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Burning of paper or plastic creates smoke

Smoke is created by fire, smoldering and some production processes. It is a mixture of airborne particulates and gases. It is the main cause of death in interior fires and will constitute a significant risk for a Martian habitat in the case of fire.

Smoke control

Smoke control during fires is accomplished in buildings on earth using smoke proof barriers, fire walls and self closing dampers in openings. This will also be true on Mars, where habitats are likely to be separated into modules than can be isolated from one another in case of fire, or decompression. Distributed life support systems might be favored over centralized ones, at least as far as air distribution goes, to allow for segregation of an area subject to a fire. Access times to safe areas need to be calculated in the design process of Martian settlements, and this might limit some design possibilities.

Fire protection

  • Selection of fire-proof material for construction, as well as for thermal and electrical insulation is a basic precaution. ceramic coating might be preferred to paint in some cases.
  • Oxygen reduction can be done by venting, or by dilution using stored nitrogen. This reduces the smoke by stopping the fire. Depending on future risk analysis, it might be possible to vent a sector that is subject to a fire to stop the combustion and exhaust the smoke. This must be weighted against the risk of accidentally venting an occupied space.
  • Automatic fire extinguishing system are likely to be a requirement. Sprinklers should work on Mars and provide protection from fires.

Production processes

Many high temperature processes create smoke. The smoke must be captured and prevented from entering the life support system. Vacuum technology and strictly separated production areas will be required. The following processes are affected:

Food Preservation

Smoking is a common method of food preservation. Though likely impractical for a small settlement, smoked foods such as fish or jerky could be produced as a luxury item for trade with other settlements. This would require the production of wood, and therefore trees, so a large settlement is likely to be required.


Is likely to be strictly prohibited.