How Many People Do We Need to Colonise Mars?

Would you sign up to be one of the first individuals to live on a new planet? How about enduring the seven-month journey in a small capsule to Mars?

The real question remains, how many of these brave individuals would we need to kick off this new terrestrial habitat? Some of those answers may be here.  In a new study, the first of its kind carried out by French professor Jean-Marc Salotti at the Bordeaux Institut National Polytechnique, set out to answer this exact question, the number of people he pegged it at was 110.

The study titled, “Minimum Number of Settlers for Survival on Another Planet” set out to not only calculate the size of this groundbreaking colony but also what would those variables look like if this were to happen.

The main concern for the scientific community going into this debate thus far has been set around the In-situ resource extraction issue, which basically means how would we harvest what is already on Mars without utilising the astronomical costs of resources coming to and from the earth.

The complexity, expense, and feasibility of interplanetary travel are one and the lifetime of the equipment that settlers start with is another. Elon Musk’s solution for this problem has been –  building a fleet of interplanetary spacecraft, which would send a constant flow of resources back and forth to Mars. Not very realistic though considering the burden of this cost.

Salotti worked on a mathematical model that he thinks could serve as a good starting point for a self-sustaining colony. Central to his idea is what he calls the sharing factor,  he explains that the more people there are the lesser the load on specialisation and equipment maintenance, the question is what is the perfect number to start all of this – what Salotti has been working up to here is an equation.

Things like resource availability and production capacity are variables in that equation.  In a larger colony with 110 people and not just a handful of people, there would be more of a burden but duties such as building and/or maintaining their own systems to acquire drinking water, oxygen, and to generate power would be shared amongst the colony. The effort to build and maintain all those systems is now spread out among more people. That, in essence, is Salotti’s sharing factor.

He outlined five separate domains that would need to be maintained by these 110 individuals:

Ecosystem management
Energy production
Human factors/social activities

The number of 110 “is based on the comparison between the required working time to fulfil all the needs for survival and the working time capacity of the individuals.” Basically, Salotti’s equation comes down to time. How much time is required for survival vs. how much time is available? This is a very simplistic overview for a more comprehensive overview of how this would look plus some quantitive graphs that explores this problem, head to the original article at UniverseToday.

Make no bones about it though, the problem of starting a colony in Mars remains bewilderingly complex. Salotti signs off by saying, “Our method allows simple comparisons, opening the debate for the best strategy for survival and the best place to succeed,”. Let us know how feasible you think this all is.