Imagineering on Mars

Renewed Interest in Mars  - Why Go to Mars? - Living off the Land - Making Air to Breath 
Making Water Drink  - Making Food to Eat - Making Shelters to Live In - Heating Shelters 
Making ElectricityMars Scientific Data  - Martian Satellites

If a permanent colony of humans are to survive on Mars, they will need to live off the air, sand and rock resources on the surface of Mars. 

Imagineering on Mars discusses how engineers and scientists on earth could help the Martian settlers by developing the machines and factories to transform the stuff of Mars into life sustaining materials.

Making Electricity

Settlements on Mars will need lots of electricity. The electricity would be used for a variety of applications including lighting, oxygen and rocket fuel generation, pumping water, shelter tunnel boring, shelter ventilation and food production.

Some of the initial exploration missions might bring small nuclear power plants with them that they will leave on the surface. Such power plants have the advantage of being compact and can produce power continuously for 15 years or more. But, after those missions, the permanent citizens of Mars may wish to use more environmentally friendly methods to produce electricity.

The most likely method would be with solar electrical photovoltaic panels. Large solar energy farms would be needed to sustain a settlement. Some of the latest photovoltaic panels are made by depositing thin metal films onto flexible plastic sheets. The sheets can then be rolled into tight tubes. A 12 inch diameter by 6 foot long tube could contain as much as 1,800 square feet of panel material. Once unrolled, such rolls could be spread out onto the Martian surface to produce as much as 15,000 watts of electricity. Multiple panels would be wired together to form a sizable electrical power plant.

To minimize spacecraft payload weight for later earth to Mars missions, machines and materials could be brought from earth that would allow the colonists to make energy producing solar panels from the rocks and sand of Mars. Perhaps the machines would use the sand to make glass plates that would be turned into solar panels.

Since the solar panels would only generate electricity when the sun was shining, some battery or fuel cell technology would be needed to store the excess generated during the day, for later use at night. One suggested non-chemical energy storage method would use underground wells to store compressed Martian air. Compressors would pump the carbon dioxide down the well to high pressures during the day. At night, the gas would be diverted to a high speed turbine, that would drive a generator to produce electricity.
Heat engines might also be used. The large temperature difference between concentrated sun light and the cold Martian ground would boost the engine's efficiency. The waste heat of such a system might also be used to heat shelters. The engine could drive electrical generators, pump water and run air compressors.
Ultimately, perhaps some time in the future, engineers on earth will develop compact nuclear fusion power generation plants that could be assembled near Martian settlements. The rocks, air and sand of Mars might be processed to extract Deuterium and Tritium hydrogen isotopes that would be fused inside a nuclear furnace. Heat from the nuclear reaction would be used to produce electricity and keep the Martian shelters warm.

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