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Thread: Humans on mars (Mars Undergound , Robert Zubrin)

  1. #1 Humans on mars (Mars Undergound , Robert Zubrin) 
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    Hey I just watched a show on the science channel that I found really cool. It was called "Mars Underground". So basically, this aerospace engineer, Robert Zubrin, came up with a plan called "Mars Direct". Mars Direct was a plan to get man on mars within 10 years. After negotiations with NASA they came up with "Mars semi-direct", an idea of sending 3 structures/vehicles to mars. One would create fuel, one would create water and the other would be a living space with extra supplies. 2 years would be spent setting this stuff up and creating the necessary resources on mars. Then another set of those same vehicles would be sent, but this time the living space would have people in it. This plan picked up a lot of speed but eventually was dropped because some at NASA thought it wasn't safe. They were woried about solar flares and other interstellar radiation. Robert Zubrin is still pushing this project and trying to get NASA to go for it for the third time.

    Also they were talking about a possible way of making mars hospitable for humans. They would set up giant building that would create carbon dioxide, and after something like 100 years the tempurature on mars would be high enough to support human life, the water in the ground would liquify and trapped carbon dioxide in the ground would get released warming mars even more. Then with the abundance of carbon dioxide some form of plant life would be planted on mars, genetically engineered if need be. Then there would be oxygen, heat, water and it would all just snowball from there.

    I thought the show was pretty cool and it all sounds pretty good in theory. What do you guys think?


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    I'm waiting for them to take note of the idea in the title. "Mars Underground"

    UNDERGROUND!!!!

    Send mining machinery, dig an underground tunnel, then put the base in the tunnel. You get all 4 walls and a ceiling for free. (Of course you'll have to do something to make them airtight and pressure resistant, but at least you get part of it for free). Put the tunnel far enough underground, and you've got your radiation shielding right there, 100 or so feet of rock will block just about anything.

    Once you get a foothold, you can expand the tunnel system further on out from there.


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    I found these on wikipedia if anyone wants to look into it further.
    Robert Zubrin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Zubrin
    Mars Direct http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Direct
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    i seen that show. it had very interresting shit on it. by increasing the co2 levels on mars, casuing the greenhouse effect, so the planet would heat up. then they would be able to plant things, which would bring oxygen to the air. then people could walk around on mars with no mask. BUT they said that would all take 10,000 years. :x
    "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon
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    they didn't say 10 000 years. They said they could do it by the end of the 23rd century
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    From what I understand, Mars' gravity is so low that it cant' really hold an atmosphere for too long. (Mind you, "a long time" in this sense could be millions of years).

    In the long run, if we give Mars an atmosphere, it will all be blown into space by the solar wind. In the short run, however, which is probably still long enough to be a long run to us humans, it would be cool to have an atmosphere on a planet that is easy to get into space from.

    I just hope that the elements used to give Mars an atmosphere are replenishable somehow.
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    well, if they set up these carbon dioxide plants, once they give mars a atmosphere that would work for humans they could have the plants keep pumping out carbon dioxide at a rate that would combat the atmospheric loss.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Send mining machinery, dig an underground tunnel, then put the base in the tunnel. You get all 4 walls and a ceiling for free. (Of course you'll have to do something to make them airtight and pressure resistant, but at least you get part of it for free). Put the tunnel far enough underground, and you've got your radiation shielding right there, 100 or so feet of rock will block just about anything.

    .
    As a geologist all I can say is: Ha! Ha!

    Do you have any concept of the mining infastructure for such a project? It's unfortunate that-well intentioned dreamers are so taken in by such simplistic naivity.
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    ummmmm no. they said it would be in the 23rd century for a civilization on mars BUT i said to have full oxygen on the planet so that humans could walk around freely with no type of mask it would take 10,000 years.
    "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon
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    ok. I thought you meant 10 000 years before people could live there.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    From what I understand, Mars' gravity is so low that it cant' really hold an atmosphere for too long. (Mind you, "a long time" in this sense could be millions of years).

    In the long run, if we give Mars an atmosphere, it will all be blown into space by the solar wind. In the short run, however, which is probably still long enough to be a long run to us humans, it would be cool to have an atmosphere on a planet that is easy to get into space from.

    I just hope that the elements used to give Mars an atmosphere are replenishable somehow.
    The atmosphere blowing off would take millions of years – very fast on the scale of a planet’s life, but too long for people to have to worry about.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jellyologist
    kojax wrote:
    Send mining machinery, dig an underground tunnel, then put the base in the tunnel. You get all 4 walls and a ceiling for free. (Of course you'll have to do something to make them airtight and pressure resistant, but at least you get part of it for free). Put the tunnel far enough underground, and you've got your radiation shielding right there, 100 or so feet of rock will block just about anything.
    As a geologist all I can say is: Ha! Ha!

    Do you have any concept of the mining infastructure for such a project? It's unfortunate that-well intentioned dreamers are so taken in by such simplistic naivity.
    What if they did things the old fashioned way? Send in highly articulate robots to drill holes and set charges, then blast. Slow going, but if you have enough explosives, and durable enough robots.......

    You'd have to be able to manufacture support beams locally, however. Something that still seems very possible.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Quote Originally Posted by Jellyologist
    kojax wrote:
    Send mining machinery, dig an underground tunnel, then put the base in the tunnel. You get all 4 walls and a ceiling for free. (Of course you'll have to do something to make them airtight and pressure resistant, but at least you get part of it for free). Put the tunnel far enough underground, and you've got your radiation shielding right there, 100 or so feet of rock will block just about anything.
    As a geologist all I can say is: Ha! Ha!

    Do you have any concept of the mining infastructure for such a project? It's unfortunate that-well intentioned dreamers are so taken in by such simplistic naivity.
    What if they did things the old fashioned way? Send in highly articulate robots to drill holes and set charges, then blast. Slow going, but if you have enough explosives, and durable enough robots.......

    You'd have to be able to manufacture support beams locally, however. Something that still seems very possible.
    A mining operation isn't just the machines on site and the local assemblage of various trades, repair shops, thousands of catalogued spare parts, etc....it's the technical infrastructure of society. Have a spare bolt? Have a machine to make a bolt to replace the spare one that doesn't fit? Have an infrastructure in situ repair the machine to make the...etc. Minng is a physical process of incredible demand. Is there a crew to maintain the machines? Who prepares their food ? Does a tooth filling when needing one? Need a dozen particular carbide saw blade tips?. ...fly them in from Pittsburg and they'll be here by tomorrow.

    There is a space Station in low Earth orbit. It costs billions of dollars to maintain. A supply ship arrives every month to 6 weeks. the amount of physical work usually involves no more than turning a few bolts and plug in connections.. Every bolt has taken thousands of hours of engineers planning, doing simulations and so on. Still, some of the 'work' is delayed until the next supply ship arrives so that engineers can reconfigure the necessary part.

    Perhaps one day there will be some type of mining on Mars but it won't resemble anything out of simplistic sci-fi books. 'The damn switch doesn't work...'no problem, take a 12 month coffee break while they specialize a new design and fly it in from Earth'.
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    Jellyologist, you are completely ignoring the advances that will occur in nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, materials science, and the like in the next ten, twenty, fifty years.
    You sound uncommonly like a Victorian gentleman explaining why we could never have a global spanning transport system that moved millions of people by air every day.
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    Alright. I can understand from Jelly that a "simple" or "simple-ish" approach has a few requirements, and therefore needs to be presented with certain qualifications order to be taken seriously.

    Suppose we have a few (say 5) highly articulate robots. They've been engineered and reengineered for durability, versatility, and ease of maintenance. (By "ease of maintenance" I mean the design favours very modular construction. If one of their hands breaks down, you have spare hands on the mission that can be used to replace the old one without needing to use tools)


    We send them up with spare parts for the things most likely to break down. We send them with basic tools.

    1) - Some drills with industrial diamond tip bores.

    2) - (This part I'm not sure what exactly is needed) Some means of heating materials and forming them into beams. (To support the mine shaft)

    3) - Explosives.

    4) - Shovels and wheelbarrows to carry away the rock they blast out.

    5) - A way to heat silicon (if Mars has any) and spread it in molten form along the walls of the mine shaft. (To make it airtight)

    6) - Some way of generating a lot electricity over time.


    They could mine the old fashioned way. Drill a hole, stuff some TNT in there, step back a bit, and set it off. Then they have to manufacture some beams locally to support it (Though it should be remembered that the lower gravity might reduce the amount of support that is needed).
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    Sorry to spoil your dreams, but as I do have some family connection to the tunneling business I can tell you it's not bloody easy not even here.

    We are AGES, looong AGES, away from authomatize tunneling HERE. Tunnels cost human lives and billions in budget. But the push to remove human factor is minimal -already there are enough things which go wrong!

    More technology = more complexity = more breakdowns. And how you fix a breakdown on Mars?

    And the machinery. Large tunnels are built with TBM (Tunnel Boring Machine), huge digging machines that leave a trail of prefab tunnel behind. TBM are the sort of thing you would like to have in Mars, but they're bloody difficult to operate on Earth. They require an astounding amount of micro-management work, and also a formidable logistics. They're heavy, complex and expensive. Usually are manufactured, shipped to the construction site and built & tested there... Of course, once you get it digging, a TBM can dig for as long as you can pay for its spare parts, entertainment, supplies and operation... but it's not easy. We are ages (50 years minimum) away from being able to authomatize the operation of a TBM. And then it will suffer from system lockups, blue screens of death and will need daily resets... (I mean, MORE than their current software already tends to get messed)

    On the other hand, we are on our way to be competent building things above the ground with a shielding that could allow them to stand solar flares. Not as good as an atmosphere and a magnetosphere, but compared to try and dig tunnels on an alien world without human assistance... FAI, TBM suffer from vibrations. There's a neverending job of tightening things, checking bolts, testing fittings and plugging back wires. Say: a little crumb of earth is trapped on a spring, holding it compressed and so the spring-lock that keeps a wire plugged just opens and the wire is unplugged... minor occurence #157,308 of ANY DAY with a TBM.... so yYou will send Joe to plug it again, and if it won't keep plugged Joe will use some duct tape on it. Dirty but, hey, you won't replace the bloody lock, even less the wire! Now, we can't do anything of the above with robots here... go figure on Mars! And if you send Joe to Mars, he will be wearing a glove so thick that he won't be able to grab anything smaller than 3 milimeters... and he still will need somewhere to be safe from solar flares.
    “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” -Charles Darwin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lucifer
    Say: a little crumb of earth is trapped on a spring, holding it compressed and so the spring-lock that keeps a wire plugged just opens and the wire is unplugged... minor occurence #157,308 of ANY DAY ...
    That's what it's like at a mining site on Earth with a trained crew of hundreds using the latest technology evolved over hundreds of years. The machine shop alone has a team at work full time manufacturing replacement parts....not just for the ones that break or are worn but, more importantly for the parts that were redesigned to accomodate some quirk.

    Throwing words out like 'nanotechnology' doesn't drill out a single pebble let alone millions of tons. When the tips on the drill prove to be wrongly angled and the bolts adjusting them are seized....all the nanotechnology isn't going to replace buddy with a acetylene torch.

    Zubrin gets folks thinking. That's fine. Unfortunatelyhis grasp of reality is non-existent and people get sucked in to polyanish schemes.
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    Alright.... I agree that digging a 3 mile long tunnel with 40' diameter isn't going to happen up there.

    My point is that tunneling happened long before TBM's were even imaginable. It wasn't huge scale. It was kind of rough hewn. There were always a lot of variables. But, it didn't use a technological nightmare worth of tools either.

    Yes, I know that *modern* tunneling techniques are horrendously complex, troublesome, and logistically difficult endeavors. Ancient tunneling techniques were less efficient, but they didn't require what it sounds like either of you are talking about.

    I'm talking about using ancient techniques, not modern ones.

    As far as equipment breakdowns........ I think that once a sufficiently simple tunneling process has been determined, the key to implementing it successfully would be massive redundancy. Have so many spares of things like drills and robots that you actually *can* send orders back to earth in time for them to arrive before the last spare breaks.
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    Ancient techniques? The most venerable technique for building tunnels is the one known as "dig and fill". You dig a trench, build a floor, walls and a roof on its bottom, then fill back the trench with part of the removed earth and that's it, you made a tunnel!

    The problem is how you move all that earth. In ancient times they used manpower, and nowaday it's done with heavy machinery. Dig and fill requires a whole heap of earth moving (much, much mroe than other tunnelign techniques), and once again it's a difficult job even on Earth. (We are not considering that our knowledge on Mars subterranenan geology is scarce).

    The whole point is that you can't send high-end amchienry a a way to resolve the problem of establishing human colonies there. You must FIRST resolve this problem in a easy and convenient way so you have got the manpower you'll ened to keep the machinery doing the job once things go wrong. And they will go wrong, and they will go wrong bloody away from all the resources Earth can have.

    It's easier to settle on the surface and provide a modicum of reliable lo-tech machinery, plus the means to refit this machinery to resolve any unexpected trouble.

    The whole point is "if you think sending people there is too complicated, try and send high tech machinery alone".
    “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” -Charles Darwin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lucifer
    The whole point is "if you think sending people there is too complicated, try and send high tech machinery alone".
    Who said we would send the equipment there alone?

    I repeat that Lucifer and Jellyologist are failing to appreciate the relevant advances that are on the horizon within the manufacturing industries.

    And Lucifer, your argument of authority from one 'who has family in the tunneling business' wont wash with someone who is in the drilling business and has over three decades experience in the same.
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    Ancient techniques? The most venerable technique for building tunnels is the one known as "dig and fill". You dig a trench, build a floor, walls and a roof on its bottom, then fill back the trench with part of the removed earth and that's it, you made a tunnel!
    Ok, I guess that's *too* far back in history. How about we use the same techniques the American railroad companies used in the 1800's? There's no TBM in that.

    The steps are pretty straightforward, unless you have some layers of detail to add to them:

    1) - You dig sideways into a crater, hill, or mountain, until you hit rock.

    2) - You use drills to drill small holes into that rock.

    3) - You place dynamite (or in this case, some other kind of explosive that will work in a vacuum) into those holes.

    4) - Everyone stands back, and you set off the charges.

    5) - Clear away whatever rubble has been created.

    6) - Every so often, you bring some beams (which you'll have to create from local materials) into the tunnel to support it.


    It worked in the 1800's. Why not now?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Quote Originally Posted by Lucifer
    The whole point is "if you think sending people there is too complicated, try and send high tech machinery alone".
    Who said we would send the equipment there alone?
    Well, that's been the issue. Some people here claimed that it can be done without human assistance and some other claim it's impossible without human asistance; and as building tunels is harder than building protected buildings, then the whole idea of start settling with tunnels is wrong. Tunneling may be a long run idea, once the infrastrucutre is ready to support it. But int he beginning you'll have protected huts or likely "bunkers" protected with layers of Earth.

    Dig and fill can be used to some extent... but not authomatically. It's the full authomation what I have the trouble with. Men with partially authomated machinery? Yes. Machinery alone? Never. And that's been the issue since Kojax answered at the second post.

    And Lucifer, your argument of authority from one 'who has family in the tunneling business' wont wash with someone who is in the drilling business and has over three decades experience in the same.
    M'kay, your agurment of authority is better than mine.

    But if you read above, you'll notice we're on the same boat -you need men and machinery, and not just machinery as some people have been claiming here. AND as you need men and machinery, then digging tunnels is not the answer to "how do we settle humans there once they come down the ships". Partially buried buildings could do.

    And of course making small underground works could teach us what we need to know on Mars subterranean geology before even consider digging a tunnel there...


    BTW, my link to the tunneling industry is a part which can't be replaced: every tunnel needs a topography team... specially on a planet without a magnetic field nor navsats. :wink:

    (What you drill, btw?)


    @ojax: You'll have far less trouble doing that with human assistance in situ. Digging tunnels is a long term idea, not a way to get a quick foothold on Mars. Tunneling is very, very demanding to both men and machinery. It's easier to work on the surface.
    “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” -Charles Darwin
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    http://www.trnmag.com/Stories/062800...nd_062800.html

    How hard would it be to get a robot with one of these hands to hold a drill? I'm sure it wouldn't be exactly easy, but it wouldn't be outside the reach of Nasa's engineers.

    The question is how durable these hands are, and how strong, as well as how much hope there is of improving on the existing design. In controlling it, you have to plan every movement about 20+ minutes before it happens, and you won't know how it went for another 20+ minutes after that.

    Still........ if you're not in a hurry......... you can eventually drill the holes, fill them with explosives, and then extract your robot to set them off.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lucifer
    Well, that's been the issue. Some people here claimed that it can be done without human assistance and some other claim it's impossible without human asistance; and as building tunels is harder than building protected buildings, then the whole idea of start settling with tunnels is wrong. .
    We are not a million miles apart.
    I believe that with the advances in AI and robotics that we can expect before we ever make it to Mars that it will be possible to do this without people in place. However, I doubt that will be the most efficient way of doing it. Its just that we shall benefit from a pair of hands (and a human nervous system) on the spot a lot less frequently than would be the case with current technology.
    Again, I favour cut and fill over tunneling. Digging in the regolith, with its dramatic variability, is more attractive than tunneling it. Equally your intial shelters would be surface affairs, then you move to cut and fill, and in suitable ground, to tunneling. [Kim Stanley Robinson in The Mars Trilogy makes use of lava tubes, which because of the gravity difference are much larger on Mars than on Earth.]
    Quote Originally Posted by Lucifer
    M'kay, your agurment of authority is better than mine. .
    Well, of course it is. I'm a global authority. 8)
    Quote Originally Posted by Lucifer
    BTW, my link to the tunneling industry is a part which can't be replaced: every tunnel needs a topography team... specially on a planet without a magnetic field nor navsats. :wink: .
    But one of the first things we do is put in a network of navigation and communication satellites.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lucifer
    (What you drill, btw?)
    Anything that might contain oil or gas. My company (employer; I don't own it!) manufactures drill bits.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lucifer
    Tunneling is very, very demanding to both men and machinery. It's easier to work on the surface.
    No one has yet commented on the significant difference that the reduced gravity would make. Machinery built for Earthside will be way over engineered and so withstand much more abuse before requiring servicing/repair. Equally the support structure, whether on surface, or within tunnels, can be much lighter than Earthside experience would suggest. This will be a significant factor in all construction on Mars.
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    I guess the reason I see robot tunneling as more efficient is because I"m counting the cost of separate missions and space flights as weighing in heavier than the cost of having a really hard time controlling a robot.

    You don't want to have to try and use actual people up there, because you'd have to continually shuttle them there and back, while a robot can land just once and occasionally be resupplied and/or replaced over a longer period of time.


    Basically, in space, any amount of engineering complication is cheaper than trying to fly a whole lot of separate missions.
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    I'm not sure if this is possible but wouldn't it be easier to use a cave as a start for this mars base ? Much of the digging would have already be done for us, it would be warmer then any man made tunnel if we could find one which went deep enough and may give us access to many useful materials.
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    I have to agree there. If Mars has any natural caves anywhere (and it might, especially if it once had water systems), that would really be the place to start everything.

    Then we could just take a section of a cavern, close off both ends, and cover the walls over with some kind of glass or plastic to hold all the air in.

    I understand one of Mar's 2 moons has a lot of caves, but almost no gravity. (I wonder if I should call them "moons" since they're basically the size of an asteroid.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I have to agree there. If Mars has any natural caves anywhere (and it might, especially if it once had water systems), that would really be the place to start everything.

    Then we could just take a section of a cavern, close off both ends, and cover the walls over with some kind of glass or plastic to hold all the air in.

    I understand one of Mar's 2 moons has a lot of caves, but almost no gravity. (I wonder if I should call them "moons" since they're basically the size of an asteroid.)
    It's unlikely that there witll just happen to be large caves near to the locations where some type of base may be set up. There needs to be a potential water source nearby, relatively flat terrain for landings, tale offs and mobility and, most important, has to be within a restricted latitude to be with a range of reasonable temperatures.

    "Then we could just take a section of a cavern, close off both ends, and cover the walls over with some kind of glass or plastic to hold all the air in."

    'just'? do you have any concept of the infrastructure required to do this? Not only would it take incredible technology and machinery but one mistake and everyone is dead.
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    Of course I'm discussing doing this all by machine, so nobody would die in the process of making the base.

    The question of coating the tunnel depends on what materials can be found locally. Putting ends on the tunnel is about a matter of setting up two walls, matching their edges to the tunnel, and then using a sealant on the point where the walls and tunnel connect.

    The reason I'm staying on the idea of tunneling, is because we're going to need a very sizeable base if we want to have a permanent human presence there. You can't just set up a 2000 square foot condo and then call it good.

    The only kind of base that would really be worth the trouble of building would be one that could act as a fully self sufficient bio-dome. You're never going to import enough materials to build such a thing above ground.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Of course I'm discussing doing this all by machine, so nobody would die in the process of making the base.

    The question of coating the tunnel depends on what materials can be found locally. Putting ends on the tunnel is about a matter of setting up two walls, matching their edges to the tunnel, and then using a sealant on the point where the walls and tunnel connect.

    The reason I'm staying on the idea of tunneling, is because we're going to need a very sizeable base if we want to have a permanent human presence there. You can't just set up a 2000 square foot condo and then call it good.

    The only kind of base that would really be worth the trouble of building would be one that could act as a fully self sufficient bio-dome. You're never going to import enough materials to build such a thing above ground.
    You're making the fallacious assumption that building underground is cheaper than building on the ground -and that's false both on Earth and on Mars.

    See, there on Mars you could build a pressurized "tent" with fabric and let its inner pressure shape it. It is that simple, even a low pressure (say, 750 milibars) would be a good deal in rigidity of the dome. Multiple layers of pressurized radiation shielding could do a decent work in protecting against radiaiton (we must bear in mind that multiple layers of insulation work better than a single layer of the same thickness; 1 mm of aluminum offers 3/4 of the protection of 2x0.5 mm of aluminum foil).

    All that will be cheaper and less torublesome than digging an alien planet -and that wihtotu accounting that most of Mars is swamped with regolite, which is exactly the worst and last thing you want to build anything underground, even if it is not filled with frozen water...
    “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” -Charles Darwin
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  32. #31  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    See, there on Mars you could build a pressurized "tent" with fabric and let its inner pressure shape it. It is that simple, even a low pressure (say, 750 milibars) would be a good deal in rigidity of the dome. Multiple layers of pressurized radiation shielding could do a decent work in protecting against radiaiton (we must bear in mind that multiple layers of insulation work better than a single layer of the same thickness; 1 mm of aluminum offers 3/4 of the protection of 2x0.5 mm of aluminum foil).
    The problem with this is it necessarily restricts size. If we can figure out a good way to tunnel, and tunnel say a 300 foot tunnel at 20 foot diameter...... then we could probably continue using that process to tunnel another 300 feet, or a mile, or however much we wanted.

    Basically, if we get anything, we get everything. It all depends on whether we can get over the initial technological hump.
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