Mars is unique in the solar system in that it is not only more varied than any of our other planetary neighbors, but that it is the only planet other than Earth that possesses an abundance of materials and energy sources essential to support a new branch of human civilization.
On Mars, the resources exist to allow travelers to grow food, make plastics and metals, and generate a substantial amount of power. In addition, the environmental conditions of Mars, concerning radiation, sunlight availability, and day-night temperature shifts are within limits of a functional human settlement.
As the case with all civilizations, useful materials are not the resources that are to be used. The materials must be transformed into usable resources by technology. If humans are ever to colonize the Red Planet, a set of new resource utilization technologies will have to be developed. In order for this to occur, a meticulous program of agricultural, civil, chemical, and industrial engineering research must be carried out.
After a certain number of exploration missions have gone through, an advanced site of
development can be selected and the Mars program will be able to shift from exploration to
the second phase, base building. While the initial Mars Direct exploration missions
will make use of the Martian air to provide fuel and oxygen, in the base building phase
this preliminary level of local resource utilization will be transcended as the crew of a
permanent Mars base will learn how to transform raw materials into useful resources.
In establishing a Mars base, we will learn how to extract native water and grow greenhouse
crops on Mars; how to produce ceramics, glasses, metals, and plastics; how to construct
habitats and inflatable structures; and how to manufacture a variety of useful materials,
tools, and structures. The task of building a permanent Mars base will require a
substantial amount of people that will be divided into labor groups. These people,
about 50 or so, will be equipped with an assortment of equipment and materials.
The Mars base building period is critical stage in the inevitable colonization of the Red Planet. The purpose of this critical stage is to develop a mastery of those techniques required on Mars to produce food, clothing, shelter, and anything imaginable to make the colonization of Mars possible.