September 15, 2015
How To Colonize Mars

Since it is so expensive to move people safely to Mars it would make sense to wait until we have the technologies needed to do three thing:

  • first send robots to construct a large underground habitat.
  • Then create and send genetically engineered organisms that can grow food, fiber, drugs, and structural elements in Martian conditions.
  • Then create genetic sequences that would adapt people to life on Mars and give them formidable intellects and long lasting bodies.
  • send a very small number of humans with lots of genetically engineered embryos. Grow the colonists on Mars. The first colonists would spend their time raising a large number of children who'd then do colony expansion work.

The genetically engineered organisms would avoid to send capital equipment to produce each kind of product that the colonists will need. The engineered organisms could be very small when shipped. But creation of suitable growing vats on Mars likely will be a challenge.

Humanity probably won't have the technologies needed to solve all these problems for 20-30 years. The robotics problem should be pursued first.

Another problem: how can a Mars colony produce and store enough energy? Send mini fusion plants? Or will they weigh too much? Genetically engineer organisms that can manufacture solar panels?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2015 September 15 09:15 PM 

Brett Bellmore said at September 16, 2015 7:44 AM:

Then figure out what to do with all the standard issue humans with inorganic machinery who arrived during steps one and two, because they weren't ok with a colonization plan that left the job to their distant descendants some time in the long off future.

Mark said at September 16, 2015 1:26 PM:

Actually getting humans beyond Low Earth Orbit would be a good start.

John said at September 16, 2015 7:16 PM:

Venus is closer.

Float some big ships in the atmosphere; hang out there indefinitely.
Terraform the surface at leisure.

Dorian said at September 16, 2015 7:58 PM:

Nothing is better then the Moon. We're wasting valuable time and money on trillion dollar pipe dream regarding Mars, much less Venus and whatnot.

It's really the same process for the most part as Mars colonization as Randall describes it, perhaps even the soil can be processed to grow stuff, though hydroponics obviates much of the need.


1. We've been there before with rinkydink 60 tech to boot.
2. It's really really close and has a much smaller gravity well to negotiate for multiple drop.s Hell we can have a space elevator set up there with existing mass produced materials to speed things along even further.
3. If cost is a factor, and thats primarily the issue, I'm betting at least an order of magnitude less than Mars.
4. All the relevant 3D printing space huts being worked out for Mars will work just as well on the moon.
5. The moon has a LOT of water, readily accessible, water.
6. People living there can actually make it back to earth in an emergency- to transit back is child's play compared to mounting a rescue mission to the red planet.

We can have a sizable colony up there in 5 years.

The only downside perhaps is significantly less gravity than even Mars. We don't really know what Martian 1/3 gravity will do to standard humans in the long term. I'm betting it's only a bit better than the moon. Genetically mitigating microgravity affected Osteoporosis should probably be #1 on the eugenics bucket list.

I think that people just don't find poor ole Luna all that sexy anymore in terms of space conquest, but really it is the first logical choice for near term colonization/mining/contingency community.

Brett Bellmore said at September 17, 2015 3:05 AM:

Number 1 on the list should be building a rotating space station, so we don't have to speculate about the effects of intermediate acceleration, but instead KNOW what they are. Seriously, how can we make any plans at all, when we don't yet know how much acceleration it takes to keep people healthy?

Aside from that, I think you make a good case for the Moon. It's never going to be a terraforming candidate, but would be much more economical to colonize. I'd say the only downside to a colony on the Moon is that it's too close to the Earth; It's more an annex of the Earth "basket", than a second basket to keep our eggs in. Too likely to be involved in any catastrophe big enough to cause human extinction on Earth.

But that's no reason not to use it for practice. We should indeed colonize the Moon first.

bob sykes said at September 17, 2015 5:21 AM:

Get real. We can't even finish the ISS. Heck, we can't even reliably resupply it. If the Russians lose interest in it, it will crash and burn.

The US manned space program is dead and buried. The only humans that might (a very big might) do man in space are the Russians and the Chinese. If you want to go to the moon (or the ISS) learn Russian or Chinese. It would help your chances if you emigrated to one of those countries.

Engineer-Poet said at September 17, 2015 1:58 PM:

Elon Musk already has a spacecraft more or less as capable as the Apollo CSM and capable of launching humans to the ISS and returning them; it's just not certified for that yet.

Brett Bellmore said at September 17, 2015 3:48 PM:

Don't confuse "can't" with "won't". We're not finishing the ISS because it's largely useless, precisely because it ISN'T rotating. It's worse than satellites for zero g testing, because of the vibration from having humans in it, and it's more expensive than ground research for everything that doesn't need zero G.

Really, all we absolutely needed a research space station for was testing the biological effects of intermediate levels of acceleration, and they made the ISS so as to be completely useless for the one thing a space station is indispensable for.

Bob Z said at September 18, 2015 10:17 AM:

Why is NASA developing the Orion capsule when SPACEX has the Dragon capsule. Do they both do the same things?

Brett Bellmore said at September 18, 2015 5:34 PM:

Nasa pursues a policy of discouraging private space development by pretending they're going to render redundant anything it looks like private space companies are going to do. Like, they get interested in asteroid mining when Planetary Resources starts to gain traction.

They never actually do whatever it is, but they make a show of intending to, and waste a lot of money in the process.

Crocodile Chuck said at September 18, 2015 9:34 PM:

People will never go to Mars.

The End.

ps how about we figure out a way to live sustainably on the planet we've got, instead of cultivating masturbatory fantasies [pretty piss weak] like this one?

Wolf-Dog said at September 20, 2015 3:26 PM:

RP: "Then create genetic sequences that would adapt people to life on Mars and give them formidable intellects and long lasting bodies. "


It seems to me that we should start using genetics to increase our own longevity here on earth, long before any attempt to colonize Mars.

dscott said at October 1, 2015 8:28 AM:

The US space program has been off track since Werner Von Braun ceased to be involved. The Moon and Mars are gravity wells are not suited to humans. This is why we need to get back to basics and go back to Von Braun's vision of a rotating station which is the only rational next step for space colonization. Take Von Braun's design, update it with 21st Century tech and build it in orbit. Expand the station one ring at a time until you have the population of a small town/village. Advancing in this fashion helps you work out the bugs one iteration at a time.

The next ring station will be a bigger diameter with wider rings, exponentially increasing the usable internal surface area and volume, meaning a population of a city. ALL of the tech necessary for a Lunar station or Mars station is required for a Toroidal type station envisioned by Von Braun without the expense and timeline of terraforming or the danger of biological contamination with deadly organisms.

Randall Parker said at October 2, 2015 7:35 PM:


The reason I write about Mars is that the Mars trip ideas discussed in the mainstream sound very much like the Apollo Lunar Program. Big stunt trip. Plant flag. Go on car rides. Send back video. Take trip home. What a pointless waste. The astronauts will come back home and people will lose interest once again.

If we are going to go somewhere we should go to stay. Do something sustainable or don't bother. Robots to Mars to build up the structure for a colony would lay the groundwork for something sustainable.

You want to build up a rotating space station? Okay, how to first go grab an asteroid that the space station can use to harvest materials for expansion? Perhaps hollow out the asteroid and make it a structure. How to enable that station to function for years without resupply? Granted, resupply could still happen. But how to put it on the road toward self sustaining?

If something isn't self sustaining then when the public gets bored it comes to an end. The massive Apollo program came to an end. Lets not make that mistake again.

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