Friday, February 8, 2013

A World Away

I've been doing a lot of research on Mars lately and the other day a thought came to me: considering the distance to the Red Planet, and the cost associated with transporting supplies there, what kind of technology would a settlement have?

Initially, there would be technology related to life support, fuel generation, and shelter. Yet there would also have to be technology related to growing crops, should a long-term permanent settlement become established there. That would likely involve irrigation, heating, and some form of protection over the crops (i.e. a huge greenhouse).

Then there are other types of technology that would likely come along for the ride in the form of entertainment. For example, imagine being locked up in a space capsule for six months just to get there. Would the astronauts be able to watch movies? Would there come a day internet access in space could become a reality?

Once on Mars, it is likely that some basic communications links back to Earth will be quickly established. We already have some satellites in orbit around the planet, so sending out more would not be difficult...just expensive. Yet if you stop and think about all the other infrastructure in existence on Earth, it quickly becomes apparent that at some point a Martian settlement would have to become self-sustaining somehow in terms of establishing electrical lines, water lines, sewer lines, power generation, etc. This would require new ground to be broken in terms of engineering feats, although some lessons could be taken from the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet least in terms of transportation. At some point, a fledgling indigenous industry will spring up, too, and who knows...maybe someday they'll be able to send new technology back to us humble Earthlings.

Is humankind up to the feat? I have no doubt.

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