Many people see Mars as a nice place to visit but you would not want to live there. Many can’t even see the point of visiting. To win these peoples hearts and minds to the idea of a multi-planet civilisation we need to show them how Mars can be made habitable with technology they know and understand and with economics that they find believable.
There is a cheaper more achievable option. We could roof a smaller area at a height of 15 to 100 meters relatively cheaply. A low world house or valley house is a normal feat of civil engineering on a par with normal urban or suburban civil-engineering. Like a modern cities: roads, drainage; the reticulation of power, water, sewerage and communications. Roofing an area is a doable land development task, that would be operational at the private corporate level and not the government megaproject level. It is incremental; expanding step by step. Hectare by hectare. It is therefore more likely to happen.
The image says more than I can say in words. Part of gale crater canopied over.
If you have a roofed valley wandering around in a space suit would be rare. Extra vehicular activities (eva) would still occur particularly for geologists and engineers.
My first design. Done partly in Second Life with editing in gimp.
- Top left on the hill. Communication towers. Local positioning systems (GPS without the satellites.)
- Left in the hill. Mines and storage tunnels; some pressurised. Back in second hill an early tunnelled complex. A base during the construction of the cities roof.
- Left foreground. A mars vehicle construction building. For trucks, mining vehicles and heavy equipment. This structure is earth covered for cosmic ray protection.
- Next door is laboratory complex that is vehicle access only. This provides quarantine protections allowing experiments you don’t what to do in the roofed area. I.e. Fruit fly and lab rat work, testing toxic ore samples, working with dangerous chemicals or making explosives for the miners.
- The larger structure on the right of this is a reactor complex if required or a large volume chemical processor and gas liquefier. Storage is underground out side the dome.
- Centre left foreground is a cluster of interconnecting structures that serve as the main base entry and exit point. It includes vehicle and robot garages. Light vehicle cleaning and maintenance. EVA training. General laboratories. Etc.
- The small tower outside on the right is a back up command centre and roof maintenance control.
- The smaller towers are just simple support structures with perhaps some lighting, emergency sirens and communication relays.
- The fat blue towers are accommodation and office space.
- The main mall is open air [no rain] near the three fat towers serves as the main recreational and commercial section o the city.
- There is extensive earth roofed housing near the mall. (dotted lines). The earth on the roof is used to block cosmic rays so that most indoor activities are radiation free. Plants can be grown on these roofs; this maximises growing space for plants even if it is only grass. All the larger buildings are similarly roofed, even the towers.
- The yellow area above the mall is incomplete housing.
- The rest is farming: crops, orchids, gardens, coppiced trees, and fish ponds. Cosmic ray's do damage plants but only on a cell by cell basis so it rarely kills them, mutations are pruned off or just fail, beneficial mutations are so rare that they are irreverent. Livestock barns if they are needed can be roofed with dirt or concrete. Water shields most fish.
All the radiation on mars is a near vertical cosmic ray flux a little greater that Denver Colorado or Nepal. The plastic does not stop it. By roofing the buildings with earth, stone or concrete you block that flux completely. If your wandering around in the open you are at a small risk but if half your time is indoors under the shielding of a building halves the dose. The target is to get the cosmic ray dose down to the levels found in Denver.
Another design. Early bad art.
If all else fails and a set of cables to three points just under the canopies edge can reach anywhere under the canopy defined by the three points. Abseiling anchor rings added to the underside of the cables would be mandatory. Base jumping from the inside of the canopy would be fun. Insane but fun.
Part of gale crater roofed.
Low world houses are not the first stage of mars colonisation. It may not be the last. It would however make living on mars normal in most senses. It reduces risks. Its kid safe if your air lock is not designed by idiots. It looks normal. It is doable with today's technology and free market capital processes.
For the earlier stages of mars colonisation read this:
For the first stage see my NASA innocentive submission: