Bryden Allen's Website

A Path to Create a Colony on Mars


Our form of life requires: sunshine, water, carbon and a reasonable mixture of the solids and gases we see around the Universe. Both Earth and Mars have these ingredients in abundance. But our Earth already supports enough humans. So Mars is the natural place for us to expand into. And, on the whole, everyone tends to agree with this idea. So in this webpage I must consider this concept very seriously indeed. And then I will try to come up with a plan as to how it might be done.
            But we must not expect too much. Our life has evolved here on Earth and we are perfectly adjusted to life here. Life on Mars can never be as good as life on Earth. Thus, Mars's gravity is significantly less than it is here; it receives half as much sunlight as we do on Earth; and its water is mostly at its polar caps in the form of ice.


            But let us look on the bright side. Compared with any other place in our solar system Mars is simply wonderful. Mercury and Venus are far too hot and have poisonous atmospheres. Further out the planets are so large that their gravity would kill us. And they are all terribly cold. And the various moons and asteroids of our solar system have very little gravity, and either they have very little water, or they are far away and receive very little light. So we are lucky to have a little sister planet in the form of Mars - to which we can try to bring some kind of life.



            So we must try. And Mars does have one huge advantage. It has two small close moons and it is much smaller than our Earth. This means that transportation will be much easier - both on Mars and between Mars and its moons.




But first we must clearly recognise the difficulties associated with such an endeavour.
            Thus the water on Mars only occurs in the form of ice at its two polar regions. The situation is similar to what happens on Earth. So, to be able to use this water directly, a colony must be situated next to these polar-regions. Thus these colonies must be placed in an area corresponding the artic circles on Earth. And, besides this, Mars only receives half as much sunlight as we have on Earth (because it is further away from the Sun). So these places are going to be terribly cold. The growing seasons must be quite short in these places and so the colony agricultural area must be very large to be able to grow enough food for the colony. We would find it terribly difficult to do this on Earth. Just imagine us trying to do this on Mars.

            I think the only solution to this problem is that the ice, on the polar region, must be transported closer to Mars's equator, where there is enough light. So I think we must forget about making colonies on Mars to begin with. When we have succeeded in making some Space Colonies near Mar's moons, then, and only then, will we have enough people to consider the difficult task of constructing a viable colony on Mars itself.

Another problem with Mars is that its gravity is only 38% of that on Earth. I think people will eventually learn to cope with this low gravity. But I would image that those people, who are born on Mars, will not be able to return to Earth, because they could not cope with the much higher gravity on Earth. So these people would have to accept this restriction. I will discuss this problem in detail later, because it could make a difference to the nature of our human race.


As I have told you, the purpose of this webpage is for me to show you a fairly detailed plan about how we can, by slow degrees, end up by constructing a colony on Mars. But I am not really the correct person to do this. There are many thousands of people who know the details of interplanetary travel much better than I do. I am just an amateur. I worked on this subject in 1981 during which I came up with few good ideas. These are described in my web-item "Society of Choice – book" chapter 4. But there are lots of people around, who should be able to come up with a better plan than me. But I haven't seen such a plan. So I am trying to do the task myself.

There are two specific items, which I don't know enough about.
            In the following plan, I will first show how very important the velocity requirements are in forming a plan. The most important velocities are well known. They are: the Earth escape velocity (11.2 km/sec); Mars escape velocity (5.0 km/sec); Moon escape velocity (2.4 km/sec); and the velocity to reach the ISS (7.1 km/sec). But in my plan I will be setting up many Space colonies and two space stations. And I should be able to calculate the velocity differences between these various items. I have tried - but my calculations were wrong. These calculations are not immediately important, because it is fairly easy to make a good guess as to what these differences must be. But an expert in this field would be able to do these necessary calculations quite easily. But I can't. I hope an expert will read this work and then tell me what these values ought to be some time.
In this plan I will only assume that there is water on Earth and on the Mars icecaps. I think there is some water underground on Mars. And our Moon has a small amount. But I don't know how hard it is to obtain such water, so I am assuming that this water is too hard to obtain. This is very important because the lack of such water has affected the very nature of my plan.

My plan is now shown in the following diagram. But it will take a long time to explain all the details. (A bigger and better version of this plan is shown on the back cover.)


The first item I need to explain is why the size of the velocity requirement is so incredibly important.
            The best rocket fuel consists of oxygen and hydrogen because this gives an exit velocity of 3.6 km/sec. This is the highest exit velocity that can be obtained by simple chemistry. (To go higher than this value, you need to consider ion drivers. But no one is considering this option at the moment.) This reaction, of course, gives water. This is very convenient, because, if the resultant water is collected, then it can be made into fuel again by using energy from the sun. And in space there is plenty of such energy. So, for difficult journeys, oxygen and hydrogen is the fuel of choice.
            Now I must explain how this exit velocity of 3.6 km/sec is related to the important required velocities of 11.2, 5.0, 2.4 and 7.1 (km/sec). If it was possible build rocket whose storage casement and nozzle is small, in comparison to its fuel and payload; then such a rocket should be capable of accelerating a payload of its own mass - to 3.6 km/sec.
            So in general rockets can lift payloads up to 3.0 km/sec quite efficiently. But, above this figure, the fuel costs go up exponentially. So a rocket can leave the moon (2.4 km/sec), efficiently with its fuel weighing less than its payload. But, if a rocket wants to leave the Earth (11.2 km/sec), then its fuel system must be simply gigantic in comparison to its payload. This was why the Saturn rocket had to be many stories high, and carried 3 different stages of rockets, to put the Apollo missions on the Moon.
            The lesson of this little discussion it that, if we could go to the Moon in 4 separate stages, then we could do the whole journey reasonably efficiently. (This is a simplification, which I will discuss later.) But, if we can't, then the cost must be gigantic (which it is). This is why the journey to be Mars must be a very complex affair, with as many different staging points on its way as is possible.

I am now ready to describe the various stages of the journey in terms of the headings given on the diagram.






1)          My Space Colony (as already described)

This was a difficult first stage because it involved the huge velocity change of 7.1 km/sec. All our remaining velocity changes will be much smaller than this. This is why our costs of getting our material to this colony were so very high. So our following costs will not be quite so high.
            But on the other hand, this stage started from Earth with its absolute abundance of manpower, energy and materials. This will not be the case in our following Space Colonies. The evaluation of the following stages then will be more difficult. The situation will depend on many different factors.






2)          Stations on and near the Moon

The purpose of these stations is to allow us to use the materials on the Moon for the construction of further Space Colonies. We will follow a similar procedure to what was done during the Apollo landings - except our stations will now be very large and permanent.
            The Moon is higher than us so, if the timing is right, material can be dropped down to an Earth Space Colony below. The trouble with this procedure is that this material would be travelling so fast it would wipe a Colony out.
            But there is a good variant of this procedure. A rocket holding material could be sent down from the Moon. This vehicle would first skim the outer atmosphere of the Earth a few times to slow it down a little (the trajectory would be elliptic and so the vehicle would be entering and leaving the atmosphere). When vehicle velocity was roughly correct, then the vehicle would use its own small rockets to guide the vehicle to the Space Colony. So this is a cheap way of sending material to an Earth Space Colony.
            But before we can do this, we must first set up a Station on the Moon. This will be difficult - but it can be done. (People have been there before.) And it will be much easier for us because we can start from our Colony in Space, and so the velocity difference now is only 4.1 km/sec (as opposed to 11.2 km/sec from the Earth).

Unfortunately we will have problems in getting this material off the Moon.
            The Moon has an escape velocity of 2.4 km/sec. So material can be taken off the moon using a normal rocket easily. But these rockets would use water as their fuel (when changed into oxygen and hydrogen). And there is almost no water on the Moon. So we must save the water we use.
            We can do this, if we fire our rocket through a tube, so we save the exhaust water. The construction of such a tube will be difficult. But the tube need not be too long. Materials can cope with huge acceleration rates. So the tube would be like the tube of a recoilless rifle. If we make the containers with the moon material fairly small, then the cost of this tube will not be too great.
            These small containers must be caught by a station lying on the gravity ridge between the Earth and the Moon (i.e. If you lean to the Earth then you fall to the Earth, and if you lean to the Moon you fall to the moon.) This station can be seen in the diagram. This station must catch these small containers and combine them into material containers with small guidance rockets. When the time is correct these rockets will send the material to the Colonies below as described above.

So, when this Moon station has been set up, this station can send down material to both the current Space Colony and to the next Space Colony (which I am about to describe).








3)          A Space Colony with Continuous Sunlight

The current Space Colony only receives sunlight half the time, because the rest of the time the colony will lie in the shade of the Earth. If we have another station about the diameter of the Earth (13,000 km) further up in the sky, then this colony will receive sunlight almost all the time. This means that this colony can halve the size of its light receiving facilities i.e. its agricultural area, its PV panels and its reflector dish. So this makes this colony significantly easier to build.
            But the other reason for this colony is that it will roughly halve the velocity difference between our two Space Colonies and the Moon. So this will make these two steps easier to cope with.
            As shown in my diagram, I shall assume that the velocity difference to go up from my low space colony to my next higher space colony is 2.0 km/sec. So this means that my velocity difference to go to my colony near the Moon must be 2.1 km/sec.
            This colony will mostly use Moon material for its construction.







4)          A Momentum Conversion Station

So far I have been able to give Moon material to both my Colonies in space. But the trouble now is that there is very little water on the Moon. So now I want to give water to both my Colonies in an efficient manner. This will be tricky.
            My special method requires that there be a heavy station in a relatively low orbit around the Earth (perhaps 200 km above Earth). This station would incorporate a large tube several kilometres long. This tube must contain gas, so there must be gates at both ends to contain this gas. (This station can be made using Moon material.)
            When this station is passing overhead, a rocket, containing water can be fired up to meet this tube. It is probably best if this water is in the form of solid ice frozen down to -100 degrees centigrade.             The rocket can be quite small (in comparison the ice carried) because, to reach a height of 200 km only requires a velocity of 2.0 km/sec. The rocket would place its ice in front of the gas tube, which is travelling at orbital velocity. The friction of the gas on the ice will accelerate the ice up to the speed of the tube. The ice will soon over-heat, become water then be vaporised and soon be dispersed throughout the tube. (To avoid an explosion at any one point in the tube, the density of the gas must be kept at an appropriate level. This will need practise)
The rocket will fall back to Earth using a parachute (because it would have no orbital velocity). So it can be reused.
            The water vapour will eventually cool down and then this water would be collected and sent on by another rocket to either of the two higher Space Colonies. This journey will only involve of velocity differences of less than 3 km/sec. So these journeys can be carried out quite efficiently.

However this operation will have caused the tube and station to lose momentum. But this problem can be corrected. Material from the Moon can be sent down to enter the tube from the other end. And this operation will restore the momentum of the tube. This moon material can also be sent on to the higher Space Colonies.
            The reason that this system can put water up into space easily is because the system uses the energy of the Moon material, falling down from a great height, to do most of the work.
            Of course this is a very complex process and a huge amount of calculation must be done to show why the system will work. In my "Society of Choice – book" in chapter 4, I show some of these calculations. The process I give here is a simplified version of the version I give in my book. This was the work I did in the 1981.

So now we have two colonies, with plenty of relatively cheap material, to help us on our way to set up a colony close to the Moon. And from there we can go on to Mars.


5)          A Water Conservation System

Faraway from either the Earth or Mars (in terms of velocity differences), water will become a very precious substance. So we should conserve such water as best we can. But at present, we constantly shoot this precious substance out into space at the back of our rockets (as water vapour). So - can we possibly conserve this water?
            Yes we can – but it won't be easy. When our rockets start their journey, then they could do all their acceleration inside a tube. So then their water vapour can be caught, allowed to condense and then be collected. But unfortunately such tubes must be very long, if the velocity changes are large and the rockets contain humans (who can't survive very high acceleration). The tubes might have to be hundreds of kilometres long.
But, if ever we are to consider a large amount of space travel, then this problem must be taken very seriously. Other means of acceleration have also been considered such as electrified rails. But all such methods require long structures. This is a fundamental problem, which we must bear in mind. We could consider this problem before we go any further on our way to Mars. In space we have plenty of energy to turn water into fuel. But we must try to reuse this water if at all possible.

If we do collect our water, then we will have a problem about momentum. If we collect our water vapour, then this vapour will push the tube backwards (as happens with a gun). So – how can we restore the colony's momentum?
            There are several ways that this can be done. One way is to use further material from the moon and to send this material down to a colony to enter the colony from the opposite direction. (In the same way as I use in my Momentum Conversion Station.) But returning journeys and material ejection can also be used to restore momentum.

So, if we work at the subject, we eventually should be able to travel around between our planets, moons and asteroids without wasting our precious water resources. And in space there is always plenty of light to provide all the energy we need. But it might be several centuries before we have learnt how to do this task efficiently. But we should always bear this wonderful possibility in mind.


6)          A Space Colony close to the Moon

This is the obvious place to have a colony, because this is the last place that people can stop before they start on the very long journey to Mars. So travellers can stock up here on such things as food, water and fuel. These products can be produced here reasonably easily here because this colony will also be receiving full continuous light and most materials are available on the Moon. Water, of course, will be a problem. But my but my Momentum Conversion Station can gradually send water up by stages from the Earth. So this colony can send committed settlers on their way with all the provisions they will need.
            This colony should be strictly positioned on the gravity ridge between the Earth and the Sun (which is what I show). But no one considers this position. So perhaps it has to be at one of various stationary points around the Moon. From here material will be sent up from the station on the Moon. But this velocity difference of 2.4 km/sec can be carried quite efficiently (as described before).
            When I first worked on this problem, I had assumed there would be a substantial velocity difference to be able to get to Mars. This is because the rocket would still need to work against the Sun's gravity. But apparently this affect is negligible. So the velocity difference is not a problem. But of course the journey must take along time. And we have to wait till our two planets are in a good alignment.


7) A Space Colony near Deimos (Mars's high moon)

There ought to be a colony here, because those people, who wish to return to Earth, will need to receive all their provisions here - before they start their long return journey home to Earth. But the decision, about whether we should form a colony near Deimos first, is still not so clear.
            We could land on Deimos, Phobos or Mars with equal difficulties. Thus the arriving rocket must first graze through the low Mars atmosphere to slow it down a little. (In the same way rockets from the Moon must graze the Earth's atmosphere before giving their materials to the Earth colonies (described in my point 2).) With a slight graze, the rocket could go back and land on Deimos. With a bigger graze it could land on Phobos. With a longer graze the rocket could land on Mars.

So now our question is – which is the easiest place for us to settle on first?
            If we settle on Mars, then we must settle near the equator (there too little light elsewhere). But even here, we would still receive a quarter of the light we would receive near a very small moon. So we would need four times the amount of land to produce our food on Mars than out in space. So this is a powerful reason for us for us to form a colony in space, before we form a colony on Mars.
            Also we would have had no experience in settling on a surface like that of Mars. But in the space above Earth, we would have carried out this space construction process at least 3 times before. So this is another reason to settle out in space first.
            We could settle initially near Deimos or Phobos with equal ease. But it is safer to form a colony near Deimos first, because, if things go wrong, we can return back to Earth more easily.
            So this is why I shall assume we should form a space colony near Deimos first. But this colony could be quite small.





8) A Space Colony near Phobos (Mars's low moon)

This colony must eventually become very large, because this where people must live before we are ready to live on Mars. This colony position is closer to the Mars surface, so it will be easier to do the necessary preparation work on Mars.
            The crucial first task, which this colony will have, is to build a station on the edge of the ice (to obtain water). Till this is possible, this colony must receive its water all the way from Earth. So this is clearly our first task. But how to this water back up to our Phobos space colony will not be easy.





9) A Station on Mars next to the Ice Caps

It will be relatively easy for a rocket to land next to an ice cap (by grazing though the atmosphere until it is sufficiently slow). And there we must build a station to collect this water. And then we must send this water back to the Phobos colony. But how to get water back to Phobos efficiently will be jolly hard.
Let me now consider four different options.

a)          A rocket can simply return back to Phobos carrying the water. Now I judge the velocity difference between Mars and Phobos to be 3 km/sec. This is lower ratio (3/5) than the ratio between ISS station and the Earth's escape velocity (7.1/11.2). So it is unlikely to be less than this. So it will be very hard to bring back more water back to Phobos, than the water used by the rocket itself. So this option doesn't sound real good.

b)          We can place PV panels at the station and collect energy here. With this energy we can turn some of the ice into fuel (i.e. oxygen and hydrogen). So then a rocket can take water back to Phobos using its own fuel. So this is OK.
The difficulty with this method is that there is very little sunlight at this point. And the cold during winter would be hell. But this would be a better option than method 1.

c)          Another option is to place a small nuclear reactor at the station (like the ones used in nuclear submarines). This reactor would then supply the energy needed by the rocket-carrying-water back to Phobos. If there was ever a good reason to use a nuclear reactor, then this would be the case. But this action would set a bad precedent. We should avoid this option if possible.

d)          Our final option is to build a Momentum Conversion Station above Mars, in the same way as I suggested above Earth. This station would be easier to build, than the one above Earth, because all the velocities and distances would be much less. But, nevertheless, this would be a big task for a colony, which does not have all the resources we have back on Earth. It is hard to know what is best.
            Eventually I am sure that these colonies around Mars will grow and then these colonies will need a huge amount of water. And then all this water must be supplied by a Momentum Conversion Station. But, when this facility should be built, I do not know.

So here are 4 different methods of getting water back to the various circling Space Colonies. I obviously don't know what is best. But in the diagram I have included a Momentum Conversion Station like the one above the Earth.




10)          More Space Colonies

So, when a good water supply has been constructed, more space colonies can be built above Mars. In my diagram I show 10.





11)          Mars Surface Colonies

Finally all these space colonies can combine their spare manpower to build a long pipeline. This pipeline will carry water from the Mars polar caps to the equator. And then finally we will be ready to start building Colonies on the surface of Mars.
            But because all the essential ingredients for life are now available close at hand, we can expand fairly easily. So we can build a colony similar to the Town-State colony, which started this huge operation in the first place. And, when such a complete state is fully operational, we will know that a complete society fully independent of the Earth has begun.
            A new form of human life will have begun.




If people are born and live on Mars then their stature must change. They will become taller and thinner than us. Also they will tend to leap around their world rather than walk or run. And, when these people go up and live in space, they will build colonies with their preferred gravity (38%g). And such colonies will be easier build. So eventually our human race must split into Earth humans and Mars humans. However, the two groups could still inter-breed easily.
            We have enough Earth humans already in this solar system. It will be fun to have some Martian cousins leaping around in their own worlds.
Of course all these stages might add up to several centuries. But I believe that this whole task could be done by a group of less than a million normal people, who want to spend some of the ample spare time in helping our life to expand. And none of these people need to be fanatics and so be prepared to take insane risks with their lives.
            In general, for all people taking part in this task, their help would be part of their fun in life. I just wish that I myself could take part in such a wonderful endeavour.



Below is one artist's view of a colony on Mars. Compared with the colonies I want to
eventually build, this colony is minute. And there are no plans as to how this colony will be supplied with water. Thus I have seen no other substantial plans about how we can form
practical colonies on Mars.




You might now also like to look back at:

either my "Home Page" (which introduces this whole website and lists all my webpages),

or "The Ultimate Ascent" (which introduces these webpages),

or "A Path to Create a Full Space Colony", (which introduces the coming webpages in more detail).


Updated on 10/11/2016.