Using Energy and Resources from Space to Raise Living Standards of Across Earth
While Expanding Free Independent Human Societies Throughout the Universe

Science & Engineering

"We are working to build something that we can tell our grandchildren. Such things aren't meant to be easy."
Jeff Bezos

Science is fascinating. Engineering empowers. Home teaches curious, critical, causal thinking. 

"We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the 
change that will occur in the next ten. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction."
Bill Gates

This FAQ is written with character, in the tone of questions meant to reflect those commonly found in such forums as Reddit, Facebook, and space advocacy conferences. If you would like straightforward answers, these FAQs may be of value:

"It's often easier to make progress when you're really ambitious, and, the reason is, you actually don't have any competition - no one else is willing to try those things - and you also get the best people, because, the best people want to work on the most ambitious things. [...] There's tremendous things that are possible in the world through technology, and we have relatively few people in the world working on those things. We're not developing a lot of new scientists and engineers. It's probably well under one percent of the population in most developed countries... " Larry Page

Quick overview: Home assumes humans can live in .38g without adverse health effects. This is the one complete unknown which could render Mars uninhabitable. We try to acknowledge this conceit in each episode. (After 50 years of space development we still do not have data on health-effects of reduced gravity between 0 and 1g. Not a single mouse.) Basic expendable chemical rockets are used to launch a six person capsule and a transhab every two years. Radiation is partially mitigated by placing passengers within extremely cramped quarters surrounded by more than two meters of water, waste, and supplies during the six to eight month transit. The transhab also points its thickest shielding toward the sun to provide continuous complete shelter from solar radiation. Cosmic radiation is reduced to levels found on ISS. During transit passengers exercise with proper nutrition and pharmaceuticals to prevent bone and muscle loss (this is currently the norm on ISS). Once on Mars pioneers immediately transfer to subsurface habs for complete shelter from all radiation. Near-Earth, lunar, and Martian surface activities are conducted in real-time by telepresence operators on Mars or Earth either at consoles or in virtual-world exoskeletons or via AI. Occasionally simple tasks are even exchanged between operators on either planet. There are no humans in low Earth orbit or on the moon. The Amaze Research Settlement has been a free independent sovereign entity since its conception...of course, since as Bezos says...“Normal just begs to be messed with.”  ; )

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative (and creation). There is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in ones' favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now."

"I think privately funded missions are the only way to go to Mars with humans because I think the best way to go is on "one-way" settlement flights and no government will likely sanction such a risk. The timing for this could well be within the next 20 years. It will fall within the hands of a small group of tech billionaires who view such missions as the way to leave their mark on humanity."
Peter Diamandis
What does Mars offer scientifically?
Settlement is a goal in itself. However, intelligent scientifically-literate persons working on Mars will make discoveries while settling Mars, in such fields as: osteoporosis and radiation treatment, greenhouse technologies, rocketry, synthetic protein growth, remote medical diagnosis, solar power, sub-freezing construction, telerobotics, closed-loop life support, aquaculture, climate control, and more. 

Civilizations, like people, thrive on challenge - and decay without it. A cooperative international effort to settle and terraform Mars will serve as an example of how similar joint-actions can work in other ventures here on Earth. 

If a Mars program were to inspire today's youth to pursue scientific education, the net result would be tens of millions more engineers, inventors, researchers, and entrepreneurs. These people will create new industries, new medical cures, and entire new economies, providing worldwide returns dwarfing the expenditures of a Mars program.

"...we must all evangelize an exploration society predicated on settlement. This ultimately is the real cause of the exploration that we seek. To create a spacefaring civilization, a civilization of vibrant communities living and working beyond Earth. This is the crucial link which ties together space exploration, private enterprise, and public participation. Settlement is the destination for exploration's efforts. Without it exploration is dead." 
George Whitesides, CEO and President, Virgin Galactic 

Settling Mars is a noble cause but why go to the trouble to escape one gravity well only to crawl down another? 
L5 in '85? Tubes in space are not happening soon. Lagrangian settlements will never be free. Self-supporting independent habitats sent to other solar systems, however, are the ultimate goal...Mars endeavors are near-term low-cost catalysts to that end. If it turns out humans cannot live in 1/3 g without adverse effects, our efforts will shift immediately to establishing freespace settlements. 

"Mars is not the final destination. It is the direction."
What is the final goal for settlement of Mars?
Mars is only a catalyst. The ultimate goal of space exploration is dispersal of humanity throughout the universe in free, independent, self-sustaining societies. Mars will never be the optimal final destination, even if terraformed with an atmosphere, equipped with a magnetosphere, and so on, because there is no final destination. The 'goal' is continuous expansion into an unlimited frontier.

"Our first goal is not to settle space, but to make space so economically attractive that it will settle itself."
John Lewis
What is 'Mars to Stay'
To ensure permanent settlement of Mars and reduce costs, couples on a Mars to Stay mission strive to remain on Mars rather than use emergency-only return vehicles. After an initial landing, subsequent missions raise the number of persons on Mars by 3 couples every two years, starting an organically evolving settlement and permanent habitation of Mars.

Through the use of digital fabricators and in vitro fertilization it is assumed a human settlement can grow organically from thirty to forty pioneers. Since the Martian surface offers all the natural resources necessary to sustain human society—unlike, for example, the moon—a permanent Martian settlement will ensure humankind becomes a spacefaring, multi-planet species. 

The television series Home begins shortly after the second landing of three couples on Mars, two years after the first landing of three couples. In this scenario the first humans to land on Mars were three couples of international scientists and engineers sponsored by Amazon, among other private-enterprise and governmental organizations. During the first season of the television show a third craft of three more couples lands. Total characters on Mars during the first season increases from twelve to eighteen. You'll enjoy getting to know them.

"Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, and bitter cold, long months of complete darkness,
constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success."
advertisement attributed to South Pole explorer Shackleton

Why do pioneers rely upon one-way trips to Mars instead of reusing ships to make travel between Earth and Mars a commodity?
Earth-Mars cyclers will happen. The problem with return missions is an opportunity for space exploration may not occur again for decades if not centuries...and...eventually, if humans can live in 1/3 g without health issues, one-way-to-stay missions will be sent in any case. What will be gained by returning initial pioneers?

"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction".

Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872

Under what circumstances should emergency return be used to evacuate the base? 
There are serious unknowns which can only be resolved once humans strive to live on Mars. Even then questions will remain. If all couples are healthy at the end of the first return launch window (after 550 days), their moral imperative will be to stay longer. If humans suffer no negative effects from 1/3 g what would be gained scientifically by returning? Who will pay for the expense of returning healthy pioneers - when funds can be used to send more scientists and supplies? Why would anyone want to return?
"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."

Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

What kind of unique profit is there in returning people? A few $100,000 speaking engagements? Elementary school talks? Book tours? It may cost more to keep people alive on Mars in the long-term but why not continue to make their presence on Mars marginally profitable - with additional partnerships, patents, and so on (even though it will still not remotely pay for the mission in the first place) one expects Antarctic research stations to be profitable, why should Mars research settlements be profitable?
"We tend to over-estimate the progress that's going to happen in the next two years, and,
 underestimate the progress that's going to happen in the next ten years."
Bill Gates

Resource Extraction
"I've seen Mars exploration boil down to two reasons: 1) political showmanship rationalized as getting people "interested in science" but actually motivated by some kind of freakish personal quest to be the first at something no one should care about who the first at it is, which probably would result in a privately funded photos-and-footprints program, or 2) To settle. To get out of the cradle. May seem crazy, and it's certainly long view. I'm actually hip with that second reason. It's just SO FAR out there that it seems an important task to throw resources behind. Who knows what we'll discover. Why shouldn't we go? The second most habitable place in our solar system seems worth knowing. What kind of future would it be if we said humanity will never go there? If not now, when?"
Okay. Right on. Spread the word. Join the Mars Society.

"Ships and sails proper for the heavenly air should be fashioned. 
Then there will also be people, who do not shrink from the vastness of space.”
Johannes Kepler to Galileo Galilei, 1609

Toward the end of the first television season a separate private group of tourists negotiates to pay for a 35 day visit to the settlement. Upon launching back to Earth their craft blows to bits, disintegrating every traitor aboard. Prior to the first human landing another private group of adventurers orbited Mars, even depositing telerobots on Phobos and Deimos. They turned to ash upon reentering Earth's atmosphere. Leaving Mars is highly discouraged. "Traitors return to Earth" is the name of our pilot episode.
"The question really seems to be under what circumstances a return option should be used in a mission plan, either in a Mars to Stay scenario during an emergency or as the original plan after extended stay. Why should three couples of reproductive age choose to return after several 550 days intervals if they are still in perfect if not improved health? While making scientific progress, why would anyone want to risk launching themselves from a rocket which has sat for years freezing on the Martian surface, to rendezvous with another cramped rocket lingering in orbit above Mars, for years, to then ignite that that can, to float through cosmic radiation for half a year, before attempting an aerobrake into Earth's atmosphere at Mach 20 with the prayer parachutes half a decade old will open - somewhere above the South Pacific for a splash landing into a gigantic water planet's endless ocean?? That's first-class crazy! For what? Return is failure. Why expend resources to return a few -- who will run for political office, give presentations to elementary schools, and write autobiographies on tropical beaches -- when tens of millions of competent, intelligent, trainable noble brave volunteers want to strive to stay? Why should humanity pay for non-essential return? Of billions on Earth why not find a few willing to stay? Why is policy biased toward return? Return is the worst-case-scenario. Escape. Surrender. Suicide. 1950s. Absurd." 
Traitors return to Earth.

If I were on Mars with a healthy hot woman who loved me I'd ask SpaceX to send baby bottles and diapers. To hell with returning ; ) 
Your healthy hot woman has been added to the que of healthy hot women at SpaceX ; )

"When we walk to the edge of all the light we have 
and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, 
we must believe that one of two things will happen.... 
There will be something solid for us to stand on 
or we will be taught to fly. "
Patrick Overton
What will settlers do?
Construction and research. Pioneers will expand their settlement simultaneous with research to answer such basic questions as: is there life on Mars? is it distinct from life on Earth? can we apply such biological insight to medical and agricultural uses on Earth? what are the best methods for terraforming Mars? are there fossil traces of extinct multicellular organisms, invertebrate shells, vertebrae? 
Are you asking me??
Sure. Aren't you interested?
I'm obsessed. Ok. I'll join the Mars Society and study AeroAstro!
Great! Buy your textbooks from Amazon too, every bit counts : )

"640K ought to be enough for anybody."

Bill Gates, 1981

Won't the lack of gravity during transit harm crew?
Zero g all the way baby! Micro-gravity is not a problem during the few months it takes to travel to Mars. Many persons on the International Space Station have lived in zero gravity far longer. For the television show Home ships do not use artificial gravity. People arrive a bit tired, not a big deal. While the effects of living in one-third gravity will remain unknown until we send humans to Mars, we do know already from our experience on ISS that spending six months in zero gravity is not a serious issue.  Home assumes humans adapt well to one-third g (and do not need to return).  

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."

Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895

I don't expect the trip to Mars to be comfortable but why wasn't artificial gravity generated by a tethered booster in transit to Mars?!? You did not use artificial gravity in your mission profile at all!
When did explorers become wimps? The trip to Mars will not be comfortable. Home is tough exploration, not luxurious living. Nevertheless, the ships Columbus sailed had far fewer amenities. 

"As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. 
It is not as wide as you think."
Native American Proverb
Why not send robots instead?
A vibrant, self-sufficient society on Mars is a goal in itself. Knowing millions of humans can live on another planet - eventually - will change the way billions of humans think on Earth, now. Thriving, joyful, vibrant liberal democracies on Mars will catalyze cultural change on Earth. There is no more clear way to showcase the ideal of America than by recreating it on Mars.

A human scientist can accomplish more in a few hours than an entire multi-billion dollar robotic mission. In the television series Home there are occasional references to fictitious robotic explorations of Europa, Titan, and other destinations currently beyond the reach of humans. Remote-controlled robots will have a place in Martian, asteroid, and lunar development, but the time has come to send humans to Mars. To stay.

It makes sense to send robots to work alongside humans. Robots deployed by humans are excellent at reaching dangerous or inaccessible areas. Most of the surface work on Mars will be conducted telerobotically by humans from consoles in offices several meters below ground. Robots can be used to maximize exploration value on expeditions, for instance: if an interesting spot is noticed along the day's path, a robot can be deployed to spend as much time as necessary in that area while humans press towards an original goal. Telerobots will be used in real-time on Mars to perform repairs, construct habitats, and explore without requiring humans to suit up.

"We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it,
but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor."

Oliver Wendell Holmes
What is 'Mars Direct'?
Mars Direct is a sustained humans-to-Mars plan developed by Robert Zubrin. It advocates a minimalist, live-off-the-land approach to space exploration, allowing maximum results with minimal investment. Mars Direct uses existing launch technology. By extracting water from the Martian soil and abundant minerals on its surface for construction and life-support, the plan drastically lowers the amount of material which must be launched from Earth to Mars.

The general outline of Mars Direct is simple. In the first year an Earth Return Vehicle is launched to Mars, arriving 6 months later. Upon landing, a rover is deployed containing the reactors necessary to generate fuel from the Martian atmosphere for an emergency return trip. Within 13 months, a fully-fueled emergency return vehicle will be on the surface of Mars.

During the next launch window 26 months later, two more craft are sent: a second emergency return vehicle and a habitat module, the populated ship. This time the emergency return vehicle is sent on a low-power trajectory, designed to arrive at Mars in 8 months -- enabling it to be landed at the same site as the hab, if the hab does not land near the first emergency return vehicle or that vehicle malefactions. Assuming the first emergency return vehicle is found to be fueled and working, the second emergency return vehicle will be deorbited at a different site, slightly further afield, thus opening another area of Mars for exploration. With two launches during each window -- one emergency return vehicle and one hab -- more and more of Mars will be opened to human exploration. Eventually, multiple habs can be tractored to the same site and linked together, allowing  a permanent base to begin.

"The important thing is to start; to lay a plan, 
and then follow it step by step no matter how small 
or large one by itself may seem."

Charles Lindbergh

“We are much closer today to being able to send humans to Mars than we were to being able to send men to the Moon in 1961, and we were there eight years later. Given the will, we could have humans on Mars within a decade.”
Robert Zubrin
How can can fuel be made on Mars?
Fuel for emergency return and Mars operations can be made from the atmosphere (95.32% CO2) and water using solar and/or nuclear power. This has been proposed for decades, using the centuries old Sabatier reaction. Reacting carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere with hydrogen generates methane and oxygen. The hydrogen is either shipped to Mars (8 tons creates 112 tons of methane and oxygen), or electrolysis is used to generate hydrogen from frozen water on Mars. 

On site resource utilization, OSRU (also known as ISRU, "in situ"<--corny, yes?) is simply the process of using local materials in the exploration environment. For Mars missions this typically refers to using the atmosphere to make fuel for surface hoppers and emergency Earth-return flights. Fuel is typically made of a methane/oxygen mixture, or CH4 + O2. Hydrogen, being an extremely light element, makes only 5% of the weight of a rocket fuel mixture, and can thus be imported from Earth; heavy insulation and some gelling of the mixture with methane (as the hydrogen will not be fed directly into an engine) reduces in-space boil-off to negligible levels.

Remaining elements in rocket fuel -- namely carbon and oxygen -- are abundant in an easily obtainable form on Mars. The fact that this atmosphere is at an average of 7 to 10 millibar (1 bar is Earth's air pressure at sea level; 1 millibar is thus 0.1% of that pressure), as measured over the course of several years by the Viking probes, is not a problem; simply exposing activated carbon or zeolite to the Martian atmosphere at night, with temperatures as low as -90C (-130F), will cause the material to absorb 20% of its weight in carbon dioxide. When warmed to 10C (50F) during the Martian day, the carbon dioxide will outgas, yielding high-pressure carbon dioxide with almost no moving parts or energy input. The gas obtained can be purified first by adding a simple air filter to remove Martian dust; once this is done, pressurizing it to 7 bar will cause the carbon dioxide to liquefy, allowing easy separation of any remaining dust, nitrogen or argon (other gases present in the Martian atmosphere) - all this is accomplished through basic distillation processes that have been widely used on Earth since their introduction by Benjamin Franklin in the 1700's. The end result is 100% pure carbon dioxide, suitable for use in reactions used to make fuel.

From this point, carbon dioxide can be reacted directly with hydrogen brought from Earth in the following reaction:
3CO2 + 6H2 --> CH4 + 2CO + 4H2O
This reaction is mildly exothermic, meaning it produces heat instead of requiring heat.

If the water obtained from this reaction is passed through a simple electrolysis process, i.e.:
2H20 --> 2H2 + O2
The hydrogen trapped in the water as a result of our first equation can be returned to produce more and more methane, with a large amount of oxygen that could serve as a considerable backup to life-support systems.

The final result of running these two reactions in combination is an oxygen:methane ratio of 4:1, for a propellant mass leverage of 18:1, the optimum goal for rocket fuel. The leverage ratio would jump as high as 34:1 if extra oxygen were not used for life support backup, but instead was combined with carbon monoxide produced in the first reaction for use in combustion devices or fuel cells.

"Both those who wait for permission, or those who fear risk and wait for safety will also pay
 the consequences of their inaction: They will live insignificant lives and die little deaths, 
waiting and fearing. They will never see the stars, not even in their dreams."

James and Alcestis Oberg. From: Pioneering Space

What are the dangers from radiation in transit and on the Martian surface?
Life on Earth is exposed to constant background radiation; as such, humans actually require some radiation to live. For example, someone living near sea level in the United States is exposed to roughly 150 millirem (where 1 rem is the standard unit of radiation measurement in the US, a millirem is one thousandth of a rem, and 1 Sievert, the European measure of radiation, is 100 rem), per year and those living in high-elevation locales such as parts of Colorado receive 300 millirem annually due to the smaller amount of atmosphere shielding them.

Radiation only becomes dangerous when absorbed in large quantities, particularly if those doses come over short time periods. A prompt dose, such as delivered by an atomic bomb or a nuclear plant, can be as high as 75 rem without any apparent effects. Longer-term doses have much lower effects: according to the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council, a dose of 100 rem causes a 1.81% increase in the likelihood of cancer in the next 30 years of a person's life. Russian cosmonauts aboard Mir took doses as high as approximately 150 rem, with no apparent side effects.

There are two types of radiation which concern passengers: solar flares and cosmic rays. Solar flares are irregular discharges of radiation from the Sun, composed of particles with roughly 1 million volts of energy. They can be blocked by water and waste. Humans inside a spaceship during any of the last 3 large recorded solar flares would have experienced doses of 38 rem; if they were inside a storm shelter during transit, the dose would have been 8 rem. On the surface of Mars, which offers much radiation protection due to its albeit limited atmosphere, the unshielded dose would have been 10 rem, the shielded dose 3 rem. 

Luckily we have plenty of warning, as a flare's light particles travel at the speed of light, while its harmful protons do not. The Space Weather Prediction Center accurately forecasts solar storms. Once an explosion has been detected pioneers have time to seek refuge in reinforced, protected areas. A layer of icy soil above living quarters will protect settlers from flares. In the television show Home, one of the reasons many outdoor activities depicted on Mars take place at night is simply to avoid risk of solar flares. 

Cosmic rays, which constantly bombard space with an average energy of roughly 1 billion volts, are much more difficult to block. However, they occur in considerably lower concentrations than radiation from solar flares. During a six month transit pioneers will take doses of cosmic rays well below dangerous thresholds.

Once on Mars most surface activities will be conducted by tele-robots operated from subsurface habs. Rapid cell division in young persons prohibit them from surface activities altogether.

"Do just once what others say you can't do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again."
James Cook

But what about that 2012 study claiming space travel may induce Alzheimer's?
"Galactic Cosmic Radiation Leads to Cognitive Impairment"... generates worldwide headlines, whereas "After a Single Acute Burst Exposure to an Accelerated Beam of Iron Nuclei at Three and a Half Months of Age Transgenic Mice Brains Predisposed to Alzheimer's Examined Only Four to Six Months Later Suffered Inflammation, with Males Showing Enhanced Plaque Pathology and Females Showing Absolutely None Whatsoever"...might lead the public to question how close this poorly written study cloaked in jargon corresponds to actual humans exposed over six months to much smaller gradual increments of galactic radiation. Specifically whether "These pathological increases are particularly concerning for astronauts who will be exposed to [Galactic Cosmic Radiation] in upcoming deep space missions" actually means Mars pioneers will suffer dementia, as so many scientifically illiterate J school grads reported. Low level six month exposures might be worse than a single burst, or, with proactive medical treatment might not be a concern at all. We do not the very least the next similar study ought to expose mice over a longer period of time to radiation at lower doses and not euthanize females two months early.

It is unfortunate any conclusions regarding space travel are drawn at all. Months of low level cosmic radiation was compressed into a single meaningful 10 to 100 minute "acute dose". What would the equivalent of that be in terms of compressing normal everyday exposure to sunlight on Earth's surface over half a year - into ten minutes? Would we conclude walking around outside on Earth's surface is sure to cause "vascular alterations", extreme anxiety/unpleasantness/total cognitive dysfunction or whatever several months worth of sunlight compressed into an "acute sunlight burst" would do?

Their second to last sentence:
" major caveat of our model is that mice were subjected to acute exposures with a single HZE species [iron particle beam]. It is not known how the CNS [astronauts] will respond to the complex and chronic low-dose GCR [galactic cosmic ray] environment of space. Moreover, astronauts will not likely be familial AD carriers [genetically predisposed to Alzheimer's]. Therefore, while many of the pathological processes are believed to be similar, this model does not reflect the complete human condition."
It is unfortunate this poorly designed study was performed at all. Shameful it was published and symptomatic of America's decline in scientific literacy that it generated “Houston, we have another problem” headlines.

Intergalactic radiation is halved on the Martian surface and zero in habs buried beneath it. The only way to know whether humans can live on Mars is for us to go to there and strive to stay. Residents of Amaze live several meters beneath the Martian surface and conduct operations telerobotically all around Mars, rarely if ever venturing outdoors above ground in suits. Their vibrant joyful life takes place below ground, on Skype, and in their hearts and minds. Like normal humans, everywhere.

This provocatively named study is not a show stopper. In the long term we may use leftover tailings from asteroid mines to shield Earth-Mars cyclers, in addition to creating portable mini-magnetospheres:

More information on the challenges of intergalactic radiation:

Much literature on radiation poisoning still uses the deprecated 'rad' unit of measurement. Readers may note these equivalences: 1 J/kg = 1 Gy = 100 cGy = 100 rad. 1 Sv = 100 rem. (Conversion from Gy/rad to Sv/rem depends on biological effect.) See also:


Apparently Slate is the only publication in the entire world with a journalist willing to decipher this nonsense, Konstantin Kakaes:
"...basic flaw in the University of Rochester study is that it relies on subjecting mice to acute doses of radiation and measuring the effects, instead of saying anything about how humans deal with radiation.  
The researchers acknowledge these limitations in print, though they don’t seem to take their own caveats seriously: “Differences in mouse strain, timing, and radiation beam energy limit our ability to extrapolate from these studies,” they write at one point. They later continue, “while many of the pathological processes are believed to be similar, this model does not reflect the complete human condition.”  
So headlines like “Study: Space Radiation Could Cause Alzheimer’s” are true in a narrow sense: Space radiation could cause Alzheimer’s. But this study doesn’t establish that it does. The real news here is that overreliance on mouse models continues, as does selective interpretation of data. In this study, significant changes in the amount of brain plaque thought to contribute to Alzheimer’s were seen only in male mice—but there’s little discussion of the fact that female mice appeared relatively unscathed. All of the mice had been genetically engineered to be susceptible to Alzheimer’s, something not likely to be true of astronauts. Even so, irradiated mice performed differently to non-irradiated mice in only two of three simplistic cognitive tests."
Thank you Konstantin Kakaes for making an effort to publicize the flaws of this biased study in our era of scientific illiteracy. Yours is the only article we have yet found that does so. Bravo, good work.

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. 
The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this."

Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique 
adhesives for 3-M "Post-It" Notepads

What about VASIMR engines, space elevators, beamed propulsion and all that fancy stuff? We could travel from the Earth to Mars in a few weeks if we had badass engines. Yes, that takes a whole lot of energy...but space is full of a whole lot of energy! Right?
Developing advanced technologies could delay human missions to Mars. VASIMR, regardless of its usefulness in eventually settling the solar system, could be perceived as being required for human Mars missions now. As Zubrin has said, there is a concern that: 

“Rather than becoming a tool that might be of assistance in the future, a possible addition to our toolbox, advanced propulsion has become a tollbooth on the way to Mars. VASIMR is being used by policymakers as a reason why we can’t go to Mars today. This concern that we can’t go to Mars until we have an impossible propulsion system because we have to protect the crew from radiation is belied by the fact that we’re actually going to subject ISS crews to that much radiation over the coming decade without going anywhere. We want to settle the entire solar system. In that case, after settling Mars, we probably do want VASIMR, or something like it - after Mars."

Tech Illiterate Leadership

Once you get into space you can also use other technologies like ion thrusters and cyclers. Heck those spaceships can literally be as big as you care... as large as any major cruse ship or larger...with anything you want on them: free sex, nudists, drugs, role playing, whatever man. They can be expanded to accommodate more passengers on each cycle or even have the construction crew "on staff" in flight. It would be a bit of a trick to get the interplanetary pleasure-ships built, but, per passenger costs would be minimal and they don't even need to worry about delta-v or even fuel at all...the staff can even be rotated out on each cycle - peeps would pay to work there. Food can be grown there. If you are going insane running around a spaceship the size of a cruise ship, I can't help you much. 
Thanks in advance. (What is it about nudists and space??)

This is one of the reasons I find any plan to de-orbit ISS wasteful. Even if there is no other science to be had, why burn up a perfectly good transfer station for interplanetary travel? It would also be a good place to perform vehicle assembly since interplanetary craft might be launched in multiple pieces or, if in a single launch, partially reassembled, so, it does not have to be designed to survive launch stresses in a fully assembled state. Tourists could even live there, with hot hostesses.
Thanks again.

It sure is a whole lot more sane than spending $30 billion dollars for a rocket that is half as powerful as the Saturn V and costs twice as much per pound as the Space Shuttle designed by the incredibly talented engineering firm known as the United States Senate. Which future do you really want to live in?
Yep. Whatever you're talking about, definite yes.

"So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'"

Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in 
his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer

Where's the cows at? I understand compassion toward animals but sometimes I eat their pieces! And what about consumables such as toilet paper, salt, soap, etc.? It seems wasteful to cremate deceased settlers, too, depending on why they died might not some 'recycling' of their bodies be practical? What resources are held in reserve to provide support if Earth screws up? Can you provide support for their natural lifetimes? What if nuclear terrorists attack Houston or Earth is obliterated by asteroids, who will supply settlers then?
Who knows.
"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy."

Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil
 in 1859

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, 
build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Buckminster Fuller

To offer a counterpoint to your general pessimism, I'd say that with enough power you can live pretty much anywhere. Want oxygen to breathe? Crack CO2 from the Martian atmosphere and you can have all the O2 you want. Like food? Farm your own. Need water? There's tons of it if you dig in the right place. Or vaporize the Martian soil. But hey, you feel free to continue being the folks who say "you can't". You will look exactly as stupid as every other idiot in history who said the same thing.
Nothing about Home says "You can't." Nothing.

I'd reframe the question as this: what is the crossover point (in terms of weight and fuel expenditure) at which it becomes more efficient for a settlement to carry the means to produce its own food rather than carry consumables? There will be a lot of factors to include in this tradeoff: number of settlers, mission goals, and local resources but also a lot of nonlinear and fixed-cost considerations such as economies of scale, different kinds of "seeds" and "mothers" (not just stock for germination, but starter cultures for soil biome, compost, and fermented/cultured products like tofu or beer). And this trade may need to be performed separately for different kinds of dietary and medical staples...
Settlement life-support does not need to be 100% closed. There will always be trade between Earth and Mars; as launch costs decline, more so. (Considerable trade will take place via the internet alone without launches.) 

If we take 2000 calories per day as a baseline human need, that's 730,000 calories per year, or about 4 and a half million calories per year per three-couple crew, and the total need will grow by 4 and a half million calories every two years as more persons arrive. The diet would need to be varied, both to guard against catastrophic crop failure and to provide an appropriate spectrum of nutrients. A reasonable estimate (based on a combination of corn, beans, and squash) suggests 1 acre on Earth can provide such 3 million calories. But Mars receives, on average, only about 44% of the insolation as Earth does, so the first-order estimate suggests you'd need about 2.3 acres per mission to grow a subsistence diet. This presumes that radiation won't negatively impact the crops, that the yield through the Mars growing season scales comparable to Earth's, that your soil is comparable to Earth's, and many more factors. You'll also need enough additional carbon and water to make the non-edible parts of the plants and soil, and you'll need to make sure there exists a microbial community to decompose crop waste and turn it back into useable food-growing compost. Since solar panels only have a operational lifetime of a couple decades, you're going to need to constantly ship replacements, at least until settlers build solar cell factories. I don't see in your design anything that approaches the size of land that would be needed to come anywhere close to such sustainable food production. Do you even have a back-of-the-envelope plan for sustainable food production, or, is the bulk of settlers's calories going to come in perpetuity from the Earth? 
There are places on Earth which require imported food for locals to survive, such as Hawaii (90% is imported). 50 square meters of greenhouse (or, more likely, 150-200 cubic meters of greenhouse volume) fed by 10,000 square meters of solar panels can produce an impressive amount of food. Continuous daylight, no seasonal cycles, and the option to provide elevated CO2 levels, all increase plant growth. Stack plants four-high with individual lighting, and settlers should be able to get 10,000 square meters of productivity out of a 50-square-meter greenhouse. (The reason this isn't done much on Earth is that farmland is cheap, while solar panels are expensive. At Martian prices, the opposite holds.) Food from Earth will only serve as emergency rations. Pioneers will eat fresh food produced on Mars. Food production will be hydroponic, indoor, and LED illuminated. By providing the plants with only frequencies of light they use efficiently, power consumption is limited. Some plants will be grown in multiple levels on top of each other, limiting space requirements. Several meters of Martian soil on top of greenhouse habs will protect the plants from radiation. CO2 is available from the Martian atmosphere; water is available through recycling and from Martian soil. Non-edible parts of crops will be recycled, or stored until more advanced recycling equipment is shipped from Earth. This is common off-the-shelf technology. Life support does not have to be 100 percent closed. Recycling does not need to be perfect.

Further reading:

"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."

1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's work.

The Martian year is almost twice as long as Earth's, and the Martian day is slightly longer than Earth's. What type of calendar and clock do settlements use?
Nothing special. Settlements follow Earth's widely accepted Gregorian calendar and keep time by a normal 24 hour Earth clock set to Pacific Coast time (Kent, Washington, headquarters of Blue Origin). This means there is no correlation between seasons on Mars or its daylight cycles, but, that's not a big deal...everyone lives below ground. Their subsurface solar schedule coincides with Kent, Washington, not the Martian surface. on Mars = not a big deal. Everyday conversations with loved ones on Earth regarding times are clear and straightforward. Sometimes folks on Mars have breakfast when the sun sets above them. They do not care. (No one ever uses a corny word like "sol".) As a matter of fact, since the entire off-Earth economy has been jump started by American west coast firms such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin - all space activities are conducted at Coordinated Universal Time minus eight hours...Kent time.

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."

Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

Can't month long dust storms with hurricane speed winds shred everything?
Only in cheesy movies. With a thin atmosphere, about 1% of Earth's at sea level, even a 'hurricane' on Mars would feel like a gentle Earth breeze. Dust may be removed from equipment by simple mechanical or self-cleansing means. While direct illumination of solar panels may be reduced, there will still be sufficient indirect light. 

"Little minds are tame and subdued by misfortunes; but great minds rise above them".

Washington Irving

What are the risks of contaminating Mars with Earth life, or vice versa?
Actually, it is arguable this has been happening for billions of years. During his study of the Martian meteorite ALH84001, Cal Tech's Joseph Kirschvink determined large parts of the rock were never heated above 40C (104F), proving the theory of University of Arizona researcher Jay Melosh that it is possible for rocks to be ejected from one planet's surface to then land on another's surface without excessive heating. Not all rocks ejected from either Mars or Earth have been sterilized - a fact, when combined with the known ability of some microorganisms to remain alive in a dormant state for extreme duration, means Earth life has probably already traveled to Mars, and if life ever existed on Mars, it has probably traveled to Earth.

How is it possible most equipment used is off-the-shelf hardware? 
The goal of a Mars to Stay mission is to move researchers from the surface of Earth to the surface of Mars - not to develop new startling technologies. Assembling Mars-ready equipment does not require years of testing and expense. The vast majority of components can be purchased through Amazon, one of our sponsors. This is not Star Trek. 

"Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances."

Dr. Lee DeForest, Inventor of TV

You crowdpleasers are going to get people killed. Before dust storms block sunlight, Opportunity's solar panels produced about 700 watt hours of electricity per day, enough to light a 100-watt bulb for seven hours. When dust in the air reduced the panels' daily output to less than 400 watt hours, the rover team suspended driving and most observations, including use of the robotic arm, cameras and spectrometers. On Tuesday, July 17, the output from Opportunity's solar panels dropped to 148 watt hours, the lowest point for either rover. On Wednesday, Opportunity's solar-panel output dropped even lower, to 128 watt hours. How will you technical dilettantes clean solar panels on a surface bathed in cosmic radiation 24/7...?!  
Mars mission proposals do not include nuclear reactors to prove a point. They will use nuclear reactors to provide energy for the entire settlement, night-and-day, without requiring additional fuel from earth. They're not running a city-scale atom splitter. We only need a reasonable amount of KWh to support a few of people.

"Now we have the capability to leave the planet, and I think we should give careful consideration to taking that option. Man as always gone where he has been able to go, it is a basic satisfaction of his inquisitive nature, and I think we all lose a little bit if we choose to turn our backs on further exploration. Exploration produces a mood in people, a widening of interest, a stimulation of the thought process... Our universe should be explored by microscope and by telescope... When man fails to push himself to the possible limits of his universe in a physical sense, I think it causes a mental slackening as well, and we are all the poorer for it. Space is the only physical frontier we have left..."

Michael Collins, Apollo 11 Astronaut, Carrying the Fire

Living standards for all humans cannot be raised without space resources.

Are there any plans to introduce Terran lifeforms such as extremophile algae to the Martian environment, or to attempt breeding of organisms that can survive on Mars (e.g. high altitude photosynthetic multi-cellulars, high latitude grasses, etc.)? In other words, why don't pioneers start terraforming right away?
Returning Mars to its previous wet, warm conditions may happen. Some researchers at Amaze investigate how to modify Mars to make it suitable for life. The absence of a magnetosphere is not a show-stopper for terraforming.

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."

Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

How will the settlement support itself after public interest wanes and entrepreneurial explorers, tourists, and scientists move to the next frontier? Whether five, twenty or fifty years following first landing who will pay for supplies from Earth, however occasionally? How can an initial settlement be prevented from becoming a slow-motion flags-and-footprints mission? How will a mature settlement buy anything from Earth?
Humanity will always benefit from a research settlement on Mars. Whether this is constituted by a few scientists or millions of families with children will depend upon pioneers determined to make human habitation permanent. 

"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, 
and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."

The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

Where is Amaze located?
Good question. The Amaze Research Settlement is near the ancient southern highlands, which have been relatively undisturbed for 4 billion years.

How was the location of Amaze decided?
There were many possible locations of course, no single one stood out as optimal. Therefore following a Skunkworks decision model, it was more important to choose one and make it work than to continue deliberations.

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

This is not our future.

"There is no likehood man can ever tap the power of the atom."

Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923

Do we need to go to the Moon first to prepare for a Mars mission?
Absolutely not. Returning to the moon would be a time consuming expensive distraction utterly worthless to Mars research and settlement. While valuable in its own right, Lunar telerobotic exploration will teach us very little about how to survive on Mars. The two are drastically different environments:
1. The Moon has no atmosphere: methods of generating resources. from an atmosphere cannot be tested. 
2. Temperatures on the two bodies are wildly different: Mars ranges from -90C (-130F) to +10C (50F), while the Moon, during its 672-hour day, averages +100C (212F). 
3. Mars has a 24.65-hour day, very similar to Earth's; the Moon has two week long "day". 
4. Mars gravity is roughly 1/3 of Earth's; the Moon's is around 1/6 of Earth's.
When comparing the two environments, it may be said that we need to go to Mars to prepare for the considerably more harsh environment of the Moon. It is useful to test equipment for Mars before we go, of course, but this can be done in refrigerated vacuum chambers on Earth at 1/10000th the cost of Lunar missions.

"One who fears failure limits his activities. 
Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently".

Henry Ford

Open-pit copper and molybdenum mine.

Won't launches from or refueling stops at a Moon base be easier than going straight from Earth?
No.  Again, the moon is a distraction. Heavy lift rockets can go direct to Mars. As it turns out Delta-V (change in velocity) required to get from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to the surface of the Moon is actually greater than what is required for travel from LEO to the surface of Mars. This is because vehicles traveling to Mars use a technique called aerobraking (resistance from a planet's atmosphere to slow a moving body) - whereas lunar transporters must expend energy to slow themselves down.

In order to travel to the surface of the Moon, a Delta-V of 6 km/s is required - 3.2 km/s to get from LEO to the Moon, 0.9 km/s to slow into Lunar orbit, and 1.9 km/s to slow from orbit to landing. In order to reach the surface of Mars (given a launch with Mars at conjunction), a Delta-V of 4.5 km/s is required -- 4.1 km/s to get to Mars, 0.1 km/s for post-aerocapture orbital adjustments, and 0.4 km/s to slow from aerobraking entry speeds. Using the Moon as a refueling point is absurd, as simply getting to the moon is more difficult than going straight to Mars.

"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails at least fails while daring greatly".

Theodore Roosevelt

During the time-frame of Home are humans on the moon?
No. All lunar operations are conducted by telerobots. Heightened public interest in space after humans landed on Mars did result in funding for a robotic constellation of radio telescopes, but these are in freespace with their own shielding. While some have expressed interest in inflatable lunar hotels, those able to afford such nonsense were talked into settling Mars.

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."

Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

A father stares at the hands of his five year-old daughter, 
which were severed as a punishment for harvesting too little rubber.

Cowards Return to the Moon? No Moon at all? Why don't we focus on settling a easier target before we start settling Mars?
There are reasons for robots to return to the moon sometime in the future - none involve preparation for Mars. To suggest the moon offers an environment in which Mars mission systems can be tested is insincere, unprofessional, and should not be tolerated.

"Moon First" advocates ought to expect the public to push back when personal benefit or institutional inertia leads to claims humans should return to the moon in order to test Mars missions. 'Atmospheric' pressure, gravity, and temperature differences require uniquely dedicated equipment for each location. We have wasted 4 decades languishing in LEO. Despite this disaster we have learned to cooperate in space with international partners while many persons have spent more time in zero gravity than would be required during a quick 180 day flight to Mars. It is time to go to Mars. Now. To Stay.

Simulation of exact Martian thermal, atmospheric, and solar conditions in chilled vacuum chambers on Earth will provide more realistic evaluation of Martian architectures than expensive, unnecessary, diversionary "Martian ISRU practice" on the moon. We will settle Mars and the rest of our solar system without lunar overhead -- without lunar rovers, without lunar habs, lunar SBSP, lunar greenhouses, lunar life support, lunar recycling, lunar space elevators...or any other distracting LunaMars nonsense. Apart from a few odd tourists and robot repair-robots, we will never return en mass to "colonize" the moon. 

A lunar facility similar to an Antarctic research base can be shut down. We are one populist scientifically-illiterate President away from termination of human spaceflight altogether. Mars missions involve extended stays. There will be no Martian "flags and footprints" mission. When humans go to Mars we will establish a permanent settlement by the very nature of such an enterprise. Free-market development of Near Earth Asteroids will follow (or precede) -- using Mars transit vehicles -- thereby making humankind a spacefaring species forever.

We can return to the moon after establishing a settlement on Mars. Near Earth Asteroids - many much closer than the moon - offer vastly superior concentrations of resources with far less demanding Delta V than similar resources sifted from asteroid impacts on the Lunar surface. Future maintenance of GEO satellites and interplanetary craft will be accomplished using regolith vacuumed off asteroids cached at L1 and LEO. With substantial asteroidal rare metals and volatiles in feespace, Lunar 'resources' will be irrelevant.

If a massive boulder pushed off the surface of a Near Earth Asteroid were spiraled into L1, lunar resources would be irrelevant to anything we do in space, anywhere -- even, ironically, on the moon. Eventually we would actually telerobotically mine the asteroid fragment at L1 for resources to be used on the moon.

Space exploration is heroic. Returning a handful of persons to lunar tourist hotels and robot repair garages - only two days from Maui - is not heroic. NASA must be on the cutting edge of space exploration, enabling private enterprise to follow with commerce. Safety considerations for exploration should NEVER be mission determining factors. 

While not entitled to "Mars-in-My-Lifetime" and while we look forward to making spacefaring a common experience, for everyone, the purpose of NASA must be to achieve the difficult, demanding, unending goal of expanding our frontier.
The moon is a Siren's Call, a trap for unambitious engineers. Enabling permanent spacefaring through asteroid mining and Mars exploration is too important a goal to be distracted from - by impossible to justify, cowardly, dated lunar programs. There is important robotic science to be accomplished on the moon - this should not prevent ambitious engineers from settling Mars.

"The 'Limits To Growth' people see Earth as a life raft in hostile space. Hence, they see man's world as a closed system -- restricted to Earth. I don't. Humanity's action world is no more closed than it is flat." 

Mountaintop removal strip mine.
Near Earth Asteroids?
The way to go to Mars is to go to Mars. If for some reason it is necessary to have a precursor mission to a deep space destination before undertaking Martian settlement, then asteroids - not the moon - should be the compromise "flexible" destination. Deep Space technologies and delayed communication experience can be achieved via missions to NEAs. Private enterprise will use Mars infrastructure to develop NEAs without government interference and taxpayer funding. It would make sense for NASA to focus solely upon Mars and beyond, allowing entrepreneurs to develop asteroids.

"If you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds; 
but, if you really wish to learn to fly, you must mount a machine and 
become acquainted with its tricks and actual trials." 

Wilbur Wright, 1901

Really? No moon?...oh it's so beautiful, what about a far side radio telescope?
Launching and maintaining a constellation of freespace telescopes could be incorporated into a general Mars settlement and asteroid development program. It is more efficient for them to use their own shielding in freespace rather than the moon.

"Don't tell me that man doesn't belong out there. 
Man belongs wherever he wants to go-and he'll do plenty well when he gets there." 
Wernher Von Braun, 1958

these people would go anywhere

Will funding Mars settlements direct resources from other important scientific endeavors, such as deep space telescopes and robotic missions to explore Titan and Europa? 
No. Mars settlement will increase interest in space, lower launch costs, and inspire generations of engineer-explorers with a personal interest in understanding our Universe. The most direct way to discover life anywhere in our solar system - whether on Titan or Europa in one or two centuries or in another solar system altogether - is to send humans to Mars now. Robotic exploration of the Outer Solar System - the seas of Titan and Europa - will be conducted by descendants of persons who support Mars settlement now. 

"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from 
the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon".

Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed 
Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria 1873.

The question of whether there is life on Mars is still open, and once you have a group setting up a settlement, the planet is potentially contaminated forever with Earth bacteria, which might even kill off native bacteria, if there is any. You wouldn't want to mess up this wonderful thing that you had just discovered, would you? Why not wait to determine whether this is life that is uniquely Martian or if this life is something that got there somehow from Earth?
It is assumed life was not found at the Amaze site by the first persons landing four years prior to the time period depicted during Home. If a flourishing subterranean ecosystem of microbial life were found at the landing site the settlement would have directed activities to its study and preservation.

"The surface area of Mars is exactly as large as the land area of the Earth. A thorough reconnaissance will clearly occupy us for centuries. But there will be a time when Mars is all explored; a time after robot aircraft have mapped it from aloft, a time after rovers have combed the surface, a time after samples have been returned safely to Earth, a time after human beings have walked the sands of Mars. What then? What shall we do with Mars? There are so many examples of human misuse of the Earth that even phrasing this question chills me. If there is life on Mars, I believe we should do nothing with Mars. Mars then belongs to the Martians, even if the Martians are only microbes. The existence of an independent biology on a nearby planet is a treasure beyond assessing, and the preservation of that life must, I think, supersede any other possible use of Mars." Sagan

Tailings from the Ok Tedi copper-gold mine.
Get real. Seriously, are we who are stuck on this dirtball deathtrap worried at this point about disturbing microbes on Mars? If after the solar system has been here billions of years and your species is still at the microbe level, sorry, evolution passed you. 
Even if robotic precursor surveys of the site prior to landing had not detected life, early "Tuna Can" landing habs can still be 'walked' on their support structures across considerable distances, to a different region, if necessary.

“Maybe we’re on Mars because of the magnificent science that can be done there - the gates of the wonder world are opening in our time. Maybe we’re on Mars because we have to be, because there’s a deep nomadic impulse built into us by the evolutionary process, we come after all, from hunter gatherers, and for 99.9% of our tenure on Earth we’ve been wanderers. And, the next place to wander to, is Mars. But whatever the reason you’re on Mars is, I’m glad you’re there. And I wish I was with you." Sagan

Exploration is fine, but settlement is a goal in itself. Humanity must be multi-planetary.
Send your resume to Blue Origin please.

So I was surprised no one asked if all the developed hardware and software and plans, etc. would be open-sourced to encourage more people to follow in their footsteps and make improvements along the way without need for reinvention.
They are being made for download to your Kindle reader.

"It's difficult to say what is impossible for the dream of yesterday,
is the hope of today, and the reality of tomorrow."