Limited medical care in an autonomous colony

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Limited Medical Care is inevitable due to the limited industrial performance of a Martian autonomous colony. Compared with Earth the colonists on Mars will have to face certain constraints. The constraints are even harder than in a semi-autonomous colony. High sophisticated accessories for surgery and a great variety of drugs are impossible to produce in-situ and will, therefore, not be available in medium-term.


Hi-tech machinery (e.g. MRT) can only be produced with a large industry behind. The following diagnostics are simple enough to be produced with reasonable effort:

  • optical microscope
  • x-ray


Some simple surgery (e.g. appendix resection) can be done with lo-tech surgical instruments, such as scalpel and suturation.

Needed pharmaceuticals

This paragraph shall list needed drugs that can be produced on Mars with a reasonable effort.

  • Disinfectants: The choice of disinfectants on Mars could differ substantially depending on what minerals are available in the immediate vicinity of the colony.
    • A wide variety of silver salts are highly toxic to most pathogens[1] but have comparatively mild effects in humans[2].
    • Compounds of mercury and arsenic are of historic significance but should probably not be used due to both their toxicity to the patient and the potential for build-up in the closed colony.
    • Ethanol will most likely be the primary disinfectant (especially if there is a significant food surplus).
  • Pain relievers:
    • Opium could be easily produced if sufficient agricultural capacity is available. If required, it could be further processed into pure morphine or heroin.
    • Cocaine is an effective topical anesthetic. However, the size of the coca plant means that it would be best suited to large greenhouses. The process for turning coca leaves into cocaine is also prohibitively complex.
    • Cannabis could potentially be used?
  • Antibiotics:
    • Penicillin can be produced by subjecting a fungus to stress. While resistance to this and other antibiotics is a continuing concern on Earth, such resistance is associated with incorrect usage[3]. Martian colonists would presumably take care to prevent overprescription.


The food composition may be designed to prevent dental caries.

The first settlers will be selected to be strong and fit. Even genetical screenings might be helpful to ensure best health, having a lasting effect on subsequent generations. This is a delicate issue, because this could be understood as a step in breeding of a new human race. However, the selection will not be continued for subsequent generations, so it is not deliberate breeding at all. With every generation the effect decreases. After all this is only a help for the start-up of the colony. Other long term solutions are needed anyway.

Open issues

  • What drugs are mandatory needed?
  • What drugs can be produced on Mars with a reasonable effort?
  • What social implications derive from the limited medical care?
  • What genetical defects can be detected by today's screenings?

See also