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Lighting is vital for a colony. A colony might have a limited number of windows, so lighting would be required permanantly. Plants in greenhouses might need to be lit artificially to supplement natural light. Rovers must have headlamps for driving at night or during dust storms.

Types of lighting


Most lightbulbs on Earth are incandescent. Fire and stars produce light via incandescence. In an incandescent light-bulb a metal filament (Usually tungsten, the only metal that can withstand the temperatures) is heated to around 3000C. A glass bulb is fitted around the filament and the air evacuated or replaced by an inert gas, because the filament would otherwise oxidize and burn. In most commercial installation incandescent light bulbs have been replaced by fluorescents, that are themselves being replaced by LEDs.




LED are energy efficient, and produce little heat compared to incadescent, flourescent, and halogen bulbs.


Human response to light

Humans have two types of vision, color and low-light. Once the vision has adjusted to low light, the average human is able to function well in the light of the full moon, but without the ability to see in color.


The proper wavelengths of light are needed by humans to produce Vitamin D.

Certain lights, emulating natural sunlight, are used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder.



The primary use of lighting is illumination of a settlement. A well-lit environment is vital for the morale and safety of the residents. See table bellow for standard lighting levels.


Many plants require more sunlight than is available on the martian surface. Dust storms can also obscure the sun for months at a time. Artificial lighting is needed to at least augment the natural light.

Interior grow rooms use artificial light for plant production. This technology was developed for the production of Cannabis in closed environments but is applicable to all indoor grown plants. The most common power used for these installations is 300-600 W/m2, or about one quarter to one half the power of full sunlight.

Lighting levels

Condition Illumination Power intensity
ftcd lux W/m2 (W/ft2)
Sunlight 10000 107 527 1300 (120)
Full daylight 1000 10 752 130 (12)
Overcast day 100 1 075 13-18 (1,3-1,8)
Very dark day 10 107
Twilight 1 10,8
Deep twilight 0,1 1,1
Full Moon 0,01 0,11
Quarter moon 0,001 0,011
Starlight 0,0001 0,0011
Overcast night 0,00001 0,00011

The table below provides recommended light levels from the IESNA Lighting Handbook and LPD levels from the IECC 2015


Watts/m2 (WATTS PER SF)

Bedroom - Dormitory 20-30 FC 200-300 lux (0.38)
Cafeteria - Eating 20-30 FC 200-300 lux (0.65)
Classroom - General 30-50 FC 300-500 lux (1.24)
Conference Room 30-50 FC 300-500 lux 1.23
Corridor 5-10 FC 50-100 lux 0.66
Exhibit Space 30-50 FC 300-500 lux 1.45
Gymnasium - Exercise / Workout 20-30 FC 200-300 lux 0.72
Gymnasium - Sports / Games 30-50 FC 300-500 lux 1.20
Kitchen / Food Prep 30-75 FC 300-750 lux 1.21
Laboratory (Classroom) 50-75 FC 500-750 lux 1.43
Laboratory (Professional) 75-120 FC 750-1200 lux 1.81
Library - Stacks 20-50 FC 200-500 lux 1.71
Library - Reading / Studying 30-50 FC 300-500 lux 1.06
Loading Dock 10-30 FC 100-300 lux 0.47
Lobby - Office/General 20-30 FC 200-300 lux 0.90
Locker Room 10-30 FC 100-300 lux 0.75
Lounge / Breakroom 10-30 FC 100-300 lux 0.73
Mechanical / Electrical Room 20-50 FC 200-500 lux 0.95
Office - Open 30-50 FC 300-500 lux 0.98
Office - Private / Closed 30-50 FC 300-500 lux 1.11
Parking - Interior 5-10 FC 50-100 lux 0.19
Restroom / Toilet 10-30 FC 100-300 lux 0.98
Retail Sales 20-50 FC 200-500 lux 1.59
Stairway 5-10 FC 50-100 lux 0.69
Storage Room - General 5-20 FC 50-200 lux 0.63
Workshop 30-75 FC 300-750 lux 1.59

Open Issues

  • How much exposure time is needed for the skin to produce enough vitamin D?