The Earth-supported colony is the most simple among all colony types. As part of a colonization strategy it may be used for further on-site studies and the construction of more advanced colonies on Mars. It can be either a manned one-way mission or a colony with regularly changed crew.
To keep human beings alive the following basic supplies are necessary:
- Air to breathe at sufficient pressure
- Water to drink and to use for washing
- Food to provide energy for the human metabolism
- Heating of the artificial habitat to a temperature suitable for humans
But there is more to keep human beings well and fit:
- Facilities for daily physical exercise under the low Martian gravity
- Company as well as privacy
- Culture, motivation, psychological attendance, reason to live
Comparison with other concepts
Compared with an autonomous colony this concept has the following advantages:
- Fewer new technologies must be developed
- Smaller mass and volume of initial transportation
- Support can be adapted
- A smaller group of settlers is possible
and the following disadvantages:
- The more mass that must be shipped from Earth to maintain the colony, the higher the ongoing and long-term costs
- The colonists have fewer opportunities for their own advancement. They are subject to leadership from Earth
- Ends horribly if disasters (political, economic, or natural) on Earth cut off shipments to Mars
- Fails in a main goal of space colonization, creating a backup plan for the human species
Energy and food support
The colony receives regularly fuel from Earth. Greenhouses or biotechnology are necessary for local food production. The needed amount of energy is higher due to the fact that the energy efficiency factor of any food production is far below 1. With legacy greenhouse methods (artificially lit) the factor is about 0.001, which means the transportation of a thousand fold in energy from Earth to Mars in order to feed the colonists.
Partial energy support
If local energy resources are employed for local food production, the support from Earth may be reduced to cover heating and electric equipment.
- What kind of fuel can be brought from Earth to Mars with the highest energy density? Also, the mass, volume and maintainability of the power plant must be taken into consideration to answer this question.
- What are the initial costs for each support type?
- What are the long term costs for each support type?
- What is known about the efficiency factor of some food production methods?