When humans colonize Mars, the new settlement will need to become self-sustaining rather than rely on supplies from Earth. That’s the advice from NASA in a report entitled ” Frontier In-Situ Resource Utilization for Enabling Sustained Human Presence on Mars. ”
In it, the space agency reckons that current tech could help produce the necessities – water, oxygen, fuel and building materials. Things like robotics, nanotechnology and 3D printing could all be used to set up an independent colony on the Red Planet.
“These technologies, combined with the vast natural resources, should enable serious, pre- and post-human arrival ISRU (in-situ resource utilisation) to greatly increase reliability and safety and reduce cost for human colonization of Mars,” explains the report.
“There are massive resources on Mars obtainable from the atmosphere and extracted from the regolith which are capable of supporting human colonization,” said authors Robert Moses and Dennis Bushnell from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. They argue that plastics can be produced from the Martian atmosphere by using carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
Staring even further into the future, the authors of the report says Mars could becoming the centre of trade in a colonised Milky Way.
“Mars produced fuel would enable Mars resources to evolve into a primary center of trade for the inner solar system for eventually nearly everything required for space faring and colonization.”
NASA already has studies underway to try and grow potatoes in conditions similar to those found on Mars. They are carrying out tests using soil from the desert in Peru where the landscape is like Mars – to find the most resilient variety. NASA hopes to send the potatoes to Mars in refrigerated tubes ahead of a manned mission so that they are already growing by the time humans arrive.