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 Air to Breathe

The air on Mars is very thin. The atmospheric pressure is only 1% of the average level on earth. Even if it were boosted to standard earth like pressures, it would be impossible to breathe and could not support animal life. It is mostly composed of carbon dioxide with very little oxygen. Since the Martian air is not suitable, other resources on Mars would be needed to produce the oxygen humans need to breathe. The most likely source of oxygen would be water. If water ice does exist below the surface, it could be mined and melted. The liquid water could be spit (electrolysis) into hydrogen and oxygen gas using electricity generated by sunlight driven solar panels.  The oxygen generated by the process would be stored for both humans and spacecraft.

The hydrogen gas produced by the electrolysis process would be an important by-product. The hydrogen can be mixed with carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in a reaction vessel and heated to produce methane gas and more water. The Methane would later be used for rocket fuel. More complex chemical reactions using hydrogen might also be possible to make such things as plastic.

m-ocean1.jpg (8281 bytes)Oxygen alone will not be enough if we expect the settlers to live and breathe a healthy life. A long exposure to high concentrations of oxygen is not good for the human body.

Some buffer gases will need to be added to produced a more earth-like mixture. Nitrogen or Argon are likely buffer gas candidates. Fortunately, those gases exist on Mars and could be separated out from the Martian atmosphere.  The synthetic air that humans will breathe on Mars will slowly become contaminated with carbon dioxide.

Every time humans exhale, carbon dioxide is released as a waste product of their metabolism. To prevent a dangerous build up of carbon dioxide, it will need to be removed from the breathing air mixture.

Imagine  completely transform (terraform)
Mars into a more earth-like environment.

Traditional chemical methods might be used in the first few missions, but later missions may desire more natural methods. As on earth, one way the carbon dioxide could be removed from the air mixture is by routing the air into greenhouses where some plants are grown. The plants convert the carbon dioxide into plant material and release oxygen as a byproduct.

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