild temperature fluctuations are no longer something you’d need to worry about, but how are you going to build that all by yourself? That’s a monumental task, and given current technology and the rate of progression, it’s not something that we can do in the foreseeable future. Pictures like this are something that’s millions of years in the making..

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Jeff Wilton

Jeff is the founder and owner of Everyday Science Stuff. ESS is a one man operation, with the core belief that all education should be served without crippling debt tuition, without revenue generating ads and without any restrictions of any kind such as paywalls, forced login and account creations, geographical restrictions, and so on.

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