Production

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Production spaces and facilities for a Mars settlement may occupy a large part of the available space in a colony. Production facilities including Agricultural, Manufacturing, Mineral extraction, Craft production and even, eventually, Entertainment. Products from the production facilities can be used on Mars or traded with Earth. Production facilities house processes, many of which will use local in situ resources.

Production facilities will be the main users of energy on Mars; Propellant production and agricultural production in particular. Maintenance facilities will also be required to support the production activities, as well as research laboratories.

Production rates

A grow room with artificial lighting and mechanical cooling with dehumidification in a Martian tunnel.

Table of yearly production rates for mineral, metal and water , with a ratio of production required for a Martian settlement depending on its population. The ratio is a direct correspondence between populations. Higher growth rates would require higher production rates.

Metal/Mineral[1] Earth 2019 Equivant on Mars
Population (million) 8000 1 0,1 0,01 0,001
million 100 000 10 000 1 000
Rank Product Million tonnes Million tonnes tonnes tonnes tonnes
#0.1 Water[2](1) 4 600 000 575 57 500 000 5 750 000 575 000
#1 Sand and Gravel 50 000 6,25 625 000 62 500 6 250
#2 Cement 4 100 0,51 51 250 5 125 513
#3 Iron and Steel 3 200 0,40 40 000 4 000 400
#4 Iron Ore 2 500 0,31 31 250 3 125 313
#5 Bauxite(2) 500 0,06 6 250 625 63
#6 Lime 430 0,05 5 375 538 54
#7 Salt 293 0,04 3 663 366 37
#8 Phosphate Rock 240 0,03 3 000 300 30
#9 Nitrogen 150 0,02 1 875 188 19
#10 Gypsum 140 0,02 1 750 175 18
Aluminum 64 0,008 800 80 8(3)
Chromium 44 0,006 550 55 5,5
Magnesium 29 0,004 363 36 3,6
Copper 20 0,003 250 25 2,5
Manganese 19 0,002 238 24 2,4
Zinc 13 0,002 163 16 1,6
Lead 4.5 0,001 56 6 0,6
Nickel 2.7 0,001 34 3 0,3

Notes:

1- 70% of the water on Earth is used for irrigation.

2- Replace bauxite with local equivalent

3- In the Early stages of a settlement, it will probably be advantageous to bring the smaller masses of metals/minerals from Earth. But the requirements for aggregate, cement and iron will grow very fast.

Agricultural production and facilities

Until terraforming or genetic manipulation provides the possibility of plant production outside of an artificial environment, agriculture will require greenhouses, either naturally or artificially illuminated. Agricultural production will also include hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics and possibly animal husbandry. Part of the food for a colony might come from biological reactors, possibly sidestepping much of the need for agriculture.

Mineral and water extraction facilities

Mining will require facilities in addition to the mines themselves. Crushing equipment, garages, warehousing, storage and laboratories will be required on site. Loading stations and transportation equipment will also be required. Depending on the abundance of elements and their concentration on the Martian surface, mineral treatment plants may be required directly at the mining site rather than only at the settlement.

Recycling

Water use should be partially recycled, reducing the need for primary water extraction. The same is true for steel and other recyclable metals and minerals. Recycling is the reason Steel production is higher than iron ore production on Earth.

Atmospheric extraction facilities

As an element of propellant production and as a source for most of the carbon and atmosphere for the colony, atmospheric processing is an important part of a settlement production facilities. The first stages of atmospheric processing may be exterior, to profit from the cooling available from the cold Martian outdoors. Fans, compressors and coolers will need to dissipate large amounts of heat.

Propellant production facilities

Atmospheric extraction, combined with water electrolysis is the source of propellant.

In the early days of the Martian settlement propellant production will be one of the main thrusts of development. IN-situ resource utilization is an obligation if the transportation costs are to be set to a level that can make the settlement possible. Eventually, as the ratio of settlers to immigrants goes up, the amount of locally produced goods goes up and the required importations go down, propellant production will become less central to the settlement economy.

Electrolysis of water is the basis of all the propellant production schemes. In particular, now that it has been discovered that there are large quantities of water on Mars, in-situ propellant production is part of every Mars colonization or exploration plan. For most of these plans the Sabatier process is used to transform CO2 extracted from the atmosphere and water from the Martian regolith into Methane and oxygen.

Manufacturing production and facilities

Production area in an underground settlement. Dust collector, beam crane, 3D fab units. Plants are used to encourage cleanliness and a dust free environment. Skylights let some martian light enter the area. but most of the lighting is artificial.

Manufacturing on Mars will be similar to manufacturing on Earth. However, there will be no heritage infrastructure that needs to be preserved or supported. The most modern techniques such as 3D additive manufacturing may be used extensively.

Heat recovery, rather than burning hydrocarbons, will be used as much as possible for heating and most heating processes will be electrical. Steel, glass, ceramics, concrete and aluminum may be primary products. All manner of manufactured goods, equipment, clothing, utensils and containers will be manufactured as equipment is imported or built on site and specialty manufacturing comes on line.

Atmospheric production facility. 1 kg/s would extract enough CO2 to produce propellant for over 40 SpaceX Starship vehicles over 2 years, as well as all the nitrogen required for the colony growth.

Entertainment production and facilities

Mars will need a radio and a TV station. Locally produced shows will be in demand as soon as they are possible.

References

  1. https://www.visualcapitalist.com/all-the-worlds-metals-and-minerals-in-one-visualization/
  2. Boretti, A., Rosa, L. Reassessing the projections of the World Water Development Report. npj Clean Water 2, 15 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41545-019-0039-9