Mars & Moon Bases

mars underground base v5

The Enterprise will have the cargo capacity to carry all the materials and robotic heavy equipment needed to construct permanent, underground bases on the moon and Mars. Bases will be underground to shield human inhabitants from harmful galactic cosmic rays and radiation from the sun.

Besides radiation concerns, another issue with humans living long term on either the moon or Mars is that the gravity in these places is far different than on earth. On Mars, people weigh only 38% of what they weigh on earth. A 200 pound man weighs just 75 pounds.  On the moon, people weigh only 16.5% of what they weigh on earth. A 200 pound man weighs just 33 pounds.  Since long term weightlessness in space has been shown to lead to significant health problems, it is likely that living for a long period on either the moon or Mars will also cause health problems. Thus, a fundamental goal for building any permanent bases should be to achieve 1g gravity in all the main living and sleeping areas.

Humans have evolved in a 1g gravity environment. Changing the magnitude of the constant downward force that the human body is accustomed to having applied to it is not wise. Thus it’s a safe assumption that humans living for years on Mars or the moon should live in a 1g gravity environment.

1g gravity is accomplished on the moon base and the Mars base by using a modified version of the Enterprise’s gravity wheel. This gravity wheel will be assembled inside of a donut-shaped cavity dug out for the underground bases. The wheel must be modified so that the pods where people reside will be tilted partly downward as shown in the graphic below. This allows the wheel to add more gravity to the existing native gravity of the moon or Mars. The downward angle of the pods and the wheel speed is adjusted to give 1g net gravity.

Mars Gravity Wheel

An advantage of using a derivative of the Enterprise gravity wheel is that much of the learning from the research and development that went into the Enterprise’s wheel can be leveraged. This will save cost and time when designing the gravity wheels for the moon base and the Mars base.

In fact, for developing these bases as much as possible hardware from the Enterprise will be re-used. A copy of the Enterprise’s 1.5GWe nuclear reactor can be the primary power source for the bases. The rotating elevators used on the Enterprise for transporting people and goods from stationary points in the Enterprise to the rotating gravity wheel can also be used on the bases.

Having a rotating wheel where people mostly live does not mean that other underground places, where the force of gravity is native to the moon or Mars, are not developed and used. Many other areas can be developed such as for growing crops, warehousing equipment and supplies, and recreational uses. (Imagine playing basketball when you weigh only a fraction of your weight on earth. Or imagine watching a game of others playing basketball or baseball.)

Because a modified gravity wheel from the Enterprise is used, this means that up to a thousand people can be on the base at any one time. Far fewer will be there initially, but there will be plenty of room for future growth of the human population on the bases.

The bases will be located in geologically stable areas and deep underground. Going deep means that rock layers will be encountered. Thus the rock must be carved out to allow the forming of the various large cavities needed for the base. To accomplish this, a laser-digger will be developed. High power lasers have recently been found to be able to cut through rock by vaporizing it. In fact, on earth oil rigs with metal drill bits may soon begin to be replaced with laser drills.

Laser Rock Drilling (Argonne National Laboratory, DOE)

Multiple laser diggers will be used. This is for redundancy in case one breaks down and cannot repair itself. Spare parts will be left on the moon and Mars too so that the laser-diggers can maintain themselves by replacing those parts that wear out as digging proceeds.

The laser-diggers used for digging through rock to create the underground cavities for the bases on the moon and Mars use very powerful lasers. In the spirit of reusing Enterprise technology, perhaps a copy or derivative of the Enterprise’s 100MW laser can be included inside the laser-diggers as the laser light source. Future research will tell whether this makes sense. Whatever laser is used in each laser-digger, it will be extremely powerful so that it does not take forever to create the large cavities for the underground bases.

The laser-digger will be powered by the 1.5GWe nuclear reactor that will be delivered to Mars on the Enterprise’s first mission to Mars. The same is true for the first mission to the moon.

It may take 2-3 years of constant digging before all of the underground cavities for a base on the moon or Mars are complete. This is why no people are left behind on Mars or the moon after the Enterprise’s first mission to each of them. When the Enterprise returns 2-3 years later, the laser diggers will have dug out all the needed large cavities for the base including the donut-shaped cavity for the gravity wheel. Also, the robotic base-building equipment will have assembled a basic shelter for humans that uses the native gravity.

On the second Enterprise missions to Mars and the moon, humans will be brought to move into the basic shelters, and all of the components of the gravity wheel will be dropped off too. After the Enterprise is gone, the humans will work with the robotic base-building equipment to assemble the gravity wheel and to complete the base. The construction of the first homes for humans on other worlds will have begun.