Design Logistical and Economic Challenges of a Mars Settlement

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R. Heidmann et al. (2020), JBIS, 73, pp.39-48

Refcode: 2020.73.39
Keywords: Mars settlement, Mars colonization, ISRU, Space habitat, Space tourism

Institutional disinterest in a manned Mars program is challenged, as the revolution of low-cost space transportation unlocks opportunities in the fields of research, tourism and, generally speaking, economy. With its spectrum of resources, Mars is a promising settlement location. The experience gained in fifty years of human spaceflight allows proponents to consider that the technical challenges, as well as health and psychological problems, are manageable and, more often, they imagine that the program would be funded by the governments. Unfortunately, no political goal can justify that. The contribution of private financial resources is necessary, which constrains the duration of the building phase, the profitability to reach, the minimum size for smooth operation, and the governance of the settlement. The conjugation of these constraints with the Earth-Mars transfer limits influences the design, mainly in three critical domains: habitats, greenhouses and power plants. The high building rate and the use of in situ resources are the more determining factors. On the basis of past technology surveys, and using a dedicated economic spreadsheet model, a coherent set of design data and scenario have emerged, leading to a rather optimistic conclusion about the possibility of this venture.

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