Create a settlement

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This page shows a typical early settlement for about 24 people and includes links to Marspedia pages about the various settlement facilities and their characteristics. If you want to design your own Mars facility, this is a good place to start! The tiles used to build this image of a settlement measure 9m x 9m and are mostly to scale. The design parameters for the settlement are in the table at the bottom of the page.


Water storageHealth careHabitatResearchHabitatLay down areaRaw materials storagePropellant and gas storageGreenhousePublic servicesPhotovoltaicsPhotovoltaicsElectricitySpaceportNuclear powerMiningNuclear powerPhotovoltaicsProductionMaintenance
Early Mars settlement. Clicking one of the buildings links you to a Marspedia page about the facility.


At the top of the settlement plan you find a water storage tank, that feeds a water treatment facility. Storage is also provides for other resources, such as gases or minerals like silica sand, iron ore and calcium carbonate.

Solar energy can be backed up by chemical energy stored in the rocket propellant produced by the settlement. Short term back up would probably be provided by batteries, while longer term back up in the event of a large dust storm could come from an electrical generator with a methane powered motor.

Housing, Lodging circulation and offices

Housing tile.JPG

Illustrated here are three buried inflatable habitats, that serve for housing, lodging and office space. They are connected by circulation corridors with multiple connection points. Area of 40 m2 per person. Life support would be distributed between the habitats.


An infirmary type health facility is provided near the habitats.


Research facilities will house a large part of the settlement's early activities.


Four greenhouses produce food, but also do some atmospheric processing. With a total growing area of about 1400m2, extra artificial lighting and year long production at a rate of 3 to 6 kg/m2, the greenhouses could produce 4 to 8 tonnes of food per year, or up to one third of the food needed per year for the colony. The rest of the food would come from Earth.

Public spaces

Dome tile.jpgA large dome, 26m in diameter, serves as a public space as do all the connecting/circulation nodes between the modules.



Solar and nuclear power need to be routed through power distribution systems, that will include battery storage in the case of solar power. Transformers, power electronics and rectifiers are also expected to be included in these systems.


Power is provided by photovoltaic power arrays. Each illustrated 8x8m array can produce 40 kWh of energy per day and a peak power of 11 kW. The 18 arrays shown provide 180 kW; this is enough power for the settlement, but more power would be required for propellant production and intensive, rather than experimental, food production. To fuel a single starship would require about 9 000 000 kWh of energy, the entire output of 300 tiles for two years.

Solar angled tile.JPG

Tracking solar arrays offer the same peak power but provide more energy. If the structure is manufactured on Mars, the overall cost may be reduced compared to fixed arrays. These arrays produce up to 60 kWh of energy per day, reducing the number of arrays required by 40% to 200.


Reactor tile.JPG

Down to the lower right a nuclear reactor provides power during the night of if a dust storm blocks the light for the photovoltaics. The Kilopower reactor can provide 10 kW of power, or 240 kWh of electrical energy per day continuously for 10 years or more. it rejects about 30 kW of heat.

Large reactor tile.JPG

A larger, 1 MW reactor is required to power the settlement and produce propellant if solar is not used. Such a reactor could produce 17 000 000 kWh in two years, so more than enough to fuel a Starship and grow all the settlement's food. The reactor needs to be combined with cooling systems.


Cooling tile.JPG

Nuclear reactors and industrial processes require cooling. A forced convection cooling unit, about 6m x 6m, could provide about 250 kW of cooling, so 12 would be required for the 1 MWe reactor, rejecting 3 MWt.

Vehicle maintenance


A garage is linked to the public area. Vehicle maintenance is critical to settlement operations, low temperatures and fine Martian dust will be a maintenance challenge. The facility may be pressurized or not.

Laydown areas

Lay-down tile.JPG

Two laydown areas have been leveled to provide a smooth surface to store containers, finished products and inactive spaceships. The two first automated cargo ships to Reach Mars are located here.


Production tile.JPG

A Manufacturing area processes in situ materials. One module houses minerals processing facilities. Two modules serve for water electrolysis and Sabatier reactor to provide Methane and Oxygen propellants. A third module has a glass furnace and a small steel plant. A wastewater treatment plant takes in water from the settlement and the industrial processes and cleans it for re use.

Atmospheric processing

Atmospheric extraction tile.JPG

An atmospheric processing plant extracts CO2 and nitrogen, perhaps argon, from the Martian atmosphere. The plant needs to process about 500 tonnes of atmosphere per year to provide propellant for a Starship.


A spaceport provides a prepared surface for visiting ships to land on. The surface is kept clean and free of dust to avoid blowing dust that could damage nearby installations. Vibration and dust might favor a remote location.


Road tile.JPG

Roads link the various areas of the settlement together. Rovers use these to move faster than over the original terrain. The roads are made from local rock crushed to gravel and spread with automated or remote controlled bulldozers.


Mine tile.JPG

Water ice and minerals are mined from the Martian surface. Water infrastructures provide water to the settlements various needs.

A 3D view of a settlement designed with the tile-set shown in this page. Entirely solar powered, it has less greenhouses than the tile-set image but a lot more solar cells. Note that the Spaceport seems dangerously close to the settlement. Probably best to put it at the end of a long road!
Design parameters
Requirement m2/person W/m2 lighting W/m2 heat Notes
Living areas 25-40 10 Cultural and time dependent factor. The longer the time, the more space is required.
Circulation 5
Laboratories 20
Greenhouses 325 600 Provided by light Food from Earth reduces greenhouse areas. Grow rooms are an alternative. On 12h per day.
Habitat power
Fuel production One Starship refueling requires 9 000 000 kWh of energy or 4 500 000 kWh per year.
Food production One person requires 365 000 kWh of energy per year.


  1. Food production is approximative and might be reduced using natural lighting and very efficient crop growth.
  2. One Starship requires 940 tonnes of oxygen and 260 tonnes of Methane