Settlement systems

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Settlement facilities are linked and supported by systems that provide functions. Systems can be both physical and operational. This page concentrates on physical systems.

Life support systems

The life support systems main function is to support human life in the settlement. Another important function is to provide support to living organisms such as food production and habitat vegetation.

  • Plumbing and Water distribution. Water distribution is the system providing potable water to users from the Potable water treatment facility, while waste water systems take used water to the waste water treatment facility. Plumbing is the generic term for these systems. Water distribution is composed of pipes, pumps, control elements such as valves and storage elements such as tanks.
    • Water based fire protection is usually grouped with these systems, although the piping is generally separate.
  • Heating and cooling distribution. Some of the temperature management in the settlement may be done using air circulation. However, energy transmission to and from the air handling units will probably be done using circulating water loops. An energy balance is required in the settlement, where energy input is equal to energy output. Some parts of the settlement may have excess energy, while others are in energy deficit.
  • Air circulation. The air circulation system uses the structure of buildings or dedicated ductwork to distribute treated air through the settlement. The air treatment function is not in a facility but is generally distributed to local air handling units that can cool, heat, filter, humidify and dehumidify the air. The humidity management systems are part of the larger water treatment and distribution system. Fresh air might be handled in a central location, where CO2 would be removed and Oxygen added. Nitrogen would be added as well to compensate for losses (leaks) and absorption by plants and bacteria.
  • Dust management. Martian dust is toxic due to perchlorates and fine dust is harmful to electronics. Some soil also has hydrogen peroxide, which is also toxic. Martian dust is very fine, and sticky due to static electricity, and will collect on the outside of surface suits. Thus managing dust inside a habitat is important. Enzymes can break up perchlorates. Bacteria and water can break perchlorates down (and hydrogen peroxide), so showers inside air locks may be used. Fountains with mist projectors may be used to settle dust which does get inside. Another possibility is heating the perchlorates, as this will release oxygen, but the dust must first be collected.
    • Another suggestion is that the surface suits are rarely brought inside, as they are docked against an outer wall, and the user climbs inside, and then seals the back of the suit behind them. (So the outside of the suit does not enter the inside of the habitat.) This reduces the problem, but the suits would likely have to be brought inside from time to time for maintenance, so the problem of dust on the suits does not entirely go away.
    • In water rich environments, this is less of a problem, so this is more likely to be a concern for early explorers, than for established settlements (which presumably will have industry to harvest permafrost or gain water from some other source).
  • Higher gravity areas. Mars has a gravity of 38% of Earth's, and it is unknown if this will cause long term problems or not. If it is discovered that low gravity is a danger, people may be required to spend some time in a centrifuge. See Low gravity for more discussion on this.
  • Radiation storm shelters. Surface habitats must have excessive Radiation protection everywhere, or have a radiation Storm shelter for the rare solar storms. Solar storms usually do not last more than a few hours. During a solar storm, radiation shelters must be available for the occupants of a Martian habitat.

Electrical energy distribution systems

  • Electrical energy distribution systems include wiring, protection elements, insulation and grounding. These systems connect energy sources to energy storage and energy using equipment.
  • Electricity provides power for Processes, lighting and life support.

Communication systems

  • Communication systems are used for information networks, process control networks and building control networks. These systems link data sources to data storage and data users. These systems can use electrical wiring, radio links or optical links for transmit communications.
  • A simple planet wide communication system might use areostationary satellites in an equatorial orbit. This would reduce land infrastructure to a minimum. Canada was an early user of satellites for reasons that will also apply to Mars: A large land area with sparse population.

Transportation systems



Structural systems


Walls and airlocks

Interior structures