- how an off-Earth base could quickly become self-sufficient -


The Moon is the closest in-space body with all of the resources necessary to create a long-term survival colony. Within the ices of permanently-shadowed craters, there is enough water, carbon, and nitrogen to support a very large colony for a very long time. Indeed, there is so much water ice that, the 600 million tonnes of known ice would be enough to support a million-strong colony that recycles for 1,600 years. This would be plenty of time to develop travel to Mars and/or develop access to water resources from asteroids. So, these elements would not, in practice, be a limit on the indefinite survival of a lunar survival colony. The greater quantity of resources doesn't, in and of itself, mean that Mars is the only location where long-term survival is possible. The Moon has more than enough.

However, the Space Development Network has chosen to pursue the Self-Reliance Project using the Mars context for the following reasons:

  • The resources on Mars are more easily accessible early on than on the Moon.
  • Given the near-term capability of Starship, large quantities of cargo and crew will be able to be delivered to the Martian surface just a few years after the same will be done on the Moon.
  • We can more easily conduct a self-reliance demonstration in an analogue setting at the Moon-Mars Analogue Base using the Mars context than the Moon context with the latter requiring the extraction of volatiles from a cryogenic environment.

At the Moon-Mars Analogue Base (MMAB), we plan on having a major side project in which we will seek to demonstrate (not just illustrate) all of the steps needed for full self-reliance (FSR). This will involve providing the base with only those resources expected on the Martian surface including:
  • Tanks of air with the composition of the Martian atmosphere (95% CO2, 2% N2, 2% Ar)
  • Simulated Ni-Fe meteorites
  • Simulated Martian regolith (dirt)
  • Frozen ice simulating below-ground glaciers
  • 50% reduced sunlight

The primary reason that we are choosing the Mars context for seeking full self-reliance is that we believe it possible to achieve this on Mars without having to solve the hardest challenge which is to produce integrated circuit (IC) chips. Here's how we think that we can do that.

Producing Plastics - Using the carbon and nitrogen from the Martian air and hydrogen and oxygen from glacial ice plastics can be produced using the right chemistry equipment. This equipment does not require ICs to run. Habitats - This plastic could then be used to make parts but also large sections of habitats. These sections could be plastic welded or microwave fused together to create air tight habitats.

Metals - Rovers on Mars have identified nickel-iron meteorites on the surface in abundance far in excess of that found on Earth. We envision these serving as early and easily accessed sources of unoxidized metal. Our plan envisions water-shielded, crewed rovers being driven to these meteorites, picking them up, and transporting them back to base for use. Basic machining equipment would then be used to produce those parts that absolutely require metal. We believe that rovers can be produced and safely driven by crew without requiring ICs.

Food - Our Agriculture Consensus Plan envisions shielded GreenHabs with intensive agriculture producing all of the food needed to meet the nutritional needs of the Initial Permanent Crew. This is a big project requiring a lot of work but requires no new inventions. We believe that the irrigation equipment can use timers that don't require ICs.

Power - Scientists have demonstrated the production of photovoltaic cells using only lunar regolith (dirt) simulants. We are choosing this same path for the in situ production of power on Mars with aluminum wires transmitting the electricity. Using a similar technique, we believe it possible to produce basic LEDs. We currently prefer this approach over solar concentrators and either Stirling engines, light pipes, or fiber optics.

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