Archive of Updates

Carrie’s Choice
(A Steel Industry Fantasy)

By IonMars

February 1, 2015

“It is 2033 and Carrie faces the biggest decision of her life. If she makes the right choice she will make billions of dollars and become the new industrial tycoon of Mars. She will restore her family name to the top of the steel industry, albeit within a new colony on a remote planet. If she makes the right choice she will follow her illustrious forebear, Andrew Carnegie, who established the steel industry in the United States 150 years before, by introducing the Bessemer steelmaking process.”

In this article, IonMars introduces an imaginary personality to explain a real issue that will be addressed by the planners of a Mars colony. The question centers on the choice of three high quality iron ores that have been discovered on Mars. Which one should be exploited to initiate a new iron and steel industry? Which one will better expedite the building of a Mars colony using Mars-produced iron and steel products?

IonMars explains the traditional Iron and steel making processes on Earth, including the Bessemer converter and open-hearth processes. These involve a blast furnace, coke plant and a sinter plant. The modern processes are the basic oxygen furnace and the electric arc furnace. The choice between these options involves the type of energy source that can be brought to bear on Mars. It also involves a crucial political issue that must be addressed back on Earth.

To read on, press here.

Update November 11, 2014
Unofficial Guidelines for EVAs on Mars’ Surface

IonMars has adopted a Section from the official Mars Design Reference Architecture 5.0 (March 2014 update) that lists the set of assumptions that went into the planning study. He changed the word “assume” into “will” or “shall” and entered some clarifying edits. The result is an unofficial Guideline for EVA on Mars’ Surface. It is a useful tool for understanding NASA’s current concept of operations and the procedures to be followed by Mars Explorers. From the home page click on “LIBRARY”, then “ARCHIVE OF TECHNICAL MANUALS”, then “UNOFFICIAL GUIDELINES FOR EVAS ON MARS’ SURFACE.”

Update November 10, 2014
“Prelude to Pioneering (1)” is published

In the first of two articles on Mars exploration, IonMars points out that just as expeditions of past centuries, the colonization of Mars will be preceded by a period of exploration. NASA has been planning for the human exploration of Mars through a series of planning documents that specify the techniques to be employed as well as what facilities, vehicles and equipment will be required. A Mars pioneer should become knowledgeable about these systems because these equipment and vehicles will likely be employed in colonization.

In the NASA plan, six Astronaut/Explorers will be launched from Earth inside an Orion spacecraft atop the Space Launch System (SLS). Once in orbit they will transfer to Transhab, one of three components of a Mars Transfer Vehicle (MTV). The other components will be a Nuclear Thermal Rocket (NTR) propulsion system and a large, disposable fuel tank. Once in Mars orbit, the crew will transfer to a Mars habitat/lander that will place them onto the surface of Mars.

At the landing site the crew will engage with cargo that was pre-deployed to the same location. This will include an In-situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) plant to produce fuel and oxidizer for the return trip. It will also include a Fission Surface Power System (FSPS) to provide electrical power for the ISRU plant and for crew requirements. The crew will deploy a two-man rover to explore Mars’ surface. After the 1-yearmission is completed, they will launch inside a Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) that was previously landed with a cargo lander as a Descent/Ascent Vehicle (DAV). They will re-enter the Transhab for a long trip to Earth orbit, where they will land on Earth in an Orion capsule.

Update October 6, 2014
“Flex House” is Published

In this article IonMars shares personal thoughts derived from his Boy Scout youth that if you are not using ISRU at the beginning of Mars colonization you are “cheating.” Nevertheless, a flexible house plan (Flex House) will be constructed from materials imported from Earth or materials produced on Mars after industries have been established. Each Flex house will exhibit an arched roof covered by regolith. It will feature vertical sidewalls and double shell construction. Air will circulate between the shells to prevent condensation, which in turn will prevent mold colonies from forming. The structural elements of floor joists, wall studs, and ceiling rafters will be placed in alignment so as to facilitate air circulation around the house. Three practical sizes of houses will be 6, 8, and 10 meters wide and feature 1, 2 or 3 floors. An example one-floor plan exhibits amenities for 12 persons living in a compact space. Robot operators will utilize one room where they will control the robots operating on the surface.

Update September 25, 2014
Iron Ore Mining (III)“Iron from the Sky” Is Published

In the third of three articles on iron ore mining, IonMars addresses iron meteorites as the prime source of iron of Mars, the “ lowest lying fruit.” Information about these meteorites comes from three NASA rovers that each discovered one or more along its sojourn. The key question is whether iron meteorites can be found in sufficient quantity to supply a steel industry based in a Mars village. To answer this question IonMars proposes a meteorite survey to be carried out by explorers in advance of the first colonists. They will employ a robotic hovering magnetometer (HovMag) that will perform a systematic search based on a survey plan. Analyzing the survey results will require some knowledge of the meteorite collection device to be employed; an Earth analogue of this device is a garbage collection truck with a manipulator arm.

Update September 10, 2014
Version 1.1 of “Pioneer House Building” Is Published

The new version of “Pioneer House Building “ alleviates the problem of sintering as a method of joining basaltic stone blocks, which could cause cracking if not done carefully. In this new version epoxy resins will replace mortar, a water-based product that will not work on Mars. Because the resins harden only in a certain temperature range the building process is more complicated. IonMars spells out a number of additional procedures, such as preheating blocks in an oven and maintaining pressure and temperature during curing. Additionally, this version delineates more details on how to construct, assemble and deploy a portable scaffold for building a standard Mars stone house. It also describes the construction of a floor using foundation blocks and epoxy resin. Optionally, the reader may examine IonMars’ analysis of air containment and tensile strength in the house, which shows a large safety margin.

Update August 28, 2014:
Rewrite is Coming

IonMars is currently rewriting the article “Pioneer House Building.” His participation in the forum on Specific Mars Development and Planning has helped to identify a problem in one aspect of house building, namely, sintering the edges of stone blocks to seal them together. Too rapid of heating may crack the stone. While slow heating a wider area may ameliorate the problem, the procedure is unproven. Meanwhile, three companies have proposed epoxy resins for this purpose. The revised article will not only incorporate resins, but will also expand on the details of construction, including some patentable ideas.

Stone houses still appear to be the best alternative for colonists just stepping off a Mars lander. Other good ideas for using ISRU for construction will require more facilities, additional equipment, and more investment. These bigger, better houses will develop in the second phase, called Colony Expansion, which corresponds to the development of the iron and steel industry.

Old Preface

As of 2014 NASA has landed seven exploration vehicles and four rovers on Mars to search for life. So far no evidence of extant or previous life has been found. But in the future, life will definitely be found on Mars; they will be aliens from the planet Earth!

As colonists on Mars, we will not call ourselves invaders, but pioneers. When we step off our landing vehicle, how will we proceed? How will we construct houses and roads? How will we build a civilization on a cold, dry planet? These are the questions addressed on this website. Articles by IonMars will speak to various aspects of pioneering on the Mars frontier from the viewpoint of a colonist. Your replies and recommendations are welcome and will improve the Handbook.

The goals of this website will be:

  1. To develop a real handbook for the real Mars Pioneers, and
  2. To submit requests for support from planet Earth.

Posted June 1, 2014

By IonMars

Update August 10, 2014:
Iron Ore Mining (2) is published

Synopsis: This is the second of three segments addressing iron ore mining. As seen from space, Mars displays many weird dune fields, some of which will contain fine-grained magnetite iron ore. A magnetic field survey will be conducted to locate dune fields with a high concentration of magnetite dust. The regolith that represents a potential source of high-grade ore will be gathered and processed through a two-stage operation, consisting of high-volume dry screening followed by high-volume magnetic separation. This processing mini-plant will be located at a base camp in the vicinity of the dune field and will function like the base camps used to mine hematite. The author expresses his concern about certain magnetic dunes that might be dangerous.

Update August 6, 2014:
Iron Ore Mining (1) is published

Synopsis: This is the first of three article segments addressing iron ore mining. it also marks the beginning of a new section of articles called Colony Expansion. In this segment IonMars describes how the discovery of iron spherules composed of hematite iron ore will be translated into a small-scale mining operation. A series of base camps will be set up to process blueberry-containing regolith by means of a dry screen separator. Colonists (miners) will conduct forays from a base camp to collect blueberries. They will employ one Mars Utility Vehicle with manipulators to brush the spherules off rocks and onto the regolith. They will use a front-end loader to clean debris from the regolith and a second MUV to handle tools and equipment. On a second foray they will scoop up the spherule-containing regolith and load it into a dump truck, which will carry it to the base camp for screening. When enough screened blueberries have been collected the miners will haul them to a blast furnace.

Update August 3, 2014:
TMP now listed in NSF

A week ago, July 24, (TMP) was listed under Site Boosters on (NSF). I have also begun participating in an excellent discussion called "Specific Mars Development and Planning" which is the number one or two (it varies) sticky thread under the Section called Missions to Mars (HSF). Not only are the ideas from TMP being addressed, but also other useful concepts that will be expanded here in the future, especially under the new section Colony Expansion.

Update 7-24-2014:
Screened Regolith will cover Mars’ Roads

The article “Pioneer Road Building” was updated to include a regolith–screening machine to prepare a top-layer of fine-grained regolith o cover Mars’ roads. To meet the minimum needs of daily commuting, rudimentary roads will be built that protect the wheel treads of Mars vehicles. Using a compact front-end loader and a loader with a rock-breaker attachment, colonists will clear stones, break jutting rocks, apply a layer of screened regolith, and tamp down the roadway surface. This procedure will provide rudimentary roads for daily commuting.

Update July 22, 2014:
Village Vehicles have a Garage.

The article “Mars Village Vehicles” has been expanded to describe how a garage will be constructed for each Mars EVA Vehicle (MEV). As a colonist returns from a long Mars day of quarrying stone blocks, mining for ice, building roads, or constructing a chemical storage tank, he/she can proceed directly from his climate-controlled MEV into a climate-controlled house. On Earth, a luxury; on Mars a daily necessity for living.

Update 7-1-2014
“Mars Village Landscape” published.

Synopsis. The exterior appearance of Mars houses will be similar to an upscale underground home on Earth. The front lots will be kept clear of glassicles and cleared areas will be marked off. Dry stacked stone walls will be built where appropriate. Much of the landscape will be determined by the village layout of houses, greenhouses, and passageways that will be built by the colonists. An example layout is analyzed to show how a small village layout and landscape could evolve over a four-year development period.

Update June 20, 2014
The Article “Farmland” is published.

IonMars has published his best work yet. In this article he contrasts the open fields of Earth with the greenhouses of Mars that will be covered with a protective layer of regolith. This mini-biosphere will serve the dual purposes of food production and waste treatment. Like a greenhouse on Earth, growing crops will entail the control of water supply, a soil base, a soil conditioner, plant nutrients, air supply (especially CO2), temperature, humidity, and lighting, all of which must be adjusted for the conditions on Mars. Waste treatment will consist of an aerobic tank process that will feed into a soil composting operation using the Berkley Method. This procedure will pasteurize the soil as it is produced. Starting up the system will entail growing swamp grass to produce straw for composting and drying sludge as a temporary measure until composting is fully functional.

Update 6-1-2014: The Mars Pioneer is Launched!

No, he/she didn't step onto the Mars Colonial Transporter but onto the pages of this website. After a few delays, IonMars presents the first six articles for your review and critique. On the Links Bar at the top of the page, press Synopses for a brief description of each article. Press Messages from Earth for email received and answered. Press Links for other websites that are especially relevant to the colonization of Mars. Press About IonMars to peek behind the curtain to view the author. On the side panel "The Handbook So Far" press on an article to go directly to it.