Synopses of Articles

By IonMars
Last edited November 23, 2014



“A New Priority for NASA” Every few years the National Aeronautics and Space Administration updates a broad planning document called the Mars “Design Reference Architecture” that lays out the goals and objectives regarding the exploration of Mars. IonMars explains why a Mars Pioneer would like to see some changes in this document that would put the support of Mars colonists ahead of all other Mars activities. Programs and projects would be revamped to carry out these broad goals. Science would be put to work for the colonists, e.g. a top priority would be given to finding the best landing site for a Mars village.


“Prelude to Pioneering (1)” 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.


Upon Landing

“Pioneer House Building Version 1.1.” 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.

“Pioneer Road Building.” To meet the minimum needs of daily commuting to nearby destinations, rudimentary roads will be built. Simple pathways that protect wheel treads of Mars vehicles will be constructed. Using a compact front-end loader and a rock-breaker attachment, a colonist will clear stones, break jutting rocks, tamp the ground and apply a layer of screened regolith. The compact front-end loader will be adapted to Mars and the rock-breaker will be an attachment to the loader. This is the minimum equipment required. To ensure a supply of screened regolith a dry screening machine will be employed as part of the operation.

“Pioneer Ice Mining.” A Mars pioneer will have two ways to collect water/ice for the Mars village. He may quarry a large ice source above ground using a chainsaw, or he may drill into a large subsurface source. In this case the water must be melted and then pumped to an above ground storage tank. The storage tank will be constructed from stone blocks and regolith, using the same building techniques and the same portable scaffolding as the Mars house. Treatment of the water will be by means of distillation, which will remove potentially hazardous regolith particles.

“Mars Village Vehicles.”  Unlike the NASA space exploration vehicle, the first Mars EVA vehicles will be construction equipment. Well-proven Earth vehicles and equipment will be adapted for Mars in five not-so-easy steps. A first priority vehicle will be a compact front-end loader, such as the Bobcat T-550 with eight Mars-useful attachments. A second priority will be a compact pickup, such as a Dodge 1500 converted to Mars use. If additional space is available on the Mars transporter, a light-duty dump truck will be desired. Other useful items will be a compact crane and a Mars EVA utility vehicle built from scratch. To provide overnight protection garages will be constructed of stone blocks as attachments to a Mars house. Garage attics will provide access to and from house to vehicle without going through an airlock room.

“Dr. Sabatier’s Appurtenances.” A chemical reaction studied in depth by a 19th century chemist has become the centerpiece of NASA’s plan for exploring and colonizing Mars. The Sabatier reaction uses H2 and CO2 inputs that can be produced from the hydrolysis of water and from the Mars atmosphere, respectively. The outputs CH4 and O2 are both necessities for a Mars village. Both the input chemicals and the products will be kept in Mars storage tanks constructed using stone blocks like the tanks used to store the products of ice mining. These tanks will be built using the same techniques as building a Mars house.

“Farmland. In this article IonMars 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 to produce treated products, which will feed into a soil composting operation using the Berkley Method. This procedure will pasteurize soil as it is produced. Starting up the system will entail growing swamp grass and drying sludge as a temporary measure.

“Village Landscape.” 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.


Colony Expansion

“Iron Ore Mining (1) Blueberries” 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 the 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 coop 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 they will be hauled to a blast furnace.

“Iron Ore Mining (2) Dune Boggles” As seen from space, Mars displays many weird dune fields, some of which will contain fine-grained magnetite iron ore. This 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 camp used to min hematite. The author expresses his concern about certain magnetic dunes that might be dangerous.

“Iron Ore Mining (3) “Iron from the Sky” 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.


Future Articles


Steel Production (1) Blast furnace


Steel Production (2) Carbon Steel


Big Houses


Long Roads


Mining for Mars


Mining for Export


Tourist Industry