22 May 2008

Carnival of Space 55 and Homesteading Mars

The fifty-fifth (!) Carnival of Space is up at Catholic Sensibility (via NextBigFuture). I was particularly taken by the AstroEngine post on the use of domes on Mars.
I was a little confused as to why Bruce at the Foundation was so interested in the use of bamboo for Mars settlement design when I first joined 18 months ago. In my naive view of settling on another planet I always assumed it would be a hi-tech world, not filled with the basic building blocks we have down here on Earth. But the Mars Homestead Project is just that, using local materials to aid the construction of manned settlements. Of course the bamboo would have to be grown in a controlled greenhouse environment, but this flexible and tough resource could be used in a variety of applications on the Red Planet as well as down here inside the rainforest biome.

But, the showstopper was most certainly the stunning dome structures covering thousands of plant species from around the globe. Composed out of huge hexagonal panes of tough plastic “cushions”, the membrane performs its task excellently. Not only is it light weight (allowing the elegant domed structures to be so large with no vertical supports causing obstructions inside), it provides excellent insulation allowing the internal temperatures to be regulated to a very fine margin.

This project is immense and I could talk about it forever... __AstroEngine (lots of photos)
The AstroEngine article links to The Mars Homestead Project, which is a serious website dedicated to the establishment of sustainable settlements on Mars. Mars homesteaders will need to be competent in a way that most modern westerners cannot imagine. Getting to the red planet will be difficult enough. Surviving after you get there will be the real adventure. Here part of a sample posting:
The Hillside Settlement is to be built with semi-automated mining & manufacturing equipment, with 12 people on the surface to supervise and repair equipment. It would then house the 12 people and be enlarged for an additional dozen people (mostly scientists) every 2 years. Our 'cost' estimate is 250 tons delivered to the surface, which happens to be the same launch cost as for the Design Reference Mission for 3 round trip missions for 6 people each; but the "Hillside Settlement" gives you a permanent base for the same cost. __MarsHome
We at Al Fin favour the approach of setting up infrastructure at Lagrangian orbital points, then moving out from there, using space resources like NEAs (near-earth asteroids) and robotic lunar mining operations. Darkside lunar robotic observatories also make sense. But permanent human outposts on the moon (if there is water) and Mars would definitely be worthwhile. It is only a matter of priorities and order of events.
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