Hello, this is my first round of research. In this post I will be talking about what we need to bring to mars to survive while we set up longer term solutions as well as how we would get to mars.
How do we get there?
If you want to colonize mars, you first have to get to mars. Personally I like Space X, so I will be looking at Space X’s Starship.
Because I like Space X I will start with the “Starship” (formerly known as the BFR). The Starship is a 50 meter tall rocket with a diameter of 9 meter and a payload capacity of 100 metric tons (1). Something that makes the Starship so special is that the second stage is 100% reusable, the first stage is just a fuel tank (1). The boosters will return to earth and land to be used again at a later date (1). One problem with rockets is that they are not very reusable, they are generally refurbish-able or can only be used once. For example, the space shuttles, although they we able to land in one piece, were not reusable and instead had to have things replaced. The Starship uses 37 Raptor engines which create a thrust of 72 mega newtons of force (1). Each Raptor engine is 3.1 meters tall, 1.3 meters in diameter, and have a thrust of 2 mega newtons. Of coarse, time is an important factor to everything, it is estimated that the trip to mars using the Starship would take approximately 115 days (2).
How much food do we need to bring?
If we want to set up a colony on Mars then we need to prepare ourselves and make sure that we bring the stuff we need. I am going to be using the Mars One mission as an example of the number of people that would be going. The Mars One website states that there are 6 groups of 4 and one of those groups will travel to mars every 26 mounts to slowly expand to colony (3). According to Healthline the average adult male need 2500 calories to maintain weight and an average adult female needs 2000 calories (4). Assuming that each team has 2 males and 2 females then you would need at a minimum of 9000 calories of food per day to sustain all 4 people. As I said earlier, it is estimated that the Starship would take 115 days to get to mars meaning we simply multiply 9000 by 115 and get a grand total of 1035000 calories worth of food at a minimum to properly sustain 4 astronauts (2 male 2 female) for the duration of the trip to mars.
At this point there are still a few things to consider, the first thing is that the 115 day travel time is just an estimate and therefore may be wrong. Like on a cruse ship, you want to take more food then you need in case something happens and you are out in space longer then you anticipated. According to HowStuffWorks.com, astronauts traveling in the space shuttle had an extra 2000 calories of food per day and per person for emergency, so I will use this for my calculations (5). With this is mind, we can now multiply the amount of extra food by the number of estimated travel time (2000*4*115) to get a total of 920000 calories of extra food for the journey. This brings our grand total of calories of food so far to 1955000. For comparison, one pound of 15% fat beef has a total of 1134 calories, that means that the amount of calories of food that 4 astronauts would take with them for just the trip alone is the equivalent of about 1724 pounds of beef with a 15% fat content!
This isn’t all because there’s still the food you need while you are getting set up. Believe it or not there are some plants the scientists believe would thrive on mars, these plants include kale, lettuce, sweet potato, onions, and dandelions (6). This is important because if we were to set up a colony, we wouldn’t want to have to constantly bring food from earth. According to each individual source I had to find for each plant, kale takes 55 days to grow, lettuce takes 45-55 days, sweet potatoes take 90-170 days, onions take 100-175 days, and dandelions take 8 weeks (7)(8)(9)(10)(11). To have a some-what nutritionally complete diet you would want to have all of these plants available. Onions take the longest amount to time to grow (100-175 days), so that is how many days worth of food we need. 9000*175 days comes to 1575000 more calories of food required (including the extra “emergency food”). 1955000+1575000 comes to 3530000 calories of food for the first 4 people to start the colony on mars. 3530000 calories is the equivalent of about 3113 pounds of beef with a 15% fat content.
What would we bring to live in?
The environment of mars is a harsh one with average temperatures of -60 degrees Celsius and surface winds between 16 and 32 kilometers an hour, the people who land there are going to need shelter (12)(13).
According to National Geographic, a good place to go would be underground. On mars, the atmosphere is much thinner than earth and because of this solar radiation is a problem. On mars there are these underground “caves” that once had volcanoes and were carved out by magma. These undergrounds “caves” would be able to act like a safe space not only from radiation, but from the extremely cold temperatures. Just because you are underground does not mean that it is warm, it is just a bit warmer then about ground. It is important to mention that even if we were to live underground, we would still need air tight living spaces due to the temperature and all of the CO2. According to National Geographic we would also build things like glass domes above ground to grow plants by using the natural sunlight. As for setting up these structures, we would probably send robots to set up and build all of the buildings before the arrival of astronauts. Because the domes that people would live in would have to pressurized, the domes cannot be kilometers in diameter, they would instead be something like 50-100 meters in diameter (this whole paragraph is made with info from source 14)
Hi Matthew, great job on this round of research. I wish I had this blog post last year when I did a project on this. It was very detailed, easy to understand and had great sources. Also, it seems like this took a long time to make. I would like to know what your opinion is on this topic. Do you think NASA will follow through with this mission and would you like to be part of it and if so, how?
Thank you, Elisabet
Great research round! It was super informative and descriptive, but still easy to follow, which I really like. It is evident that you are very passionate about your project and it can be seen in your research, so awesome job! I remember several years ago, when I first heard that scientists were looking to colonize Mars, I was so intrigued and shocked if it would actually work. Today, I can definitely see it happening because of how far we have come with technology and whatnot. Perhaps if you are interested, you could research about how the technology to live on Mars has been developing over the years, and by the time scientists do put it to the test, what we could expect the technology to be like. Here are some sites to help you out:
Overall great work, and good luck!
I heard a great podcast on this exact issue of getting to Mars. It should help you. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/how-we-ll-get-to-mars-what-s-the-biggest-challenge-money-or-technology-1.5342931
I’m glad that you have found an inquiry project that you’re so passionate about.
Awesome research round. I really enjoyed how you had a variety of websites and how you went into depth about your topic. Your post was organized and easy to read! In grade 7, I remember doing a speech on human missions to mars. It was intriguing to connect my knowledge to what you’ve written. There is a big conversation on how human will eventually journey to Mars! If you are interested, you could incorporate experiments, tests or rover missions’ scientists have been doing to create the possibility of human exploration. This could offer you a “background” on your inquiry.
However, to improve your research round, I would suggest adding a comment on the topic of your next post. By doing so, you offer an insight to readers on where you would be taking your inquiry! Nonetheless, great post!
Websites that could help:
All the best,