TOWARD A PERMANENT PRESENCE ON MARS
Dr Jean Marc SalottiLaboratory of Cognitive Sciences, University of Bordeaux 2, Francee-mail: email@example.com Manned missions to Mars will probably be implemented soon. However, are we going to send people there, explore, make some experiments, bring the astronauts back to Earth and finally wait several decades or even more before going to the red planet again in order to start a permanent settlement? Two aspects of the question have to be considered.
First, scientists, politics and economists are rather interested in the short-term. They usually want quick results and rapid return on investment. The most probable strategy is therefore a fast and short exploration, paying only attention to the scientific data and leaving to the successors the formidable investment of the first steps of the colonization.Second, it is not clear whether the support of permanent bases would be strong, costly and would last several centuries or if it would be possible to settle the red planet and to establish self-sufficient bases in few years. From a pragmatic and also financial point of view, if a permanent presence is sustainable and desirable, it is important to think long-term and to minimize the number of trips to Mars. However, in order to convince the deciders that a permanent settlement should be the main objective of a Martian program, the main steps and the total investment should be clearly stated.
The sustainability of the first Martian bases is therefore important and is addressed in this paper. It is assumed that several missions, probably crewed, will be sent to Mars prior to any endeavor for a permanent settlement in order to define the most appropriate location, to test different technologies and to assess the living conditions on the red planet. The problem of the sustainability of the base will be addressed in a second phase. There are basically two different strategies. The first one is to use high-technology devices to build the main infrastructures, grow rapidly and achieve partial autonomy, but relying on complex tools that could not be repaired or rebuilt on Mars. The second is to use more simple tools, which would not allow fast growing, but would make it possible to repair or to rebuild objects using local resources. Issues concerning energy, transportation means, construction and mining capabilities as well as the development of a basic industry are discussed.