Is colonization true on Mars?

Mars colonization

Colonization of Mars, an Artistic Impression (NASA)
Mars with visible polar caps

Plans for Mars colonization deal with the permanent colonization of the planet Mars by humans. Although there are scientific studies on the subject that include so-called terraforming, for example, colonization on Mars has so far only been an idea.

The plans of the US space agency NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are still too fictional to be able to realize a manned flight to Mars in the next 10-15 years. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has announced that it will manufacture a rocket called BFR. According to the current schedule, this should be completed by 2022. This means that there should be space for up to 120 people in 40 cabins for a Mars colonization. Equipment and technical devices should be sent in advance.

Similarities with the earth

Mars is a relatively Earth-like planet:

  • The length of the Martian day (called "Sol") is very similar to that of the Earth day. A sol lasts 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35.244 seconds.
  • Mars has a surface area that corresponds to 28.4% of that of the earth and is therefore only slightly smaller than the land area of ​​the earth (29.2% of the earth's surface). Mars is half the radius of the earth and only a tenth the mass. This means that it has a smaller volume (~ 15%) and lower average density than the earth.
  • The planet has an axial inclination of 25.19 °; the earth, on the other hand, is 23.4 °. As a result, Mars has seasons like Earth, although they are almost twice as long because the Martian year is approximately 1.88 Earth years.
  • Mars has an atmosphere. Although very thin (approx. 0.7% of the earth's atmosphere), it still offers a certain protection from cosmic and solar radiation. It has also been used successfully for atmospheric braking of spacecraft.

Differences to earth

  • The strength of the planetary magnetic field is only about one hundredth of the earth's magnetic field and therefore offers very little protection against cosmic radiation. After just three years, the maximum values ​​for astronauts according to NASA's safety guidelines would be reached. There is speculation that the magnetic field is coming back.[1] However, in which period this should happen is controversial.
  • The air pressure on Mars is only about 6 mbar (0.6% of the earth's atmosphere), which is far below the Armstronglimit (61.8 mbar) at which people can live without pressure suits. The very thin atmosphere consists mainly of carbon dioxide. Therefore, habitable structures with pressure vessels, similar to those in a spaceship, would have to be built on Mars. Achieving an Earth-like composition of the air and adjusting the pressure by means of terraforming is difficult, since the solar wind would constantly remove the upper layers over time.
  • Because Mars is farther from the Sun, the amount of solar energy reaching the upper atmosphere is less than half the amount that reaching the Earth's upper atmosphere or the surface of the Moon. However, the solar energy reaching the surface of Mars is not hindered by a dense atmosphere like that on Earth.
  • With an average surface temperature of −23 ° C near the equator and a low of −140 ° C in the direction of the polar caps, Mars is significantly colder than Earth. The lowest temperature recorded on earth is −93.2 ° C, in Antarctica.
  • Until recently, Mars appeared geologically almost completely inactive. According to the latest findings, however, the volcanoes could erupt again at any time, as there could have been a shift in the continental plates or there may still be (presumed due to the different magnetization).
  • There are no bodies of water with liquid water on the surface of Mars.
  • Due to the further distance to the sun, the Martian year with 668.5907 sols is about twice as long as the earth year.


With the large and strongly fluctuating distance between Earth and Mars, traveling to Mars would be very time-consuming. Using today's technologies, a spaceship takes between 6 and 10 months to get there. The starting windows for the ideal case result from the sidereal period Earth-Mars, which lasts 779 days, i.e. around 26 months.

To reach Mars, you need less energy per unit of mass (Delta-V) than to all other planets except Venus. A trip to Mars on a Hohmannbahn takes about nine months. Other trajectories that reduce the travel time to seven or six months in space are possible, but require higher amounts of energy and fuel compared to a Hohmann orbit and are already standard for unmanned Mars missions. Shortening the travel time to under six months requires a higher speed change and an exponentially increasing amount of fuel. This is not feasible with chemical missiles, but could be made possible by advanced propulsion technologies that are not currently in use, such as VASIMR[2] and nuclear missiles. The latter could potentially cut the flight time to around two weeks.[3] Another possibility is constantly accelerating technologies such as solar sails or ion drives, which enable lead times in the order of several weeks. Both are currently feasible and can easily achieve a constant acceleration of 0.1 g.

During the journey, the astronauts are exposed to radiation from which they must be protected. Cosmic rays and solar wind cause DNA damage that significantly increases the risk of cancer, but the effect of long-term space travel in interplanetary space on the human body is unknown. NASA scientists, who generally measure the risk of radiation in terms of the risk of cancer, put the probability of dying of cancer caused by a 1000-day mission to Mars at 1% to 19%. However, it should be noted here that this probability represents an additional risk. This, combined with the base 20% chance that a 40-year-old non-smoker will die of cancer, could result in a 39% risk of developing life-ending cancer. In women, the likelihood of developing cancer is probably increased due to the greater proportion of the total weight of the glandular tissue.[4]

Landing on Mars

Mars has only 38% of the gravitational pull of the earth, and the density of the atmosphere is only about 1% compared to the earth.[5] The relatively strong gravity and adverse aerodynamic effects make it significantly more difficult to land a larger spacecraft with thrusters, as was done on the Apollo moon landings. Heavy lander projects will require different braking and landing systems used on previous manned lunar or unmanned missions to Mars.[6]

Assuming that carbon nanotubes are available as a building material with a strength of 130 GPa, a space elevator could be built to bring people and materials to Mars.[7] A space elevator on Phobos has also been proposed.[8]

Transports on Mars

Mars rovers with radionuclide batteries (RTGs) as an energy source are the first means of transport, although operating them would not be particularly efficient due to the payloads to be carried. Hydrazine as a fuel could represent an alternative, depending on how it can be synthesized on Mars, there would also be other options. These rovers should - if possible - contain residential modules, as research trips lasting several days are desirable. When building up several colonies, one could connect them with magnetic levitation trains, which, due to the lower atmosphere, could reach much higher speeds than on Earth. For the same reason, however, they would have to be separate life support modules that could keep the occupants alive for longer periods of time, even in emergencies such as loss of pressure and derailments.

Since there is an atmosphere, one would have to investigate the possibility of aircraft such as airships or airplanes. Experiments on Earth have shown that balloons with sufficient volume can fly and lift loads even at very low pressure.[9] In a thinner atmosphere, an airplane would have to fly correspondingly faster to get the same lift.

On Mars itself one would have to use adapted space suits, because the suits designed for weightlessness are very heavy and rigid. As an alternative, one could use tighter-fitting suits, similar to a diving suit, which would have to be very tight-fitting to ensure the necessary pressure. If equipped with heating elements and a compressed air helmet, such a suit will probably allow the necessary freedom of movement for field missions under gravity. However, rigid armor-like spacesuits with plastic joints are currently under development.


One solution for the early days of the Martian colony would be to place or manufacture several small nuclear reactors with a lifespan of around 15 years on Mars. If one assumes that a Martian colony will not be established until 2030 at the earliest, one can assume that reactor technology has developed far enough to meet the requirements for Mars. In addition, smaller reactors are likely to be able to produce more energy.[10]

In the case of permanent settlement, the supply of food and breathing air must be independent of the constant supply from the earth In-situ Resource Utilization or Extraterrestrial Resource Utilization (German about extraterrestrial resource utilization) are made possible.[11][12] 100% water treatment is essential right from the start. One consequence is the medium-term development of a closed biological system in which the colonists cultivate or produce their own food. One possibility would be to use hydrogen from Earth and carbon dioxide from Mars to produce water. With one ton of hydrogen, two tons of methane and about four and a half tons of water could be produced. However, NASA analyzes show that approx. 2% of the Martian soil consists of thermally releasable water, which can also be used for the local production of industrial water.[13] Genetic modifications that enable the fauna and flora to better adapt to the new environment will also be discussed.

The establishment of a Mars base could look like this:

  • Construction of residential complexes from containers
  • Extraction of raw materials from the surface of Mars
  • Production of hydrogen, oxygen and fuel
  • Cultivation of useful plants or the development of a biological system

Due to progressive success in robot and automation technology and corresponding projects for raw material extraction on asteroids, among others. a different order is also conceivable. According to this, chains of raw material and nutrient extraction up to biological systems would first be established, and only then would larger modules that could be used by humans be built before the first permanent settlers arrived, possibly making extensive use of the available raw materials and infrastructure.


Contact with earth would be difficult, since the transmission time of the signal varies with distance between 3 minutes and 6 seconds with favorable opposition (smallest distance) and 22 minutes and 18 seconds with unfavorable conjunction (greatest distance). Within a dialogue, i.e. a conversation between a station on Earth and the station on Mars, there are pauses of 6 minutes and 12 seconds to 44 minutes and 36 seconds between the messages, combined with a significantly lower transmission rate. The latter bottleneck can, however, be avoided by positioning relay stations between Earth and Mars on a solar orbit. They would have to be resistant to strong radiation, but due to their proximity to the sun, they would be able to use it as the only source of energy without having to rely on a radioisotope generator.

Something similar could be done on Mars itself. An ionosphere has been proven, but its size of effect on Mars has not yet been determined. Using areosynchronous satellites, the Mars equivalent of geosynchronous satellites, global communication could be made possible relatively easily. Depending on the resources available, it might even be possible to manufacture these on Mars itself.

Time calculation

As already mentioned at the beginning, the Martian day Sol is 39 minutes and 35.244 seconds longer and the Martian year with 668.5907 Sols about twice as long as the Earth year. This makes their own calendars and clocks necessary for the Martians. Some experts have already dealt with this problem. This includes the space engineer and political scientist Thomas Gangale. He published a Martian calendar in 1985, which he named after his son Darius Darischen calendar.[14] Some authors took up this idea and published variants of the Daric calendar in the years that followed.[15] Other authors like Robert Zubrin[16] or David Powell[17] reconsidered the idea and brought out their own designs. The latter also sets up a concept for Martian clocks.

What all these calendars have in common, however, is that they are solar calendars. In contrast to the Earth's moon, the Martian moons Deimos and Phobos are rather unsuitable as timepieces, as they can be seen relatively quickly on the one hand and not particularly well on the other.


Mars does not have a global magnetic field that is comparable to the Earth's magnetic field. Combined with a thin atmosphere, this allows a significant amount of ionizing radiation to reach the Martian surface. The Mars Odyssey spacecraft carried an instrument that Mars Radiation Environment Experiment (MARIE) to measure the dangers to humans. MARIE has found that the radiation in orbit over Mars is 2.5 times higher than at the International Space Station. Average doses were about 22 millirads per day (220 micrograys per day or 0.08 gray per year). A three-year exposure at such a level would be close to the limit currently set by NASA. The level on the surface of Mars would be a little lower and would vary greatly in different places, depending on the altitude and the strength of the local magnetic field.

Occasional solar proton events (SPEs) produce much higher doses. MARIE observed some SPEs that could not be viewed by sensors near Earth due to the fact that SPEs are unidirectional, making it difficult to warn astronauts on Mars early enough.

Much remains to be learned about space radiation. In 2003, NASA Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center opened a facility, the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL), at Brookhaven National Laboratory that uses particle accelerators to simulate space radiation. The facility will study the effect of the particles on living organisms along with shielding techniques.[18] There is some evidence that at this low level cosmic rays are not quite as dangerous as previously thought; and that with radiation, hormesis occurs.[19] The agreement between those who have studied the subject is that the level of radiation that appears during the flight to Mars and on the surface of Mars is a problem. However, this problem does not prevent a trip with the latest technology.[20]

The following precautions are possible:

  • Bury: A possible colony is first built on the surface and then covered by Martian soil. This method would not only protect against radiation, but also against small meteorites that could reach the Martian floor through the atmosphere.
  • Armoring the building: Using existing resources or materials that you have brought with you, you can achieve an absorbent reinforcement of the ceiling.
  • Shielding with water: Water has radiation-absorbing properties. The water tanks (cooling water, waste water, drinking water) can be arranged flat over the common rooms.
  • Through natural formations: It is known that there are strong regional differences in the magnetic field on the Martian surface. If a colony was established in such an area of ​​relatively strong field strength, it could be protected by these natural fields.

power supply

An efficient energy supply for heating and food production is essential for a colony. The following approaches are discussed:


The use of solar panels and solar cells for energy generation has been of great help in previous space missions, especially with mission targets within the asteroid belt. Resistance to external forces was mostly negligible. It will be different on Mars, however, because it has a gravitational force that makes the structure necessary to be more stable. The solar constant (590 W / m² for a mean distance from Sun to Mars) is about half as high as on earth.Therefore, with the same output, twice the solar area is necessary compared to earth. On the other hand, storms that occur globally and last for a long time (months) could impair the production of solar energy.[22] For this reason, an energy storage concept would also have to be worked out when using solar energy. Furthermore, these storms could cover the solar cells with dust, which reduces the performance as long as the cells are not cleaned.


There are essentially two ways of using nuclear energy:

The radioisotope generator (RTG)
is a device that has been tried and tested in space travel to provide energy over a long period of time. Its main disadvantage, however, is the energy yield. Although it is constant, it is low and, due to the half-life of the radioactive elements, constantly decreasing. However, since it can be assumed that a colony has a high energy requirement that increases over time, new RTGs would have to be continuously integrated into the energy network. However, the efficiency per unit of mass (use of around 8% of the radiated energy) is not very high, while the costs of around 75 million US dollars per RTG should not be underestimated.
The nuclear reactor
A nuclear reactor carried along should put the problem into perspective, depending on the energy utilization. The Soviet Union has already had experience with orbital reactors (see RORSAT), but a colony needs a much higher energy yield and efficiency per unit of mass, otherwise the RTGs, which are less problematic in terms of safety, would be the preferred choice.

NASA is currently working on the use of Stirling engines and alkali metals in RTGs, which could increase the efficiency to 15-20% and thus make the use more efficient.


There is of course always the possibility that resources will be found on Mars that release usable energy through chemical processes, so this possibility should be mentioned for the sake of completeness. The possibility of an areothermal (analogous to "geothermal") energy generation should not be ignored either, but further studies would have to be carried out for this. As numerous sandstorms show, there is wind energy on Mars. However, the atmosphere of Mars is approx. 150 times thinner than on Earth and thus energy production would be lower by this factor.


The conditions of the surface of Mars are much closer to habitability than the surface of any other planet or moon, such as. B. the extremely hot and cold temperatures on Mercury, the oven-hot surface of Venus or the extreme cold of the outer planets (e.g. Jupiter) and their moons.[23] Only the cloud layer of Venus is closer to Earth in terms of habitability.[24]

The temperatures near the equator are similar to those in the coldest places in Antarctica; z. For example, temperatures at the Viking 1 landing site fluctuated between −89 and −31 ° C over the course of a day.[25]

Since the beginning of the 21st century, various research projects have been carried out beyond theory with the aim of simulating life on Mars. The Mars Society started its Mars Analog Research Station Program in 2000, which today consists of two stations, the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station in the Canadian Arctic and the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. Topic research projects have also been carried out by the state, such as B. Mars-500 by Roscosmos and the European Space Agency.

The NASA-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation study aims to determine factors that may affect group dynamics on future Mars missions. The one-year simulation started in August 2015.[26]

Mars to Stay

To save energy and resources, astronaut Buzz Aldrin suggested that the first astronauts should stay on Mars indefinitely. The concept of a Mars-to-Stay mission first appeared at the workshop in 1990 Case for Mars VI during a presentation entitled One way to Mars has been systematically portrayed by George Herbert.

The private Mars One project is also planning the astronauts' whereabouts after landing on Mars for cost reasons. In this regard, the establishment of a colony is being considered, which is to be implemented by 2032 on the basis of a schedule.


Artist's impression of a terrage-shaped Mars
This article or the following section is not adequately provided with supporting documents (e.g. individual evidence). The data in question are therefore possibly soon removed. Please help Wikipedia by researching the information and adding good evidence.

The aim of terraforming is to transform inhospitable Mars into a habitat that is adapted to human physiology. Ideally, after completing this process, people should be able to stay outdoors without a pressure suit or breathing apparatus. Terraforming is not a requirement for colonization on Mars, but it could significantly improve the quality of life.

The question arises, however, whether the introduction of life on Mars is really justified. If microorganisms were already living in the Martian soil before this intervention, the terraforming would wrench the livelihoods of the specialized among them (and thus probably doomed them to extinction), or give them the opportunity to spread and multiply on a massive scale.

The existing knowledge about the complex interrelationships is insufficient to establish a diverse, stable ecosystem. With Biosphere 2 it has been proven that we cannot currently recreate the entire earth on a scale. The selection of the introduced species also involves barely manageable risks.

Terraforming would require an immense effort. It would take decades before even the first results were visible. The entire process has to be controlled over several centuries. The long-term stability of the result remains controversial. Therefore, from a private sector point of view, such an investment is hardly conceivable, with which it would probably only be tackled as a community-state project. It is most likely that terraforming will be carried out in the later future by any settled colonists who want to improve their own living conditions. They are likely to be very interested in it.


There are already some organizations in this area. These are i.a.



  • By Dirk Meis, excerpt from the book “The Mars Colony”. The colonization of Mars as a starting point for colonization of the super-earthgj667cc.
  • Ray Bradbury wrote "The Mars Chronicles" from the 1950s.
  • Andreas Eschbach's pentalogy “The Mars Project” deals with the everyday life of possible Martian colonists.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson's “Martian Trilogy” from the 1990s depicts the technical and social difficulties of colonizing Mars in great detail.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 setting, Mars is colonized early and the colony has soon transformed into a strictly technophile society - the Mechanicum.[28]
  • Donald Rapp: Human missions to Mars - enabling technologies for exploring the red planet. Springer, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-540-72938-9
  • Ulf von Rauchhaupt: The ninth continent - The scientific conquest of Mars. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 978-3-10-062938-8
  • Jesco von Puttkamer: Project Mars. Human dream and future vision., F.A. Herbig Verlagsbuchhandlung GmbH, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-7766-2685-8


  • Works like the film “Total Recall” are more aimed at entertainment and are less interested in what is scientifically feasible.
  • Ghosts of Mars by John Carpenter, in which Mars has become a colony of mines.
  • Red Planet by Antony Hoffman: As the earth is over-polluted, a research group is sent.
  • Mission to Mars by Brian de Palma tells of the first discovery mission.
  • The Martian - Rescues Ridley Scott's Mark Watney tells the story of an astronaut who is missing on Mars.

Computer and video games

  • Doom and Doom 3
  • The Red Faction series
  • Mars: War Logs
  • TEM the Firm: In this game, the player embodies a terraformer who is supposed to overcome the wars between different factions, the esoteric cases and the dangers of the planet.
  • Take On Mars: In this game, the player controls a rover to investigate the planet.


  • Aménophis IV by Dieter and Étienne Leroux.
  • In the mangas Aqua and Aria by Kozue Amano, 90% of the planet is covered by water.

See also

  • Mars landing
  • Category: Mars probe - Overview of the articles of previous and planned Mars probes
  • Colonization of the moon - starting point for colonizing Mars or possible alternative to it
  • Colonization of Venus - extension to colonization of Mars or an alternative to it
  • Mars flag

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Is the global magnetic field returning?
  2. ↑ VASIMR
  3. ↑ Nuclear propulsion
  4. ↑ Space radiation between Earth and Mars (English)
  5. ↑ Profile Mars 2
  6. ↑ Article about the Mars mission by Nancy Atkinson from July 17, 2007 (English)
  7. ↑ Space Elevator
  8. ↑ Space elevator on Phobos, bibcode: 2003AIPC..654.1227W (English)
  9. ↑ Robert Zubrin: Company Mars. The plan to colonize the red planet.. Heyne, 1997, ISBN 3-453-12608-4.
  10. ↑ Stefan Deiters, Dr. Norbert Pailer, Susanne Deyerler: Astronomy: An Introduction to the Universe of Stars, Pp. 420–443, Komet Verlag 2008, ISBN 3-89836-598-0
  11. ↑ Welcome to In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU),
  12. ↑ Viorel Badescu: Mars - prospective energy and material resources. Springer, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-642-03628-6.
  13. ↑ Curiosity’s SAM Instrument Finds Water and More in Surface Sample,, accessed on January 13, 2014
  14. ↑ The Darian Calendar for Mars
  15. ↑ Variants of the Daric Calendar (English)
  16. ^ The Martian calendar by Robert Zubrin
  17. ↑ The Davidian Mars calendar in the calendar wiki and in the AKDave wiki (both English)
  18. ↑ NSRL tasks (English)
  19. ↑ Robert Zubrin: Company Mars. The plan to colonize the red planet.. Heyne, 1997, ISBN 3-453-12608-4, pp. 114-116.
  20. ↑ Robert Zubrin: Company Mars. The plan to colonize the red planet.. Heyne, 1997, ISBN 3-453-12608-4, pp. 117-121.
  21. ↑ "Star Trek" protective shield to protect Mars travelers (Memento from July 7, 2012 in the web archive
  22. ↑ R. M. Halberle et al .: Atmospheric effects on the utility of solar power on Mars
  23. Jump up ↑ Jupiter
  24. ↑ Profile of Venus
  25. ↑ Williams, David R .: Mars Fact Sheet. In: National Space Science Data Center. NASA. September 1, 2004. Retrieved June 24, 2006.
  26. ↑ Press release of the TU Ilmenau
  27. ↑ Mars One - Initiative to establish a human Mars colony by 2027 (English)
  28. ^ Lexicanum entry on Mars

Web links