Agriculture for Mars Colonization

Agriculture for Mars Colonization

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As the world population grows at an astonishing rate, our mother earth is getting very crowded. Our natural resources are being overused and the land available for life is getting smaller and smaller. Farmers have to find ways to make what land they have usable and profitable. Farmers in general are a shrinking population. How does this relate to the general public? Without farmers we would not have food, without food we will all die. The world is realizing this problem and the best way to solve it is to find more land for habitat. We can not tack on a few million acres to earth and start using that, so we have to find somewhere else to go.

Mars, the beautiful red planet, is the most similar planet to earth. The terrain in general is very close to what we are used to on earth, minus the vegetation. Earth and Mars both contain polar ice caps. Mars also has water throughout the planet, but it is mostly subsoil.

Water is a very important part of agriculture. The water on Mars is a little different than the water here on earth. If we tried using the polar ice caps, we would have to do many things to make it worth out time. The location of the ice caps is in an area with “permafrost.” This means that the water remains frozen unless we do something to melt it. The bad part is that we don’t know what the water is actually like. When we get the contained water free, we will then have to test it and see what is needed to make the water useful. The water underneath the soil is already free, but there are many unanswered questions about that water also.

The water contained under the soil has had some various effects on the Mars terrain. When the robots were on mars collecting samples, they found some rocks that looked like rocks from prehistoric life here on earth. When analyzing these samples, the scientists deemed that the water was very acidic and salty. This is similar to some of the earlier times in the Australian area.

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We would have to find ways to clean the water up before we can use it, unless we genetically engineer some plants to survive in the acidic water. The water found on Mars just so happens to be red also. That is just weird.

The soil on Mars is also a problem. It is not the nice brown dirt that we have here on earth. The soil found on Mars is closer to really thick dust. At the Johnson Space Center in Houston, they are working on building 29. Building 29 is a Mars model which is to be used to train astronauts to survive on Mars and also to see if we can grow things on Mars. Beings we can not collect enough soil from Mars, we are getting as close as we can to the Mars dust by using volcanic ash from Hawaii. In order to replicate the environment on Mars we would need to create habitat modules to live in and greenhouses to grow plants in. Scientists so far have put together a list of thirteen different plants that they believe will grow on Mars. Wheat, potatoes, soybeans, and salad greens are just a few examples.

So how are we going to tie our bad water with the bad soil? First a water distillery will have to be built on Mars. The distillery will purify the water and make it usable to drinking, bathing, and growing. Water is made of Hydrogen and Oxygen, which are also prime components of some liquid fuel engines. So when these are separated and used properly, we can use it as fuel for the space craft and land machinery. The oxygen and hydrogen is also a vital part in the atmosphere which will enables the growth of crops. When you can get fuel, air, and water on site, it is also possible to grow food.

The hardest part of space travel is the take offs and landings. Once we are in space, it is relatively easy to maneuver around. In order to get things set up on Mars, we are going to have to take materials with us and many people to do the work. We are going to need large ships with carrying capacity for materials, which is going to make a heavy ship. The heavier the module, the harder it is to start and stop e.g. lift-off. Also, the larger the ship the more fuel it needs. So the other way to do things is to send up multiple ships. This is very expensive, and the average trip takes 7 months one way. There is also the whole idea of getting the earth and mars aligned correctly for travel between the two planets, which could take up to a year and a half.

Either of the ideas previously expressed are logical until you get to the idea of funding. $600 million dollars is the going rate to just get a space shuttle there. This does not include the price of developing the equipment and training people to run it. The price for this could run into the billions and maybe trillions. The funding for this project is very high and very hard to allocate. The money allotted to NASA is already getting smaller by the year. This is realistically the biggest obstacle.

The main questions that we need answered about the possibility of life on Mars remain unanswered. We just need more tests to see if we can develop the technology to provide fuel, air, water, and food from the resources available on Mars. These questions will not be answered until we allocate more funding and time to this project.
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