What is the minimum number of people suitable for a Martian habitat?

A recent paper looks at the minimum number of people required to maintain a possible settlement on Mars taking into account psychological and behavioral factors, specifically in emergency situations. This study was conducted by a team of data scientists from George Mason University, and it holds the potential to help researchers better understand what conditions are suitable for successful long-term colonization of Mars, especially with regard to how these settlers will fit through all situations. But why is it important to better understand the psychological factors related to a possible future Mars colony?

“We cannot think of any kind of future human habitat or settlement without including human behavior, psychological or social,” Dr. Annamaria Perea, an associate professor in the Department of Computational and Data Sciences at George Mason University and co-author of the study, says. the universe today. “We humans are not robots, and even the best trained astronauts have different personalities and ways of interacting with each other and with their harsh environment. But in the long term and in the long term, the behavior of the team is a determining factor for the success or failure of the mission.

For the study, the researchers used the Agent-Based Modeling (ABM) method to measure the interactions of future Mars colonists, known as agents in the study, who display a variety of personality types and skill levels that they will use to operate Mars. Mining colony for minerals. The four personality types include agreeable, sociable, reactive, and neurotic, with aggressiveness and competitiveness ranked from lowest to highest, respectively. In addition, each customer’s skill level is linked to the department or engineering they will use to contribute to the mining needs of the colony.

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“Psychological demographic diversity is something that is more desirable,” says Dr. Perea. the universe today. “In our paper, ‘neurotics’ are indeed needed for high-risk tasks; Therefore, they are more likely to solve problems in the event of accidents, but also risk their lives. In the simulation, we start with equal proportions of psychological diversity, and then see who survives in the system and who does not.

ABM focused on how each character type would deal with the increased time they have spent on Mars and emergencies, such as shuttle resupply mishaps and habitat disasters, noting that the colony would be largely self-sufficient with two-year resupply missions from Earth. The researchers note that their goal for this study is to address basic questions regarding the conditions needed to maintain a possible Martian colony, the combinations of personality types that would perform best in a Martian colony, and the required number of resources needed to maintain a Martian colony. A colony given the two-year gap between resupply missions from Earth. Additionally, these came with the assumption of periodic crashes either during resupply missions or within the colony itself.

Artistic illustration of future human astronauts exploring Mars. (Credit: NASA/Pat Rawlings, SAIC)

Additional ABM parameters also included how customers deal with the local mining economy and the harsh Martian environment, specifically with regard to solar radiation bombarding the Martian surface; how the Martian economy might operate outside the colony; and the use of energy sources in space, specifically the potential of solar energy and nuclear fission. The researchers cited the International Space Station and outposts in Antarctica as a baseline for their study.

Using ABM, the researchers ran five simulations, each involving 28 Earth years, with population sizes ranging from 10 to 50 items, with an increment of 10 items in each simulation. In the end, they decided that a minimum colony population of 22 clients was ideal for maintaining a viable Mars mining colony over the long term. In addition, the researchers found that not only was the accepted personality type the best performer, but it was the only personality type that survived the full duration of all ABM simulations. However, the researchers are quick to note that future work is needed to better understand the assumptions outlined in this paper.

As mentioned earlier, the simulated Mars colony for this study was largely self-sufficient, if not completely Self-sufficient, the colony relies on resupplying from the land every two years to ensure its survival in the short and long term. While this study found that a minimum colony population of 22 workers was ideal given the parameters, could there be a minimum population size needed to form the colony? completely Self-sufficient, which means no dealings with Earth or other extraterrestrial settlements (ie Earth’s moon)?

“I don’t think something like this could exist,” says Dr. Beria. the universe today. “We know historically that cities, villages, or even isolated countries cannot thrive. In extreme environments, habitats on Earth are designed from scratch, like under the sea or in Antarctica, there are periodic replenishments of people or supplies. Nobody survives. There are forever isolated.That is why we assume in our model that there is some interaction with Earth, even if it is sporadic at times.The scenario where we send a number of people to Mars on a round trip and never hear from them or interact with them again, seems untenable “Absolutely unbelievable to me. If we can get people out there once, I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to send supply shuttles multiple times. It’s also more cost effective.”

A notable example of an alleged one-way trip to Mars is what happened with the private Dutch company, Mars One, which proposed sending people to Mars forever in hopes of creating a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet. This has been met with enthusiasm and criticism, specifically regarding Mars One not being an airline or building its own hardware. Although applications for enthusiastic travelers to Mars went through several rounds, Mars One eventually declared bankruptcy in 2019 after never launching a single mission.

This newer study builds on several previous studies that attempted to estimate the minimum number of people needed to maintain a Mars colony, with the 2001 paper, 2003 paper, and 2020 paper each estimating at least 500, 100, and 110 people. respectively. But if this latest study accurately proves that a future Mars colony will only need at least 22 people to maintain, how long will a potential colony reach that minimum of 22 people after we start sending humans to Mars?

“I believe that the first time humans set foot on Mars will not be for any kind of permanent settlement or colonization, but rather for exploration and paving the way for future missions,” says Dr. Perea. the universe today. “We don’t know yet when that will happen, we’re still years in the future, and then there will be many more years before we actually think about sending people to permanent or semi-permanent settlements. So, I don’t think it will happen in the near future yet.”

When will we go to Mars and what is the minimum population required to maintain a possible colony there? Only time will tell, and that’s why we’re studying!

As always, keep doing science and keep looking!

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