18 thoughts on “A Million People On Mars”

  1. Probably get their food by aquaculture; spirulina edible by people directly supposedly quite nutritious. And it would make excellent feedstock for said aquaculture. Fish/seafood could be brought in by the colonist also as frozen fertilized eggs; hatched/developed in the Martian environment using Mars’ water/resources.

    1. Yes, very portable in small quantities that grow into big quantities. The question is what minerals and contaminates will be in Martian water.

      1. I’ve heard of chlorates in martian soil. But those shouldn’t be too hard to chemically decompose to chlorides.

  2. Assuming long-term human settlement on Mars is really viable – the big question here is gravity, and while I suspect this won’t be a serious problem, we just will not know until we put humans there, you know, long-term – it’s hard to believe that the food possibilities won’t dramatically widen as the colony grows. Even to include, say, some cloned livestock at some point, and possibly sooner than you would think. A lot of brains would be put to work on the problem.

    Otherwise, in the short term, aquaculture. No crickets necessary.

    1. Rice, tilapia, muscovy ducks, and azolla. Breakfast of champions.

      I think there might be a market niche for beef grown in low-gee. Sorta like Kobe beef, but way more expensive.

  3. It’s a long established fact that humans can survive indefinitely on pemmican, a 50/50 mixture of lean meat and animal fat. More recently, it’s been established that the most nutrient-dense and balanced human food is pork fat (because the piggies will eat anything, their fat is vitaminlicious…). So we’ll be bringing bacon seeds to Mars. As for crickets, I think they’re also called chicken feed.

      1. I didn’t read the link, but your comment Rand is the first thing that came to me when I read the previous comment about crickets. The crickets would only be there if there were plants for them to eat. And if there was enough to feed humans, then bring in something to eat the crickets and eat that. Still, there must be plenty of plants to eat.

        Alas, we really don’t have the elite thinkers we used to.

  4. Shortly after arrival, produce most of the cargo mass using local resources (propellant, water, plastic, food, metal) so that you are mostly shipping people, provisions, and electronics).

    Then, use a small set of Super Heavies to launch about an equal number of tankers and a larger fleet of Starships to LEO just before and throughout the launch window. Launch from numerous launch sites at maximal cadence per launch site.

    The savings of the passengers pay for transport, largely automated & locally-produced habitation, and consumables.

    Put together, people could be moving to Mars in the tens of thousands per year. In a third of a century you could have a million people on Mars.

    But, for the goal of establishing a back-up for humanity, it could be done sooner and cheaper on the Moon using Starships that would make many more round trips to the Moon than Mars. And we know where all of the necessary resources are on the Moon to support an independent branch of humanity.


  5. “Based on Cannon’s and Britt’s analysis, four of the five major “consumables” necessary for a Martian settlement—energy, water, oxygen, and construction material—can be extracted from the Martian surface in economically practical concentrations. Only food is not obtainable from raw materials on Mars. So, how to solve the food problem? The authors suggest growing plants, insect farming, and cellular agriculture.”

    It’s not known if water or energy can can extracted in practical concentration. Construction material depends what you mean by construction material and it will depend on whether you get energy at a low enough cost.
    But what Mars has is solar energy. Globally Mars has more/better solar energy than Earth. But solar energy on Earth is not sustainable- anywhere on Earth, and though Mars has better solar energy than Earth, it’s not clear it sustainable, particular when there other high costs. Cheap water on Mars would be mars water only about 100 times the cost of water on Earth or about $1 per kg is cheap martian water. It possible Martian water could cheaper than this, it seem likely water could eventually be be produced cheaper than this. But at moment there is no evidence that mars water could be cheaper than $10 per kg. And idea that NASA Mars base would only pay $10 per kg for water, is absurd. And what be more absurd, is if NASA knows locations on Mars where it can get the cheapest Martian water, and decides not to put a Mars base at such a site.

    Anyhow, if you get mars water for $10 per kg or less and if you get electrical power for say $100 per Kw hour {more a thousand times electrical cost of anywhere on Earth} growing crops should easy on Mars or growing crops {and having livestock} should the easy part rather than some sort of problem requiring you to eat bugs.
    AND “Come to Mars and only eat bugs”, would mean, that no one would be going to Mars. Come to Mars, we have no bugs, could be a good selling pitch.
    Why live on Earth, when on Mars we will never have mosquitoes, might be enough said. But no spiders, no cockroaches, and no pesty house flies, might cause a stampede.

    1. But what Mars has is solar energy. Globally Mars has more/better solar energy than Earth. But solar energy on Earth is not sustainable- anywhere on Earth, and though Mars has better solar energy than Earth, it’s not clear it sustainable, particular when there other high costs.

      gbaikie, I have no idea what you mean by “sustainable” here. But at Earth’s distance from the Sun, one gets about twice the light intensity as Mar’s distance. And the surface of Earth (at least in areas with no cloud) reduces that by about 30%. So Mars surface, even if there were no atmosphere to reduce the sunlight further will never get the same power per unit area that one can achieve on Earth’s surface.

      And usual definitions of “sustainable” is that one gets much more energy out of the method than one puts in without a serious depletion of resources (like burning chunks of coal) to generate the energy out. Solar power fits that nicely.

      1. “gbaikie, I have no idea what you mean by “sustainable” here. But at Earth’s distance from the Sun, one gets about twice the light intensity as Mar’s distance.”
        Earth on average gets about 1360 watts per square square, And Mars on average gets 600 watts per square meter. Earth at the top of the atmosphere gets more twice the sunlight. But Earth has thick atmosphere {10 tons per square meter} and Earth has clouds which can block nearly all of the sunlight reaching the surface, But the thick atmosphere is more significant than the clouds. When sun is at zenith and the day is clear, Earth gets only 1050 watts per square meter of direct sunlight. But if include indirect sunlight it total 1120 watts {or there is 70 watts per square meter of indirect sunlight on clear day when the sun is at zenith}. But on Earth there is the term, called peak solar hours which roughly 6 hours a day or 3 hours before sun is highest in the sky and 3 hours after this point.
        The tropics on Earth receive the most amount sunlight reaching the Earth surface. And in the tropics on put solar panel so it is level to the surface. Outside of the tropics you tilt the solar panel so as to get the most amount of sunlight- a greater tilt the further you away from the tropics. So land and ocean are mostly level, or not tilted in the correct direction that but our solar panels if outside of the tropics. The other reason tropics get the most sunlight is because in the tropics the sun can be a zenith- outside of the tropics the Sun is never at zenith {90 degree in the sky}. Or the tropics has the sun more higher in the sky than elsewhere on the planet. In the tropics if the sun reaches zenith, the sun travels 15 degree per hour. So when at 45 degrees, it’s 3 hours before noon, then it’s 90 degrees at noon, and 3 hour later it’s at 45 degree. But hour before or after it’s at 30 degree, and when sun at 30 degree it must pass thru twice as much atmosphere as compare to noon. So get less sunlight reaching surface, even if pointing at the sun. If not pointing {or if level to surface] then the sunlight spreads out over more surface area and get 1/2 as much sunlight per square meter. Or tropics gets less portion of sunlight which below 30 degree above the horizon{or the same thing more than 60 degrees away from zenith} than the rest of the world.
        Anyways what wrong with Earth is you only get about 6 hours of sunlight on average per 24 hour day {and less if there are clouds} and it really stupid trying to get solar energy above 45 degree latitude either north or south.
        But with Mars one harvest solar energy in the polar region- though need to point your solar panels at the sun. Or like Earth’s polar region, the sunlight travel 360 degree in 24 hour with sun skimming above the horizon. Or with Mars thin atmosphere, the sunlight might going thru 10 times more atmosphere due a sun low on horizon, but it’s a thin atmosphere {never amounting to 1 earth atmosphere}. So on Mars due to thin atmosphere you can get 12 hours of sunlight per day. Or in polar region get a lot in summer and very little or none in the winter.
        On Earth topography doesn’t matter a lot, but with Mars in can quite a significant advantage. It doesn’t matter much on Earth, because you are still going to get an average about 6 hours per day, but with Mars you get more than 12 hours a day. Maybe it’s only on average 13 or 14 hour per day- but that a big deal.
        Or the Moon it far more significant, certain spot of lunar polar region one can get 80% of the time sunlight {19.2 hours per 24 hours on average}, but it similar sort of thing with mars but it seems would be much less of percentage of day.

        If you get the same total amount of solar energy per day, but get it over 12 hours rather than 6 hours, it more viable/valuable. Or you have less of “a battery problem”.

  6. There are a lot of “emergency food” products on the market, many of which provide a person with one year’s worth of food that’s pretty good. For example this package is carried by Costco. It weighs 486 pounds, and requires 168.3 gallons of water (1,400 pounds) to prepare the whole thing.

    It would be foolish in the extreme to not recycle water, and that technology is pretty well in hand. Let’s say you took one year’s worth of water counted as the 168.3 gallons to prepare the food, and 365 gallons on top of that (one year at one gallon per day). That’s 5,000 pounds of water. With a good recycling system, that should last a long time even with some loss. For those first 12 people, that’s 60,000 pounds of water total. Out of a landed useful payload weight of 200,000 pounds, allocate another 25,000 pounds of food at 486 pounds per year per person. That’s easily four years worth of food for all 12 people, and you still have 115,000 pounds of useful payload left – 9,600 pounds per person.

    If subsequent passenger flights carried 100 people each, and each represented 800 pounds (~175 pounds person average, plus a total of 625 pounds personal effects and space suit), it’s at least conceivable that they could bring a year and a half worth of food and water for each of them.

    After that, it would be one dedicated food flight for every 400 people per year. Though ultimately they would want to be self-sufficient food-wise, they could have a few years to achieve that at relatively low cost – and build up a good supply of fertilizer at the same time.

    As for the rest, putting up solar panels is a big waste of time. Insolation at Mars is only 43% that at Earth, and the problem of storage for night time would be just as impossible as it is here. You’d need 2 1/3 times the array area per unit power that is required on Earth. And though you may not have the occasional cloud cover to deal with, you would definitely have dust storms lasting weeks at a time, and would have to have storage for that. Every 5 1/2 Earth years, on average, those storms cover the entire planet. Basing everything on solar is suicidal. The only option is nuclear fission, and it is here that NASA is actually leaning forward in a productive way. Their surface nuclear generators would provide 100 kWe with a total package weight of ~1,500 pounds each, and do so 24/7 for 20 years or more.

    All that said, if it meant eating crickets to go, I’d do it. If it meant watching cricket (instead of baseball), then forget it.

  7. There’s no way that it’s going to be all that difficult to grow food anywhere humanity decides to go assuming sufficient energy and raw materials at the molecular level. Water will be recycled and plant nutrients will be extracted from soils.

    Gather a handful of agricultural people from around the world and ask them to find crops that would grow in Martian soil just as it is, and I would bet they would find a few. Or else hydroponics.

    Don’t need amber waves of grain on endless acres to feed a million people. Just a few hundred square feet each in soils reclaimed from local stock.

  8. When I was young and poor, I lived in the usual sort of roach infested apartment building. I had to be careful to to cover the sugar bowl or roaches would get in and suffocate, just like on Mars. When these folks talk about Martian “soil,” they’re talking about ground up regolith. Soil is something else entirely, manufacture by the local biome. We’ll be making it on Mars, if we want to go that way, although hydroponics and such are all that’s really necessary. A lot of dirt farming is just substrate so your crops don’t fall into Pellucidar. And there’s no reason you can’t grow cattle fodder in hydroponics. The beeves don’t really need acreage (and most modern beeves don’t get it). I’m so used to feedlot beef that grass-fed tastes bad. Locally (NC hill country) we produce grass fed, garin finished.

Comments are closed.