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How to Colonize Mars Succesfully, A Primer | Pangea Builders

Humanity will colonize Mars. It is inevitable. We cannot wait for everything to be perfect on Earth before we go to Mars (or the Moon). Colonizing Mars will unify Humanity in a way in which nothing else can. Pushing out into the great final frontier should be done as soon as possible with great importance.

There are two schools of thought when colonizing new worlds. Given that atmosphere is non-existent or very little, we cannot live outside. One school of thought is to simply build giant greenhouses and live in them. Another school of thought is to live underground, carving out giant spaces or settling existing giant ancient lava tubes.

Living in Giant Greenhouses, a Disaster Waiting to Happen

With all due respect, the notion of living in a giant glass house is simply asking for failure. On Mars, giant sand storm can easily destroy anything we build on the surface. This method is adding an amount of constant risk that is absolutely unacceptable. Building giant greenhouses is expensive, very time consuming and simply dangerous. At any given moment, the entire greenhouse and all its systems and inhabitants can be completely wiped out. Even a portion of the building getting destroyed or significantly damaged will affect the chances of survival too much.

giant room carved underground mars

Living Underground on Mars

This includes living in existing lava tubes, directly underground and within mountains and other similar land formations. All of the risks and threats regarding Gian greenhouses are completely gone. Huge wind storms will have little to no affect. Mars has much less gravity than the Earth. This allows for the cavities that we carve out to be larger and stronger. The ancient lava tube on Mars could be much bigger and will certainly be stronger. The construction of these ‘in-ground’ colonies will be more affordable, stronger and take much less time than building giant greenhouses. If we utilize the giant lava tubes on Mars in combination with what we carve out, the size of the colonies can truly be giant, larger than most cities on Earth.

Riccardo Pozzobon, Ph.D., announced in a press release that not only do lava tubes have the potential to house humans in space, it is also possible that these will be the sites where humans will encounter extraterrestrials. The reason is the same as why humans could live there: Lava tubes are a shelter from the harsh realities of space.

Lava tubes are environments shielded from cosmic radiation and protected from micrometeorites flux, potentially providing safe habitats for future human missions. They are also, potentially, large enough for quite significant human settlements

Why a lunar lava tube could fit a city compared to a lava tube on Earth comes down to how gravity affects the creation of the tube. Pozzobon and his team say that while on Earth a lava tube can be up to 98 feet in width, on Mars there is evidence that the tubes are 820 feet in width.

giant lava tube underground mars

In a different 2015 paper presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, scientists from Purdue University explained that because gravity is lower on different planets, rock does not withstand the same weathering and erosion as it does on Earth — which is why Moon tubes could be big enough to “easily house a city.”

Solariums are for Growing Food on Mars

We all know that growing food needs the light of the sun (and grow-lights). This is where greenhouses can be used. Here at Pangea Builders, we have built many greenhouses in every kind of climate on Earth… some greenhouses for year round growing and some as a byproduct of the greywater and liquid waste water system (www.PangeaBuilders.com/systems/liquid-waste-water-treatment). These greenhouses always have the function to close off from the rest of the building, so they are separate. The same should happen when colonizing Mars. The greenhouses (yes multiple) are separate from the main colony and can be accessed by at least three different points.

Residential buildings here on Earth require two points of egress for every living space. On Mars, this should be raised to three. We are planning to colonize a entirely different world with different physics and absolutely no fall-back, safety connection to Earth. We must play it very safe. There is no option to fail.

Greenhouses must be build in many smaller size footprints rather than one giant greenhouse. We cannot live without food, water, air and temperatures that are comfortable. Having multiple greenhouses is having redundancies, if one fails then we live off the others until that one is fixed. The more, separate greenhouses the better. This gives a higher chances of success. The greenhouse is very fragile and WILL fail. There will be a sand storm that will damage / destroy a greenhouse. This will keep happening, Mars is an intense place.

In addition to growing food inside of a greenhouse, we also need to grow food underground with grow lights. This will be the safest and most controlled environment that will probably never get damaged or destroyed.

giant corridor carved underground mars

Where to build first on Mars

There are many options and opinions about where to build first on Mars. This topic is best for another entry and involving experts in geology who have access to better and more data. There are a few locations that could be the location for the first few human settlements on Mars. These locations are where potential giant lava tubes have been found. They are Hadriaca Patera, Arsia Mons and Olympus Mons.

The Details for the first Human Colony on Mars

Humanity has built some gigantic spaces within mountains and underground. We have the technology now to do this on Mars. Combine this ability with potential lava tubes that are big enough to fit Los Angels and Philadelphia inside and we have a settlement space that is very much realistic, today.

If a lava tube can be found that is large enough, stable enough and within or near a mountain that is also large enough and stable enough, then we build our first settlement on Mars. This settlement of course includes electricity, water, food, liquid waste water treatment, comfortable temperature and adequate air to breath.

As mentioned above, we have the technology today to bore out giant caverns in-ground. The design is focused on redundancies, triple egress and safety.

There is a main entrance which is a small space that has two double airlock entries. This main entrance is just outside of the mountain and connects to a hallway that leads to a changing space. The environmental suits are switched here and any other tasks for the settlers to do as they come back in with research samples, food from exterior greenhouses, etc. All samples, food and other items from the outside are placed in containers that move to the lab for processing before entering the rest of the in-ground settlement.

The changing space then connects to the giant city space where the common parts of the settlement are. There are some residential units in this giant city space, however most residential units are down other corridors with their own safety and redundancy designs and systems. This giant city space is designed to not be small. The people need to see and feel large spaces. This giant city space is the only place the settlers will have without being in a, environmental suit. Every other space is small and cramped and does not have the option to ‘see far’.

There is at least two other corridors from this giant city space that have residential units. Both of these residential units have their own connections to the outside. This is redundancy. The settlement has many connections to the outside. Some are not used regularly, but remain functional, tested incase of emergency.

There is also a separate connection to the outside through a command use only space. This space is where the governing, control, and monitoring happen. The command space connects to the lab, outside at elevation and has two elevators up to the top of the mountain where another command space is. This upper command space provides views of the landscape and a secondary common and control.

The giant city space has two elevators directly up to another residential and general space with views of the landscape.

mars colony planview

Growing Food on Mars

The settlers of Mars will be vegetarians, perhaps pescatarians. There will be no meat consumed at all, for a very long time. Perhaps this will teach the people of Earth a thing or two about eating meat. Many, many thousands of pounds of vegetables will need to be grown. This is entirely possible as we have the technology and very many people on Earth who are more than capable of growing enough food to feed the settlers.

The solarium building to grow food will be outside and inside the mountain. The buildings on the outside will be near the mountain and be designed to let in as much light as possible. There should also be a double wall to the entire solarium building. This is to keep the extreme cold temperatures out and make the solarium building stronger and less susceptible to exterior forces that can damage the solarium building.

A minimum of three entrances, each with triple airlocks will protect the interior of the solarium building. There will be a minimum of two, very big solarium buildings located relatively close to the settlement entrances in the mountain. The redundancy of multiple and separate solarium buildings insures the settlement colony will not loose the capacity to grow food. While one solarium building is down, the others continue to produce food.

There is an interior solarium building within the mountain and connected to the modules of the settlement. This is still a solarium, however the light for the plants comes from full spectrum elements similar in use today on Earth. This solarium area is very, very large and can produce enough food on its own for the settlement. With this capability, there are still two more solarium buildings outside of the mountain settlement.

Making Reliable & Consistent Electricity on Mars

Electricity for all the various elements and equipment comes from three different methods. All three methods are necessary. Together they provide the settlement with energy that is reliable and most importantly, redundant. All three power generation methods together provide this security. The theme through this entire Mars colony concept is redundancy and independence.

Solar is an obvious choice and will produce a considerable amount of energy. However, there is only so many photovoltaic modules that can be brought to Mars and installed. There is a considerable amount of maintenance with solar panels and a high potential for damage. Sand storms can cover and destroy solar panels and entire arrays of panels. All of the potential threats to solar panels should not deter the sources of energy from solar panels.

Wind can be a very effective source of energy on Mars. Small wind modules and very large wind towers can provide plenty of energy to the settlement within the mountain. Wind modules can provide energy when solar is being repaired. Having multiple wind modules at varied locations provides the redundancy described above throughout the settlement.

Nuclear is a third and necessary option. The nuclear power source should be located as far as possible from the settlement, preferably within a mountain or under and within the ground. This provides a certain amount protection to the settlement from the nuclear radioactive power plant.


Look for future articles covering the systems of a colony on Mars.

  • Food Production
  • Water
  • Liquid Waste Treatment
  • Recycling & Composting on Mars
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