Building a Marsbase is a Horrible Idea: Let’s do it!

Video Statistics and Information

Captions Word Cloud
From hostile deserts, to lonely islands and the highest mountains, wherever there is space to expand into humans do so. So, it's hardly surprising that we're already making preparations to set foot on Mars, and to create the first permanent colony outside of Earth -- maybe even terraform another planet and turn it into a second blue home. But wait, before we can get to the nice future stuff, we first have to complete the second phase of colonization; creating a semi-permanent outpost to prepare the ground for a larger human presence. But doing so will be gruesome. Even for an expansionist species like us, Mars is extreme. At first glance, Mars seems familiar -- polar ice caps, large valleys, liquid water under its surface, and a day barely longer than Earth's. The ideal place for us to go. Unfortunately, Mars is actually a cold, radioactive desert where the ground is poisonous and breathing is impossible. Mars is awful. You almost certainly don't want to go there. The pioneers doing the hard work on Mars will have an intensely stressful life, filled with incredibly challenging problems never encountered before. But there are plenty of people willing to do that work and we have the technology to enable them to do it. For this video, we will assume there have been prior missions to Mars to scout out a good place for an outpost, store resources and equipment, and that there's already a moon base that serves as a hub for Mars missions. The first major challenge for our outpost, is the fact that Mars is very energy poor. Because of its distance from the Sun, solar power is only 40% as effective as on Earth. But even this weakened sunlight is often obscured for days by enormous dust storms. Solar power alone will probably not be enough. Alternatives, such as wind power, and geothermal energy are also unfeasible as there's hardly any atmosphere and Mars' interior is much too cold. Initially, nuclear technology might be the only option. Since Mars doesn't have easily accessible radioactive elements, the nuclear fuel needs to come from Earth along with the reactor. If we do set it up, it could power our small outpost for the first few years. Unfortunately, all that energy won't be very useful if we can't breathe. Mars' atmosphere is only 1% as dense as Earth's, and mostly made up of CO2. So, now habitats need to be pressurized and filled with an artificial atmosphere made of nitrogen and oxygen -- Which comes with more problems. Corners and flat walls are weak points so the habitats will have rounded and smooth shapes to handle the stress of great pressure differences between the interior and exterior. The airlocks need to be very airtight and work perfectly every time. Without an extensive magnetosphere, or a dense atmosphere, half of all radiation coming from space reaches the ground. A person on the surface would be subjected to 50 times the radiation that they would be on Earth. Three years on the surface of Mars exceeds the radiation dose limits imposed on NASA astronauts for their entire career. This increases cancer risks significantly. To prevent that, we could shield our habitats with a thick layer of frozen CO2, that can be harvested directly from the atmosphere. Covering the dry ice with a meter of dirt, would further increase the level of protection. Sadly, this means almost no windows. From the inside, most living spaces will be windowless tunnels. From the outside, they'll look like burial mounds. All of this would still not hold back all the radiation, but reduce it just enough to be survivable for long periods of time. It won't, however, protect anyone who ventures outside. So, remote-controlled robots will be used for routine work on the surface, while our crew stays inside. Staying inside is a good idea for another reason: Mars dust. It's much finer than dust on Earth, so it could find its way into the gears or electronics of our machines. Because it's also very dry, it's electro-statically charged; sticking to everything, like spacesuits. It will be impossible to avoid carrying lots of Mars dust into our habitat, and into the lungs of our crew. To make this even worse, Mars' soil is filled with very toxic perchlorate salts. Constant exposure could be deadly. This problem can still be overcome though. Space suits, for example, could be made in a way that they never truly enter the base, but stay attached to the outside of the habitats. Okay, great. Now we've safely isolated humans in terms of energy and air, and protected them from cancer, we just need to feed them. Water is easy to come by if a settlement is positioned near the Martian poles with their thick layers of ice. Growing food is a different kind of challenge though. Mars' soils are alkaline and lack the vital nitrogen compounds that plants need to grow. Before we can grow anything, we will have to decontaminate the soil which is difficult and expensive. Then, the soil can be fertilized using recycled biological waste. All of this will take a lot of time, and is very energy-intensive. So, we might use aquaponics to raise fish and plants together -- Making the astronauts' diets more varied and tasty at the same time. This will be an important psychological boost for our overworked crew. All of these things don't solve one fundamental problem though: Mars has only 38 percent of Earth's surface gravity, which could cause muscle-wasting, bone loss, and cardiovascular problems. While this might be solved in the future by setting up rotating living spaces, for now, our crew has to live with low gravity and exercise a lot to slow the degradation down. The crews will probably have to rotate every few years, after being stuck indoors in tight spaces without windows. With the same people, performing the same routines day-in day-out with little contact from the outside world, and a lot to worry about. Like Antarctic scientists or submarine staff, they will undergo intense psychological screening to make sure they're mentally resilient enough to handle this lifestyle for several years. Establishing the first real infrastructure on Mars will be extremely taxing work that only a group of very determined, and competent, people can do. Luckily, we have enough of these on Earth. And there you have it! A small Mars base that will survive for at least a few decades -- as long as it's getting a constant supply of resources, parts, nuclear fuel, and crews from Earth. Unfortunately, Mars and Earth are separated by millions of kilometers and orbital periods that leave only a narrow travel window every two years. If there's an emergency in the colony, Earth wouldn't be able to help until the next travel window opens. Helpers may arrive on a planet filled with corpses. Settling Mars will be the toughest challenge we have ever faced. It will be gruesome work to establish the infrastructure we need. But we're stubborn, and we like extreme challenges. If we push through Phase Two of colonization, anything is possible. Cities illuminating the dark Martian night, a hub for travel between the planets, industries setting foot in orbit terraforming a true multi-planetary future. Going to Mars is hard but worth it. And if we're lucky, we might be around long enough to see it happening and cheer on the people who take on these challenges for the benefit of us all. Figuring out complex stuff is one of the best feelings ever. Especially if you don't have to do it all by yourself. Our friends from Brilliant can help you out with that part! Brilliant is a problem-solving website with a hands-on approach. Instead of just dropping tricky concepts in front of you, they help you unravel them bit-by-bit and build up to an interesting conclusion. This way, science becomes something you actually do actively, and not only hear about. With Brilliant, you can bear down on dozens of interesting courses and puzzles about topics, like solar energy, gravity, and astronomy. If you visit, or click the link in the description, you can sign up for free and learn all kinds of things. And, as a bonus for Kurzgesagt viewers, the first 688 people will also get 20% off their annual membership! With Brilliant, you finish your day a little bit smarter. And, no Mars dust to deal with. We promise! Can't get enough of Mars? We've also made a poster about it. You can learn some more about the hardships of Mars colonization, or just look at the pretty colors. Go get it here!
Channel: Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell
Views: 6,272,095
Rating: 4.9452739 out of 5
Keywords: Mars, Life on Mars, Mars Landing, Mars Mission, Mars Base, Mars Exploration, Mars Colonisation, Martian, The Martian, Space, Travel, Journey, Mars Dust, Temperature, Terraforming, Terraform, Phobos, Deimos, Moon, Moons, Polar Ice Caps, Valley, Water, Liquid Water, Radioactive, Pioneer, Solar Power, Solarsystem, Sun, Solar Energy, Milky Way, Solar Wind, Radiation, Cancer, Cancer Risk, Frozen Co2, Resources, Nuclear Fuel, Food Supply, Aquaponics Total Recall, Alien, Mars Attacks, Doom
Id: uqKGREZs6-w
Channel Id: undefined
Length: 9min 22sec (562 seconds)
Published: Sun Feb 03 2019
Reddit Comments

Mars is awful, you almost certainly don't want to go there

Telling it like it is.

There's some real irony in the fact that I now feel super pumped about Mars after watching it through.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 700 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/VeryLittle πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Feb 03 2019 πŸ—«︎ replies

Fortunately VR is on track to be really solid by the time a Mars colony starts up. Should help a bit with the bleak living conditions.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 271 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/the320x200 πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Feb 03 2019 πŸ—«︎ replies

I hope I live long enough to witness this funky future Oregon Trail shit.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 265 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/forbeskin πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Feb 03 2019 πŸ—«︎ replies

whats easier, mars or a permanent space station?

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 36 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/Badoit1778 πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Feb 03 2019 πŸ—«︎ replies

NASA proposed building an artificial magnetosphere to help with solar radiation. Seems fairly plausible and would greatly help with some of these challenges.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 45 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/Autoxidation πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Feb 03 2019 πŸ—«︎ replies


πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 45 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/hands_on_tools πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Feb 03 2019 πŸ—«︎ replies

This video ignores a lot of the progress made over the last decade toward Mars colonization solutions.

  • Resource Dependence - NASA has been running a number of programs over the last decade (largely through its Centennial Challenge and NSPIRES programs) to create new ISRU technologies for Mars. Among these solutions have been In-Situ Construction 3D printers for making very large, simple structures using Mars Dirt as the feedstock, and more impressive still, machines that can turn Martian soil into very pure iron. By the time human missions start in the next decade or so, these technologies will have matured to where a colony won't need to import much from Earth to survive.

  • Radiation - A growing idea in the space community (really an old idea resurrected) argues that the initial wave of settlers shouldn't even bother staying on the surface, but should either build shelters underground by digging into the regolith OR by simply pressurizing lavatubes and caverns that already exist. This would give early settlers hundreds of feet of rock and regolith shielding from cosmic radiation, and massive chambers to inhabit with minimal upkeep.

  • Low Gravity - There isn't actually a tonne of research on the long term health risks of 38% Earth Gravity on the human body, but there are already some interesting solutions available in the medical community today. Soft Exoskeletons offer a means for people to amplify their own strength using a system of mechanical tendons that apply mechanical force during locomotion. Some futurists and even a few actual companies have suggested that the same technology could be used to apply additional resistance during locomotion, effectively forcing a person to work harder while wearing a soft-exosuit. On Mars this could be a way for humans to keep exerting themselves as they would on Earth, limiting muscle loss.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 25 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/YNot1989 πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Feb 03 2019 πŸ—«︎ replies

"We choose to go to the moon. Not because it is easy, but because it is hard."


πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 13 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/Siege-Torpedo πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Feb 03 2019 πŸ—«︎ replies

All horrible ideas should be done anyways that’s what science is all about!

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 10 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/Shwingbatta πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Feb 03 2019 πŸ—«︎ replies
Related Videos
Please note that this website is currently a work in progress! Lots of interesting data and statistics to come.